Defra’s Sustainable Intensification Platform – revisiting my old postdoc

I was given my first postdoctoral role in November 2014 by Professor William Sutherland and Dr Lynn Dicks at Cambridge, with Lynn adopting the senior author role for most of the resulting publications. Our funding to do empirical work only lasted until November 2015 – as we publish our last paper today, I recap our findings. I’m very proud of the whole team for such a productive year’s worth of outputs:

Here’s the list of five papers:

Rose, D. C.,Sutherland, W. J., et al., Dicks, L. V. (2018). Integrated farm management for sustainable agriculture: lessons for knowledge exchange and policy, Land Use Policy, Full text (OA)

Rose, D. C., Parker, C., Fodey, J., Park, C., Sutherland, W. J., and Dicks, L. V. (2018). Involving stakeholders in agricultural decision support systems: improving user-centred design, International Journal of Agricultural Management 6 (3-4): 80-89, Full text (not OA)Summary blog , Key Figure

Rose, D. C., Morris, C., Lobley, M., Winter, M., Sutherland, W. J., and Dicks, L. V. (2018). Exploring the spatialities of technological and user re-scripting: The case of decision support tools in UK agriculture, Geoforum 89 pp. 11-18, Full Text (Open access)

Rose, D. C., Bruce, T. A. J. (2017) Finding the right connection – what makes a successful decision support system?, Food and Energy Security, Full Text (Open access)

Rose, D. C., Sutherland, W. J., Parker, C., Lobley, M., Winter, M., Morris, C., Twining, S., Ffoulkes, C., Amano, T., Dicks, L. V. (2016) Decision support tools for agriculture: Towards effective design and delivery, Agricultural Systems 149 pp. 165-174 Full Text (Open access)

Plus this one from Lynn’s research on a different work package:

Dicks, L. V., Rose, D. C., Ang, F., Aston, S., Birch, A. N. E., et al. (2018). What agricultural practices are most likely to deliver ‘sustainable intensification’ in the UK?, Food and Energy Security, Full text (OA)

Plus a media article written on our work:

Farmers Guardian/Arable Farming, In support of a better decision,

Take-home messages

Although we had two tasks, one related to decision support system uptake, and the other on integrated farm management practice, there is one common theme. This relates to the importance of involving farmers, advisors, and other stakeholders across the supply chain, in the design of technologies and concepts that ultimately aim to influence practice. Through the user-centred design of technologies, and farm management practices, we can ensure that they are relevant, useful, and practically implementable. For me, this is why it is so great that Defra are actively seeking to co-design new agricultural policies post-Brexit. There are many historical examples of poorly designed technologies and ‘management-speak’ rather than ‘farmer-focused’ policy concepts, and our work gives real impetus to co-design approaches which seek to enable stakeholders to shape research and policy trajectories. I look forward to working with Defra as part of a new ESRC project led by Dr Ruth Little at Sheffield which seeks to understand how agricultural policies can be better ‘co-designed’. I also look forward to developing my research on the social impacts of new technologies on-farm, which are so often forgotten in the rush towards greater productivity.

Do get in contact with me on if you wish to discuss any of this work or if you would like to access any of the papers (though most should be open access).



BBC World Service interview – don’t forget the coal miners!

For regular readers of this blog, you’ll know that I’m an optimistic academic. The remainder of December is going to be filled with various talks and exciting conferences and all paper writing has finished for the year! 2018 has been great – I set myself a ridiculous target of having 10-15 papers accepted in the year. Looking at my paper wall outside my office, I’ve managed to get 13 papers accepted, with 2 book chapters, one technical report, and some other bits of writing elsewhere! Despite the fact that some of the papers are editorials/letters, it’s still been a very productive year! Definitely time for some time off, however! I should have three papers coming out online this month, so stay tuned for them! One is on Integrated Farm Management, one is on Responsible Innovation of Agri-Tech, and the other one is a pointless response to a non-response (fun blog coming about that experience!).


In other news, I was very excited to do my first media interview this week. I’ve always been rather nervous of such requests in the past, because I write better than I talk (I get super nervous), but I thought I’d say ‘yes’ to a request from the BBC World Service. I’m glad that I did – my tip to all budding academics is to say ‘yes’ to as much as possible, even if you are nervous of the new experience.

The World Service was doing a segment about the COP meeting in Poland and asked me to discuss science communication and how policy is made. Listen for yourself here from 32.30 onwards! Many of the questions related to whether you can mitigate climate change while still having an economy dependent on coal – obviously not and I was quite clear about this in my first answer!

But I am sympathetic to the fact that there are many millions of brave men and women throughout the world who work down coal mines or in other fossil fuel industries. You don’t have to tell me how brave they are working in such difficult conditions – I never met my Grandad because he was killed down a coal mine. These brave skilled miners work hard every day to put bread on the table for their families. Now, that is no excuse for propping up a polluting industry (the world changes after all!), but it should provide environmentalists food for thought. We cannot demand instant closure of mines without thinking of the people who work in them. Transitions to a low-carbon economy must be just and we must remember that these miners have dignity. For many decades, society sent them down dangerous mines and told them that they were providing a great service. Now some overly zealous environmentalists refer to them as villains of the world. This is unfair.

We must think about how we create just and dignified transitions, thinking about how we support, re-skill, and provide short-term welfare for those who might lose out from such transitions. Poorer countries will need more help from the developed nations who caused the problem. People are only going to want to do something about climate change if it makes their lives better, not worse!


Anyway, listen for yourself and let me know what you think!