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Assessing impact of research on policy: a literature review

 Participants at a CREW workshop to identify capacity building projects

This review provides insights into how to evaluate the impact made by knowledge created by CREW activities and whether such impact leads to improved environmental, social and economic outcomes via evidence-based water management.   It is widely recognised that impact is more likely to occur when research is co-constructed with research users and is designed with a specific context and use in mind. Knowledge needs to be produced via engagement of researchers and policy makers throughout the policy and research processes, and the outputs communicated in the right way, at the right time, to the right people to produce outcomes which may have an impact. Dissemination of research is not in itself sufficient to have impact.

 Participants at a CREW workshop to identify capacity building projects

This review brings together literature relevant to evaluating projects and programmes that aim to enhance knowledge exchange (KE) between researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders (i.e. anyone with a ‘stake’ in a process or problem). The review aids the development of evaluation procedures to understand the effectiveness of KE projects implemented by CREW.

This review aims to provide recommendations for what needs to be considered in the design of evaluations. It is not meant to provide a step-by-step guide. The context for which this review has been conducted is environmental management and its relationship to and between the knowledge held by researchers, practitioners and policy makers. However, given the limited research on evaluating KE in environmental fields, the review draws on research from a wide range of other fields including business, management, health and education.


This review of good practice in evaluating science-policy-practice knowledge exchange was carried out at the start of the project to inform the approach of ESPPI-CREW in year 1 of CREW operation.

Local pumping station in the north of Stronsay, flooded; Photo credit: John Smith, Age 8, Orkney, Water works photography competition

Scotland’s centre of expertise connecting water research and policy (CREW) delivers objective and robust research and professional opinion to support the development and implementation of water policy in Scotland. Although the importance of demand-driven science to support policy and practice is increasingly recognised, it is not easy to ensure that information is communicated effectively, to the appropriate end-users, in a suitable format, and at the best time to impact on policy or practice. There has been little evaluation of what makes for ‘good’ knowledge exchange that improves interaction, and no agreed methodology for evaluating these practices.

1st March 2016

To what extent could water quality be improved by reducing the phosphorous content in animal feed?

Cows feeding; Cover images courtesy of: Richard Gooday, ADAS

The latest River Basin Management Plan (RBMP; Scottish Government, 2015) states that 16% of waterbodies are below good status for water quality, and 246 waterbodies face rural diffuse pressures. Rural diffuse pollution has been identified as the number one water quality issue. Previous water quality monitoring data in Scotland found 7% of water bodies were failing to reach good status for phosphorus (Scottish Government, 2009), although this is based on phosphorus standards which have since been revised. Agriculture contributes a significant proportion of the phosphorus loss. Controlling this loss is an important approach to improving water quality in Scotland.

25th April 2016

New Droughts and Flooding Report Published

The UK Water Partnership has published a new report

The UK Water Partnership has published a new report Droughts and Floods – towards a more holistic approach, which can be found with an accompanying blog by the leading author Jim Wharfe.

The UK Water Partnership is now exploring how to take forward the recommendation for a more holistic environmental approach to flooding and drought research, innovation and implementation, including opportunities for a range of ecosystem-related markets.

25th April 2016

Workshop on pharma residues in the environment and bioremediation

Problems are caused by pharmaceutical residues entering drinking water, rivers and waste water effluents.

Problems are caused by pharmaceutical residues entering drinking water, rivers and waste water effluents. This raises difficult issues for public health professionals, while the water industry needs innovative and sustainable technologies to deal with them.

This event is being staged to highlight the scale of these issues, identify ways in which we can make a significant difference to public health concerns, as well as heading off the risks posed to Scotland’s international reputation as a pristine location, which food and drink, tourism and other important sectors rely on.

Importantly, there are significant opportunities here for businesses to provide technologies and services to reduce the risks, and be part of building Scotland’s reputation as a World leader in research and good practice in this sector.

You are invited to become involved, by joining this one-day workshop, at the Centre for Health Science, Raigmore, Inverness on Wednesday June 1 2016.

Who should attend:

  • Estates and waste managers – from the NHS and other organisations producing substantial volumes of wastewater and other discharges
  • Utility and water companies - and businesses in their supply chains
  • Public Health practitioners and other interested clinicians
  • Anyone developing relevant technological solutions - especially sustainable biotechnological approaches
  • Researchers interested in the water cycle, soil and the environmental contamination from pharma, other currently-recognised priority substances and emerging contamination issues.
  • People interested in developing the sustainable use of resources and circular economy
  • Statutory regulators 

Please save the date  -  further details will be circulated over the next few weeks: if you are interested in making a presentation at this meeting please get in touch

We would be grateful if you could pass this email on to any colleagues who would be interested in this meeting or its outcomes - and you can sign up to our circulation list here

Places at the workshop are free, and can booked at Eventbrite

1st November 2015

Learning from community led flood risk management

Community pilots; Images courtesy of: Kerry Waylen

While flood risk management (FRM) policy in Scotland requires the consideration of natural flood management (NFM), many landowners do not yet support their implementation. Since many measures to support NFM can only be carried out with the support and participation of land-managers, it is particularly important to understand the perceptions of these stakeholders.

1st November 2015

The Value of Scotland’s Water Resources – Legal Analysis

CREW Slider

In 2010, the Scottish Government launched its ‘Hydro Nation’ initiative. Hydro Nation was conceived as a policy platform to bring together different aspects of the management of Scotland’s water resources, in order to maximise the value of that resource base. The first consultation was very much focused on Scottish Water, the public water services supplier in Scotland, and addressed, inter alia, how Scottish Water could maximise the use of its assets, in order to support various policy objectives. These might include, in the domestic arena, maximising renewable energy generation; but also, further afield, providing technical advice, and advice on regulation and governance models for water services. 

Rural communities face particular challenges for access to affordable energy, treatment and disposal of waste and the provision of drinking water supplies. The Sustainable Rural Community concept envisions a paradigm shift in delivery of these services and aims to deliver a closed loop system that would be carbon and energy neutral, cost-effective and resilient.

The drivers for this theme include the Hydro Nation Strategy and Scottish Water objectives and include cross-cutting issues such as climate change. Other relevant water policies include the need to improve the quality and resilience of private water supplies driven by compliance with the Drinking Water Directive and the performance of septic tanks to help meet WFD objectives.

CREW is working with Scottish Water, DWQR and SEPA to achieve this vision.

Research needs identified to date include developing the evidence base, quantifying the flow of nutrients, identifying innovative technologies to improve small scale water management, assessing the health risks associated with private water supplies and working with community groups on small scale sustainable drinking water supply and waste water management.


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