Agricultural and veterinary research at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has been ranked as most powerful in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
Three quarters of the research and related activity submitted was judged to be in the highest categories - 4* or 3* - which are classified as “world leading” or “internationally excellent”.
Building on a long history of collaboration and complementary activities, the University’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies - which includes The Roslin Institute - and SRUC made a joint submission to the REF.
The impact of the research scored particularly highly. This demonstrates how the research is bringing practical benefits for society - for example in animal health and welfare, agricultural productivity and environmental protection.
More than 76% of the impacts described in the joint submission were judged to be “outstanding” and over 83% either “outstanding” or “very considerable”.
The REF process is an assessment of the quality of the research being undertaken at UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the impact it has in society. The REF panel considered case studies that demonstrated how research is having an impact on the UK and worldwide economies.
These included research from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute that is helping salmon farmers to breed fish that are more resistant to a deadly virus called infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN). In a severe IPN outbreak, as many as 90% of farmed fish can be lost. The discovery is estimated be worth around £26 million per year to the UK salmon farming industry.
Also under consideration was SRUC’s research into Ramularia leaf spot (RLS), a new disease causing reductions in barley grain yield and quality,. Identified in 1998, SRUC has rapidly provided farmers with tools for rapidly detecting and controlling RSL, helping reduce its £17.52 million annual cost to the Scottish barley industry.
Research ‘power’ is an overarching measure of research quality and volume which ultimately influences the allocation of funding by the UK’s Higher Education Funding Councils.
The collective strength and depth of agricultural and veterinary research at the University and SRUC is reflected in its top research power ranking.
Professor David Argyle, Head of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This outstanding result is a clear demonstration of the benefits that University and SRUC research is bringing to human and animal health, as well as food and environmental security.
“Our attainment of a 4* rating across the board for research environment cements our position as a world-leading hub for agricultural and veterinary research. I congratulate the hard work and dedication of our exceptional staff that has enabled this achievement.”
This outstanding result is a clear demonstration of the benefits that University and SRUC research is bringing to human and animal health, as well as food and environmental security
Professor Geoff Simm, SRUC’s Vice Principal Research said: “This is an excellent result fulfilling SRUC’s ambition for a top three placing on research power and further strengthening SRUC’s ongoing discussions with the University of Edinburgh about a closer alignment.
“It is a fantastic independent endorsement of the returns to society from investment in agricultural research. We thank our University partners for their valuable guidance over several years as we worked towards our joint REF submission.”