Natural England - Evidence


Research, evaluation, monitoring and geographic information services.

Natural England’s views and actions are based on the best available evidence and analysis. Our evidence is derived from a wide range of data and information about the natural environment and its management. We integrate information on biodiversity, geodiversity, soils and landscape and their management, together with economic and statistical analysis, social research, operational research, monitoring and surveillance (including horizon scanning). This page explains what our evidence programme is and how we gather, use and communicate evidence.

On this page:

Evidence Register

Natural England’s research, monitoring and evaluation projects for 2013/2014, are listed in the Evidence Register by project type, evidence-based programmes and site designations. The register also provides information on evidence generated after 2009 by existing and completed projects.

Evidence programme

Natural England develops the evidence base on the natural environment through work we commission and work by our staff, targeted at our evidence priorities. Our evidence budget for 2013/14 is £12m, of which half is programme spend on contracts or support through partnership arrangements and half the work of our own staff, around 110-120 Full Time Equivalent staff years. Our contribution to evidence extends beyond this and includes:

  • Our influence over other evidence programmes. Key players include the research councils, LWECexternal link , and the Defra network. We both influence and deliver Defra’s Environmental Stewardship research & development and monitoring & evaluation programmes (c£1.4m).
  • Our partners, such as other Arms Length Bodies, academia and a range of organisations that we work with under Memorandums of Agreement and Memorandums of Understanding.

Research and dissertation projects

Natural England encourages the involvement of universities, colleges and their students in researching and monitoring the natural environment. We do this not only to provide the evidence we need to undertake our work, but also to promote understanding and engagement and to help develop the next generation of environmental scientists. We:

  • offer new opportunities for Natural England-supported PhDs which are advertised by universities. We already support a number of PhDs which meet our needs for specific evidence to underpin the decisions we take.
  • have a range of dissertation projects on National Nature Reserves which we would like Masters, Undergraduates, Diploma, BTEC or A-level students to undertake.

Evidence needs

We are currently producing summaries of evidence for all our main subject areas. These provide concise statements of what we know, what we don’t know and areas of active research and debate. They will have a central role within the new Natural England business model, providing the foundation for our thinking about our evidence needs, for the priorities in our own evidence programme, and for our efforts to influence the evidence programmes of others. We will undertake external consultation on the draft summaries, and make the final versions publicly available.

The summaries will contribute to meeting Government’s requirements that we should be evidence-based, transparent and, given serious funding constraints, maximise opportunities to work in partnership. 

Evidence work areas

For specific information on a work area please see the individual subject page.

Evidence Strategy

Our Evidence Strategy for 2012- 2017external link provides a statement of the critical role of evidence in Natural England. Its purpose is to ensure that Natural England collects and uses evidence effectively and transparently in support of our statutory purpose.

After describing the drivers for our work and our evidence priorities, it sets out the principles we will adopt in our evidence work and the actions needed to deliver the Strategy.

The Strategy focuses on ensuring our evidence programme is fit for purpose, quality assurance, working in partnership, transparency and effective communications, and making our evidence easily accessible.

The Natural England Science Advisory Committee (NESAC) will support delivery of the Strategy by providing us with independent advice, and challenging and reviewing our science and evidence functions. It is made up of members of our Board and academics from a wide range of disciplines.

Accessing our evidence

We make our evidence available through a range of publicationsexternal link, maps and datasets. Our Technical Publications page provides information on the different categories of research and evidence publications. For linformation on the evidence produced by our research and monitoring projects since 2009 see evidence generated.

Evidence Standard

Our Evidence Standard has been published in Natural England's Standards Libraryexternal link. This includes the Evidence Strategic Standardexternal link and a series of operational standards, Analysis of Evidenceexternal link, Identifying our Evidence Priorities and Initiating Researchexternal link and Publishing and Communicating Evidenceexternal link

Joint Code of Practice for Research 

Natural England has signed up to the Joint Code of Practice for Researchexternal link (JCoPR).  The JCoPR sets out standards for the quality of science and the quality of research processes that contractors who carry out research on behalf of Defra, and other signatory organisations, must follow. This helps ensure the aims and approaches of research are robust, and gives confidence that processes and procedures used to gather and interpret the results of research are appropriate, rigorous, repeatable and auditable.

Improving our Evidence Function

The Evidence Function helps to co-ordinate, assure and communicate the evidence generated, developed and used across Natural England. The Evidence Customer Engagement Strategy: (81kb)pdf document relates specifically to the Evidence Function and supports Natural England’s Corporate Customer Strategy. It will be reviewed regularly and among other things:

  • identifies how we can improve our service to customers, particularly through customer insight and feedback;

  • provides staff with a clear outline of how the Evidence Function delivers its customer service ambitions.

Our Evidence Function customer service targets: (64kb)pdf document reflect our ongoing commitment to providing an excellent service, but we welcome your feedbackexternal link to help us continue to improve. We will identify trends in your feedback and continue to make improvements.

Customer complaints

We will respond with an acknowledgement within 5 working days of an evidence customer complaint. We will aim to resolve the problem and reply to the customer within 20 working days.


We will benchmark our services through feedback against similar services in Natural England and against external organisations.