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Operational research

Operational Research (OR) is all about helping people to understand complex problems, achieving the best outcomes and making the best use of public money.

OR is often described as the application of scientific approaches to problem solving. It provides a flexible toolkit of techniques that can be applied to a variety of problems, from facilitating discussions and logical problem structuring through to analysing statistics and building predictive models. It is especially useful to conduct ‘what if’ analyses, to help policy makers evaluate different policy options.

OR has been used in Defra in a number of situations:

  • Helping policy makers to structure their understanding of how to adapt to the consequences of climate change and ensuring policy decisions are based on robust evidence.
    Adapting to climate change: UK projections June 2009 (PDF 2 MB)
  • Contributing to improving value for money in managing flood and coastal erosion risk through the development of an outcome based performance management framework.
    Investment targets
  • Helping policy makers identify which types of farms could experience significant pressures as a result of possible farm regulations or Common Agricultural Policy reform.
    Cumulative impact of forthcoming regulatory proposals on the economics of farming (PDF 330 KB)
  • Supporting investment decision-making across Defra’s portfolio of activities, embedding robust processes for planning and supporting the collection of appropriate information to support those decisions.
  • Supporting the measurement and reporting of the Department’s performance, including contributing to the Defra Departmental and Autumn Performance Reports.
    Departmental reports

Defra’s OR team are all members of the Government Operational Research Service (GORS).

To find out more about OR in government, and other sectors, see the OR Society website.

Page published: 3 October 2010