Share this page:
Other services (opens in new window)
Sets a cookie

GFS Policy Lab on multi-functional landscapes: Providing food alongside other ecosystem services

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 12 December 2016 – 13 February 2017
Policy Lab workshop: 27-29 March 2017


Early career researchers are invited to take part in a Policy Lab on multi-functional landscapes. Policy Labs bring together early career researchers from different disciplines to scope a policy-relevant issue, with teams forming at the workshop and then competing to write a report for the GFS programme.

After the success of the previous Policy Lab on sustainable nutrition, we seek applicants interested in interdisciplinary and systems approaches to multi-functional landscapes, who would relish the opportunity to produce an evidence-based report to inform policy.

Researchers working in any relevant discipline from across the food system are welcome to apply (including biological, environmental and social sciences). This could be from areas as diverse as agriculture, ecosystem services, economics, nutrition and behavioural sciences. The successful team from the Policy Lab workshop will be awarded a prize of up to £5k to write a report for the GFS programme.

The challenge

Humans are an integral part of the natural world, ultimately dependent on a functioning biosphere and its constituent ecosystems and biodiversity for survival. At the most fundamental level, ecosystems create a breathable atmosphere and provide us with the food vital to our existence, as well as fresh water, fibre, fuel, and a host of other raw materials. They also provide pollination services and pest and disease control, nutrient cycling and nitrogen mineralisation, carbon sequestration and storage, and help to regulate our climate. In addition, they provide space for recreation and contemplation, and play a pivotal role in creating a sense of place that underpins mental and spiritual well-being.

Ecosystem services are clearly essential to our survival; however there are a number of drivers that will only serve to increase pressure on ecosystems in the future. A growing population will mean greater competition for land from urbanisation, and increasing demand for food, water and energy. Climate change impacts are predicted to increase over the coming decades, with extreme weather events and changing rainfall patterns impacting agriculture, flood control and many other services, both locally and nationally.

There are many complex interactions across ecosystem services, and one way to frame these is to think about multi-functional landscapes – this nexus approach recognises the many services provided by the natural environment at the landscape level, and considers the win-wins and trade-offs across these. From the perspective of food security, this would consider how we deliver sustainable and healthy food, whilst maintaining the other ecosystem services on which this depends, as part of a multi-functional landscape.

There is also the changing political environment to consider. Following the outcome of the EU referendum, there is an increasing need for evidence on what might replace the Common Agricultural Policy. A key consideration is the system of financial incentives needed to ensure positive outcomes for farming, the UK economy, health and the environment, and how we can maintain rural development and a thriving farming sector.

This Policy Lab aims to understand the current state of knowledge on multi-functional landscapes in the UK, and how food provision and other ecosystem services can be delivered simultaneously, in the context of social and economic factors (e.g. livelihoods, behaviour change and financial incentives). It aims to synthesise the latest evidence and develop a set of recommendations to help inform future UK agricultural policy. It is envisaged that the final report will be up to 10 pages long, and written as an evidence-based ‘think piece’.


In order to be eligible, researchers:

  • should be funded by one of the partners or affiliates of the GFS Programme (see Annex A below)
  • have a contract that outlasts the end of the project (it is anticipated that the project will last no longer than six months after the date of the workshop). Applicants will be required to submit the relevant grant reference number on the application form
  • completed their PhD after 1 January 2011

The Policy Lab will provide a good opportunity for researchers to broaden their horizons and work on an interdisciplinary challenge, we are therefore seeking applicants at an early stage of their careers, having completed their PhD within the last five years.

In accordance with The Concordat (PDF), researchers are encouraged to undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, which can be beneficial for both the researcher and institution. GFS would like applicants to consider whether they would be able to designate adequate time for the project.

We encourage applicants to seek permission from their supervisors to both participate in the workshop, and write the subsequent report.


GFS will score applications against the assessment criteria and will ensure a balance of disciplines at the workshop. The assessment criteria are as follows:

  • Evidence of successful team working
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills, explaining complex ideas in an easily accessible format
  • Experience of interdisciplinary working and ability to think innovatively
  • Experience of synthesising research for different audiences

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

To apply to participate, please answer the following questionnaire (below) in no more than two sides, using Arial 11pt font.

  • Your answers will be used to assess your application and to ensure you have the suitable skills and aptitude to participate in the Policy Lab
  • Please note that your academic publication or research track record is relevant but not of primary interest

Please only apply if you can make the dates of the Policy Lab workshop: 27-29 March 2017.

Application questionnaire

  1. Write down your name, institution, and grant/fellowship reference number at the top of your application, and save the document as your name.
  2. Provide a brief summary of your professional background (no more than half a page). (Please note that if you are selected as a participant, information under questions 2 and 3 will be made available to other participants to facilitate networking at the event)
  3. What expertise do you bring to the Policy Lab that is relevant to the challenge of multi-functional landscapes?
  4. Describe your research in a way that a policymaker (i.e. non-expert) could understand.
  5. What experience do you have of synthesising research and communicating this to different audiences? Please provide an example.
  6. Provide an example of where you have worked successfully as part of a team.
  7. The Policy Lab environment is especially suited to individuals who are willing to step outside their particular area of interest or expertise, who are positively driven, and can think innovatively. Please describe an experience you have had in a comparable environment, which specifically involved interdisciplinary working.
  8. Why should you be selected to attend the Policy Lab and what would you personally gain from it?

Please send your completed application to:

The application deadline is 13 February 2017, 11.59pm.

Those invited to attend the workshop will be notified by 24 February 2017, and more information on the workshop will be provided to successful applicants.

Annex A

The partners and affiliates of the programme are:

  • six of the UK Research Councils:
    • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
    • Economic and Social Research Council
    • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
    • Medical Research Council
    • Natural Environment Research Council
    • Science and Technology Facilities Council
  • UK government departments, agencies and devolved administrations
    • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
    • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair
    • Department for International Trade
    • Department of Health
    • Department for International Development
    • Food Standards Agency
    • Government Office for Science
    • Scottish Government
    • Welsh Government
  • Innovate UK
  • Met Office
  • Wellcome Trust