UK Natural Environmental Research Council

The UK Natural Environmental Research Council invests public money in leading environmental science research in order to help sustain and benefit from natural resources as well as understand and respond to environmental change.

Mission and Purpose

The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) drives environmental science investment in the United Kingdom by commissioning new research, infrastructure, and training.[1] They are motivated by an understanding that the “changing planet is vital for wellbeing and economic prosperity.”[1]

As set out in the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, NERC responsibilities are to:

  • “carry out research into environmental science, technology and new ideas
  • encourage and support the provision of postgraduate training in environmental science, technology and new ideas
  • facilitate, encourage and support environmental research, technology and new ideas
  • facilitate, encourage and support knowledge exchange in relation to environmental science, technology and new ideas
  • collect, disseminate and advance knowledge in environmental science, technology and new ideas
  • provide advice on any matter relating to NERC functions; and
  • promote awareness and understanding of NERC activities.” [2]

Origins and Development

The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) was established in 1965 when several environmental research organizations and surveys were brought together by Royal Charter.[2] Since April 2018, NERC has become part of UK Research & Innovation, a new organization which unites the seven research councils, Innovate UK, and Research England in order “to maximize the contribution” of each and foster research and innovation.[2]

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

A part of UK Research & Innovation, NERC is supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) but their activities and funding decisions are ultimately made independent of government.[1] Instead, NERC’s funding, administrative and corporate activities are run from their head office of about 200 staff.[3] They support six research centres as well as several other UK science institutes to carry out their research. More on their boards, committees, and advisory bodies can be found on their website.

Specializations, Methods and Tools

NERC supports “strategic and applied research, survey and long-term environmental observation and monitoring of the whole Earth system,” from the deep Earth and oceans to the atmosphere and space.[4] NERC also provides third-party advice on scientific issues, and evidence for parliament and select committees.[5]

Working in partnership with the environmental science community, government, policymakers, public bodies and the general public on how to deliver the science is central to their strategy.[5] For example, NERC held a public dialogue on geoengineering in 2010, to help inform policy on supporting geoengineering research. To move beyond communication, NERC aims to meaningfully engage the public to enable informed, evidence-based decisions on the impact of research which will be most relevant for society.[6]

Major Projects and Events

A focus of NERC’s public engagement strategy is to use public dialogue to inform NERC. For instance, the “2019 Digital Environment Public Dialogue sought to listen to what diverse groups of people, as stakeholders in research, thought about NERC’s new digital environment research theme, led by specialists Hopkins Van Mil.”[6] 

Previous public dialogue projects, co-funded by Sciencewise, include:

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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NERC’s latest publications and impact reports can be found on their website.

See Also

Sciencewise collection


[1] Natural Environmental Research Council. (2020). About Us.

[2] Natural Environmental Research Council. Vision and Purpose.

[3] Natural Environmental Research Council. Organisation.

[4] Natural Environmental Research Council. Research.

[5] Natural Environmental Research Council. Consulting and Engaging.

[6] Natural Environmental Research Council. Public Engagement.

External Links

Natural Environmental Research Council