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Research into forestry

We undertake a wide range of research to support our objectives of protecting and expanding Britain's forests and woodlands and increasing their value to society and the environment.

These objectives support government policies of sustainable forest management that are expressed in The UK Forestry Standard .

Science and Innovation Strategy

The Forestry Commission Science and Innovation Strategy (SIS) for British Forestry provides the context and framework for the research undertaken by the Forestry Commission to meet the needs of the forestry functions in across the UK. The SIS sets the Forestry Commission objectives for its research commissioning programmes, including that commissioned from Forest Research, and provides indicators to measure their success.

Research is one of the cross border functions of the Forestry Commission and funding is provided by the UK Government. Although forestry is a devolved subject, and the devolved administration's are able to fund forestry activities within their own countries, it was agreed that, rather than trisect the funding, the UK Parliament (via Defra) would continue to fund this function. Implementation of this recommendation led to the development of the Science and Innovation Strategy for British Forestry. This is overseen by the Research Strategy Management Board with representatives from each country and which now has responsibility for the research programmes.

Science and Innovation Strategy for Forestry in Great Britain

The strategy is regularly reviewed, and as part of the evidence base for the current edition, an Impact Evaluation of Research commissioned under the previous strategy was carried out, to which the Forestry Commission responded. A further Impact Evaluation of Research was undertaken in March 2017, and responded to by the Forestry Commission.

Most forest research commissioning is managed at GB level on behalf of the Devolved Administrations, though Forestry Commission England, Scotland and Natural Resources Wales each purchase some research independently to support their own policy development or operational activity. There is also a dialogue with the Northern Ireland Forest Service (NIFS) ensuring that GB research outputs are made available to NIFS and can support the forestry sector in Northern Ireland.

The strategy will be delivered through a series of research programmes:

Programme 1: Assessing resilience
Programme 2: Understanding biotic threats
Programme 3: Delivering resilient forests
Programme 4: Valuing and governing forest ecosystem services
Programme 5: Sustainable Markets for Forest Products
Programme 6: Forest resource assessment and modelling
Programme 7: Integrating research for policy and practice

External review of Forest Research

The Forestry Commission's independent Expert Committee on Forest Science was invited to review the science quality of Forest Research between the 6th and 9th November 2017. The last comprehensive science review of FR was undertaken in December 2011. All government science and research bodies are subject to such a regular review, and this provides a science audit for the Forestry Commissioners.

The review has taken an independent, expert assessment of all of the research, scientific and technical services and knowledge exchange being provided by Forest Research. A wide range of evidence, including stakeholder views, was taken into account in compiling the report. It took place at the Northern Research Station near Edinburgh and included meetings with FR staff as well as interviews with some key customers. All of FR’s current research programmes, and work, both funded by the Forestry Commission and other sources were included.

The review group has reported to the Forestry Commissioners, making recommendations, as necessary, on any changes they feel will enhance FR’s provision of quality science and its fitness for purpose, or which will promote knowledge exchange and delivery. The Forestry Commission has produced an accompanying response on how they propose to take the recommendations forward. The review will be valuable in determining the future management of its science delivery, and is timely given the changes which are taking place under the devolution of forestry.

Review group members
Professor Julian Evans OBE      ECFS chair
Professor Jaboury Ghazoul       ETH, Zurich
Professor Clive Potter              Imperial College, London
Professor Monique Simmonds  Deputy Director, RBG Kew
Mr Peter Whitfield                   Business Development Director, Tilhill Forestry
Professor Morag McDonald       Bangor University

The following two ECFS members provided affirmatory comment on the report, as they were unable to undertake the review itself:
Professor Andrew Watkinson    UEA
Professor Clive Potter              Imperial College, London

Research Coordination

We are a member of the Living With Environmental Change partnership and are involved in other similar research co-ordination bodies such as the Co-ordinated Agenda for Marine, Environment & Rural Affairs Science in Scotland (CAMERAS). Membership of these organisations is designed to improve the co-ordination of research within the UK, avoid the duplication of research activities, and ensure that programmes of research are cost effective and appropriate to the current context.

Research reports

Reports of commissioned research are published under the relevant programmes or as formal publications in the Research Report and Research Note series available from our publications catalogue.

2014 Annual report on progress of programmes
2011 Annual report on progress of programmes

Forest Research Agency

Our Forest Research agency is the principal organisation in Britain for forest and tree-related research and the main contractor undertaking research programmes for the Forestry Commission.


Last updated: 27th March 2018