How researchers can work with us

How we use research

The challenges we face are complex and our decisions require research from across environmental, social, and economic subject areas. 

We use a cycle of steps to make decisions. Research can contribute throughout this cycle to provide the evidence Wales needs to deliver the sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR).  

We form partnerships, co-supervise or commission research to meet our many evidence needs. By developing projects with researchers, we can maximise our collective impact for Wales and further afield. 

How we can support researchers

Partnerships, co-supervision and advisory roles are an excellent route to producing research with impact. Our roles in collaborations could include: 

Connector: in a partnership, we represent NRW, therefore we can connect you with internal subject specialists and external stakeholders through our wider network. 

Advisor: we can sit on steering groups and act as advisors to feedback ways to develop and improve the project and its impacts, based on our experiences. It is unlikely we will lead on the analysis, grant or paper writing. 

Idea, data, evidence, and access provider: we hold a large amount of data and evidence which we may be able to grant you access to use. As land managers, we can help you with access to field sites to undertake your research. We can also provide ideas for student projects and real world examples you could use to plan assignments. See below for ideas and inspiration. 

Providing pathways to impact: If your project fits with NRW priorities and challenges, helps us build new partnerships and/or helps meet our evidence needs we may be able to provide you with a letter of support and/or Research Excellency Framework impact endorsements. We can provide pathways to impact by changing our real-world activities based on the recommendations of the research.

Research project ideas and support

If you are looking for research project ideas, check our list of evidence needs (topics we need more evidence to support SoNaRR) and our marine evidence priorities before getting in contact.

If you have a research idea that could help us develop the sustainable management of Wales’ natural environment, involve us early on by getting in contact. This is especially if you are targeting policy/legislation.

Contacting us early on (pre funding application) can help you refine your research questions and create tools that can be practically applied. We can help you engage with specialist policy leads to improve your understanding of the policy and legislative framework and to ensure the evidence provided can be directly aligned to policy at all scales.

Share research with us and our partners

We want to have an open and constructive two-way conversation with evidence providers. When we communicate on social media, or put out calls for evidence, please respond if you have evidence to contribute.

Make your work understandable and quickly digestible. Whether you are at the point of idea conception, requesting a letter of support, or publication, clearly explain what you found out (or intend to find out), and what it means (or does not mean). Most importantly, explain why it is important for NRW to know about it. This includes any limitations or uncertainties in the research.

Briefing notes often help communicate research, here is a guide on how to write a policy briefing.

We welcome presentations from researchers to explain their work.

You can let us know about the research you have completed even if it is in the process of peer review. We understand the editorial process takes time, so letting us know about the work during this process could help us use it in readiness for its publication.

If the work is conceptual, at a much larger scale than we work at, or not ready to be applied (see real world application) please be clear about this from the beginning.

Tips to boost the impact of your research

Evidence types we accept

We accept many forms of qualitative or quantitative evidence to help inform our decisions including: peer reviewed primary and secondary research, reports, and unpublished MSc or PhD theses.

We weight evidence based on its strength, the strongest evidence being from a systematic review (key differences between systematic and conventional reviews), and the weakest from statements without underlying data e.g. expert opinion. The stronger the evidence, the greater the likelihood of us applying it.

If you are thinking of undertaking a review or supervising a student who is doing this, using guidelines such as those from the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence will help improve the quality of the review.

Avoid providing us with raw data alone, we do not have the resources to analyse this without the wider context of the study it comes from.

Real world application

Research, especially “high impact” studies often target much larger scales than we work at or presents models that are not ready for us to directly apply.

In addition to presenting this work to us, we ask researchers to tell us what this research means for NRW and the specific and practical steps of how we can use it.

We do not have the time or expertise to do this ourselves so without this extra step, we are often unable to use this evidence.

Open and reproducible science

Research must show a clear and reproducible pathway from raw data to the conclusions drawn.

All data and code/scripts should be ethically collected and analysed, and be open access by default unless there have been specific arrangements otherwise. We encourage the use of the FAIR principles and the use of open source methods.

Quality, assumptions, and robustness

Explain openly any limitations, assumptions, and biases in the work.

For evidence provided from modelling, explain any assumptions of the data or model outputs going into the model, in addition to the model itself. This is especially important when the end product is a 'model of models'. Without this information it is difficult for us to understand the confidence in the results if the end product has been a transformed a number of times from the original data. 

Please explain how robust this evidence is and what level of quality assurance it has gone through (e.g. peer review) to help us assign a confidence weighting to the findings.​

Combining with other data and evidence

Entering data and evidence into larger databases to be used alongside other pieces of evidence or data can be very helpful for us, for example:

Combining your evidence with the evidence we have in NRW is highly valuable.

However, if the research output includes an amalgamation of data or is added to a larger database, provide disentangled raw data in addition to the amalgamated final databases.

Opportunities to work with us, letters of support, and getting in touch

For research project queries (including requests for letters of support), contact with details of your project or idea and we will pass you to the most relevant staff member.

Evidence commissions

We use Sell2Wales to commission services that we need over certain values. Evidence projects can be advertised on here so keep an eye on our how we buy what we need page. These tend to be evidence gathering exercises with short deadlines.

Research Placements and PhD proposals

These can be during or after undergraduate (including placement year), MSc or PhD studies. We can be partners on research projects (e.g. NERC CASE).  

Contact us at least 2 months before the submission deadline so we can co-produce the proposal with you.  

Additionally, for academic staff, look out for funded placements/secondments in policy positions (e.g. UKRI, Royal Society). 

Letters of support

You must give us 2 weeks' notice when requesting a letter of support.

Your request should clearly explain what you intend to find out and why it is important for NRW. Without this information we will be unable to make an informed decision about whether to support the project or not.

Be understanding

We want to work effectively with academics and experts to make our environmental decisions better. However, please be aware that we often have different deadlines for gathering and using evidence, different ways of working, and different internal processes, compared to in academia.

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