Sustainable Development Research Network (Phase IV)

Funded by: Defra


August 2011 to July 2014

PSI researchers:

Ben Shaw

Martha Bicket

Ben Fagan-Watson

Rebekah Phillips

Bridget Elliott

Background, summary and aims

The Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN) is a research network funded by Defra. The overarching objective of SDRN is to facilitate and strengthen the links between providers of research and policy-makers across government. In doing so, the Network aims to improve evidence-based policy making to deliver the UK government's objectives for sustainable development.

The Network’s five main objectives are to:

  1. Facilitate the provision of research and evidence to policy-makers;
  2. Engage government policy-makers, scientists and members of the research community;
  3. Promote sustainable development in the research and academic communities;
  4. Work with funding bodies to encourage relevant research;
  5. Advise the Defra Sustainable Development Unit on sustainable development research issues.

To achieve these objectives SDRN undertakes a wide variety of activities to promote the use of sustainable development research within policy-making. In particular, the Network:

  • Undertakes Rapid Research and Evidence Reviews
  • Organises a rolling series of seminars and workshops
  • Organises an Annual Sustainable Development Research Conference
  • Produces the SDRN mailing, a fortnightly e-newsletter for all members with the latest details of research and policy related to sustainable development.

Membership of the network is free and open to all those with a professional interest in UK sustainable development research and policy. The Network has been in existence since 2000, currently has nearly 2500 members and is coordinated by Policy Studies Institute.

In spring 2011 Defra issued an updated Evidence Investment Strategy. This highlights a ‘realignment of Defra’s objectives, with the most significant change being to ensure the Department plans and manages the transition to a green economy’ (Defra, 2011: 5). This presents a particular challenge to SDRN in ensuring it responds to this changing sustainable development agenda and contributes appropriately to the delivery of government’s policy and research needs. In particular, rather than presenting sustainable development as a discrete policy area, the Network needs to focus on how sustainable development can be pursued and consolidated through cross-departmental policies on wider priority issues, such as the Green Economy, the Big Society, the natural environment, food security, wellbeing and fairness.

In this Phase of the Network (2011-14) we will continue the successful and valued activities such as the SDRN mailing and the Annual Conference and add new and refreshed approaches to the workstreams. This will include:

  • an annual series of workshops with the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to expand the reach of the Network and promote exchange of ideas on policy and practice between devolved and central government;
  • the creation of a new ‘Research and Practice’ Library as an easy to access database of sustainable development initiatives relevant to policy agendas such as the Green Economy and Big Society:
  • the production of more rapid and responsive research scoping reviews will be conducted:
  • the compilation of policy-relevant case studies to provide more detail on the most interesting community-led initiatives related to the delivery of sustainable development.

Reference: Defra 2011, Defra’s Evidence Investment Strategy: 2010-2013 and beyond. 2011 update¸ Defra, London