#PlanetPartners: Environment research hubs praised for global impact on science
27 January 2021
Two national science centres for the study the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land and ice, both with key groups at the University of Reading, have been certified as world-leading.
An independent evaluation of six research centres, run or supported by UKRI-Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), found that each is ‘internationally excellent’. These include the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) and National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), substantial parts of which are based at Reading.
Around 75 NCAS researchers and 11 NCEO researchers work at Reading. Both groups host renowned scientists seeking to further our understanding of global warming, air pollution, sea level rise and other issues that will be key challenges in the coming decades.
The evaluation found the research carried out at the centres had contributed to the work of key groups around the world, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Professor Rowan Sutton, NCAS Director of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said: "The excellent outcome of this NERC evaluation process is a tribute to my NCAS colleagues based at the University of Reading and elsewhere.
“It recognises both the international excellence of our scientific publications and, just as importantly, the impact of our work on society - for example in the development of critical capabilities for drought monitoring and early warning to enhance food security in Africa."
The Reading NCEO team have been providing data on soil moisture across Africa, using data assimilation to combine state-of-the-art NASA satellite observations with a world-leading model of land surface processes, to identify when and where crop yields are at risk.
The result is a daily map of soil moisture across the whole of the African continent, which combines information from both the model and the satellite data.
Professor Alberto Carrassi, NCEO divisional director for data assimilation at the University of Reading, said: “The excellent rating given to these research centres partly hosted at Reading is testament to the world-leading expertise we have at the University, which I had the privilege to join in 2019.
“Working alongside colleagues at the centres and with other leading experts, in Reading, across the UK and internationally, allows us to collectively conduct research that makes a real difference to the world.”
Internationally excellent institutions
Alongside NCAS and NCEO, the British Antarctic Survey, National Oceanography Centre, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology centres were assessed.
The evaluation was conducted by two independent expert panels, which assessed their research excellence and impact. It was based on the Research Excellence Framework methodology for 2021, which is being used to assess UK higher education institutions.
The evaluation showed that the six centres that have received the accolade make use of their income from NERC and a range of other sources to deliver high quality research and impact.
Most of the research carried out by the centres was either internationally excellent or world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
Most of the impacts were considered to have had either ‘very considerable’ or ‘outstanding’ reach and significance. The panels noted the excellent work of the centres to foster impact from their scientific activities.