Ranked 2nd in the UK for the real-world impact of environmental research

Composite of two photos: a man tends food plants in a small raised bed of soil in the Amazon (left) and a car drives through a flooded UK road passing a

The research carried out by the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) makes a real difference to people’s lives, according to the results of the UK Government’s research excellence framework (REF).

“Making a difference is central to our mission and the REF results provide a strong endorsement of the quality and impact of the environmental research we do at Lancaster,” said Professor Phil Barker, director of the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC).

REF 2021 judged that 96% of the department’s work was world leading or internationally excellent, with 83% having 4* "outstanding impact" – the second highest result for the 39 universities assessed in the Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences category.

“This justifies our vision of assembling a large, diverse community of researchers to solve major environmental problems within a single department,” said Professor Barker. “Behind the very positive outcome is an incredible group of people producing or contributing to high quality research which makes a difference to people’s lives and our understanding of the planet.

“Our research spans a wide range of critical challenges, including air pollution, flooding, climate change, sustainable food production and social justice. We work on research projects with partners not only in the UK, but all over the world from Africa to the Amazon, China to Antarctica.”

Dr Ruth Alcock, Head of Enterprise and Business Partnerships, said: “Partnership working and the co-creation of research with a wide range of stakeholders has been central to growing our impact over the last 15 years.”

The Environment Centre is the largest interdisciplinary department for the environment in a UK university, seamlessly bringing together natural and social scientists across a very wide range of disciplines. All 76 research active staff members were submitted to the 2021 REF, which evaluated the research done in 157 UK universities, to ensure public money is being well spent. As one of the largest submissions to the REF, LEC ranked fifth for "research power" which considers both the volume of research and its quality.

Professor John Quinton, who led the LEC submission, said "Making a positive difference to the world we live in is at the heart of what we do at LEC and it is fantastic to see our efforts to deliver this real–world impact from excellent research recognised in REF 2021."

REF 2021 provides a census assessment for the period 2014-2020 of the quality of universities’ research in all disciplines. Submissions included research outputs, examples of the wider benefits of research and evidence of the research environment – support, training facilities, and diversity.

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