I am a Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation at Newcastle University, in a Research England funded Chair as part of N8 AgriFood. I am based at the Institute for Agri-Food Research & Innovation and the Centre for Rural Economy. I am a Visiting Professor at University of Leeds and Birmingham City University. I am Research Manager for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) UK Peatland Programme and a member of IUCN's international Committee on Ecosystem Management. I run a spin-out company, based on my research, training researchers how to embed impact in their research at: www.fasttrackimpact.com.
I graduated in 1997 and 1999 with a BSc (hons) Tropical Environmental Science and a MSc Agroforestry from the University of Aberdeen. I got my Post Graduate Certificate in Learning & Teaching in Higher Education in 2004 and my PhD in 2005 from the University of Leeds. I moved to the University of Aberdeen as a Senior Lecturer in 2009, where I became Director of the Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability, before moving to Birmingham City University as a Reader in 2012. I was made a Professor of Interdisciplinary Environmental Research in 2013, and was responsible for leading my School's submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
I have played a leadership role in research worth over £20M, and played a significant role in teams that secured a further £14M since 2005. I am an author/co-author of >150 publications with >150 co-authors from 25 countries, including >100 peer-reviewed international journal articles. My H index is 54 according to Google Scholar, based on >17,000 citations. Over 30 of my papers have been cited >100 times according to Google Scholar and my most cited paper, "Stakeholder participation for environmental management: a literature review" has been cited >3,000 times.
I have acted as a scientific advisor to BBC Education and my work has been covered by the Guardian, Radio 4, Radio Scotland and international media. In 2008, I became the first UK researcher to be awarded a joint fellowship by the US Social Science Research Council and ESRC. In 2009 I was awarded the ESRC’s Michael Young Prize, “rewarding the very best early career social scientists whose research has the potential to make a positive and far-reaching impact beyond academia”. In 2010, I was invited as a lead author on the “Socio-Economic and Knowledge Management” Working Group to provide a synthesis of current research and make recommendations in a keynote talk to the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and my work was highlighted in the Committee of Science and Technology's report to the Conference of the parties (CCD/COP(9)/CST/INF.3). In 2014, I was invited by the United Nations to write an impulse report to help guide the development of the next operational plan for the UNCCD. This was published as a book by Routledge the following year and was cited heavily in the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2019). I was invited as a co-ordinating author to write a CGIAR working paper that fed into the UNCCD's first Global Land Outlook and will be a contributing author to UN Environment and FAO's Global Peatland Assessment. I was nominated by UNCCD and consulted by
UK Government and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to scope the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land. I am a member of the Committee on Climate Change's (CCC) Land Use Expert Advisory Group, advising Government on the implementation of recommendations from CCC's Net Zero report (2019).
The Sustainable Uplands project (that I co-ordinated from 2005-2012) was voted “best example of impact” at the Rural Economy and Land Use programme’s final conference in 2011 – one of only two projects receiving awards out of over 100 investments. This led to the development of the UK Peatland Code, in collaboration with the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, which I launched with Defra's Environment Minister in 2013. I now sit on the Steering Group for the Code, which represents Defra and its agencies, each of the devolved administrations and their agencies, landowners and business. I also sit on a Technical Committee for Defra working towards the phasing out of peat use in horticulture. Defra's Deputy Director of Sustainable Land and Rural Evidence and Analysis said "this research has made a considerable contribution and provided us with valuable lessons for the development of Payment for Ecosystem Service schemes in the UK." The work was also shortlisted as a finalist for the European Union's Natura 2000 award in 2015, with Inger Andersen, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, describing the work as "incredible - it has really moved the needle for conservation."
In 2014 I was invited by Defra to sit on the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) Nomination Review Panel to select experts to deliver the IPBES work programme. In 2016, I became a contributing author on the IPBES Land Degradation and Restoration report. I was invited to sit on the scientific evaluation committee to review funding proposals for EU's Biodiversa programme in 2014. I also advised Scottish Government on research needs for the delivery of their Peatland Plan for Scotland in 2014. I was invited by the UK Government’s Joint Nature Conservation Council to set social science research priorities for the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership’s Ecosystem Task Force. I was a contributing author to the upland chapter of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment and co-led the Shared Values Work Package for the follow-on to the National Ecosystem Assessment from 2013-2014. I was on the Roster of Experts in the second phase of DEFRA's Ecosystem Markets Taskforce. I sit on the British Ecological Society's Brexit Working Group and Northumbria Water's Water Forum.
I helped lead the development of Knowledge Exchange Guidelines for RCUK’s Living with Environmental Change partnership, and was contracted by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to develop similar guidelines for the EU Biodiversa programme. In 2014, I was commissioned by Scottish Government as part of a team evaluating the impact of research conducted by their Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) and Main Research Providers. Since 2011, I have been advising on impact to as a member of the Programme Advisory Group for NERC’s Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Sustainability programme, and since 2018 I have been advising the Global Food Security programme on impact. I am an advisor on impact to the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) funded by the Australian government under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. I am an advisory panel member for the EU Horizon 2020 SciShops project, expanding the network of Science Shops across Europe to help connect stakeholders with researchers to solve real-world challenges. In 2015 I launched a successful spin-out company, Fast Track Impact, training researchers around the world based on evidence from my research. In 2016, Fast Track Impact was shortlisted as a finalist in the ARMA awards under the impact category. In 2018, this work was recognised by a Royal Society award for changing research culture.
I have been a member of funding panels for ESRC, NERC, BBSRC, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and the EU Biodiversa programme and have reviewed proposals for the British Academy, Leverhulme, and for Dutch, Austrian, German, Swedish, South African and Swiss research funders. I was invited by BBSRC to evaluate the UK Research Councils' Insect Pollinator Initiative, and have helped writing funding calls for GCRF.