POSTnotes: the University’s work with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The core objective of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) is to supply trusted and impartial analysis to the UK Parliament.

Its work is used to inform both the House of Commons and House of Lords and its advisers are in constant contact with leading experts from academia, industry, government, the third sector and beyond.

That process – which includes horizon scanning and literature reviews, contextualising research evidence, and peer reviewing – ensures POST is aware of emerging topics of interest in the science community and can begin to work with Government to address them.

POSTnotes are the organisation’s flagship report, a four-page briefing reviewing emerging areas of research, the challenges they may pose and the solutions potentially required to address them.

Since 2016, our world-leading research has been showcased through POSTnotes in climate change, microplastics, offshore renewable energy, natural hazards, and much more.

It is one of the many ways in which the University is helping to shape government policy, setting the national and international agenda on topics likely to impact society as a whole.

2022

The habitat restoration target

Changes in land use and management have destroyed, degraded, and fragmented habitats. This has driven the majority of declines in wildlife over the last century in England. Restoring habitats will deliver nature recovery. This POSTnote, co-authored by Dr John Martin, focuses on restoration of terrestrial habitats for the wider habitats target in England.

<p>Nature-based Solutions Research Group</p>

Climate adaptation for nature

The UK Government has committed to halting the long-term decline of species abundance and protecting 30% of land and sea by 2030. In line with her work to understand the impacts of climate change, and in turn how nature is responding, Dr Sian Rees contributed to this POSTnote which summarises options to allow nature to adapt to a changing climate and ensure the long-term effectiveness of conservation strategies.

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</p><div>An English Rural Landscape in the Chiltern Hills with lane between tall hedgerows</div>

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Restoring agricultural soils

Professor Mark Fitzsimons
Dr Kate Schofield

In the face of a growing global soil crisis, Professor Mark Fitzsimons and Dr Kate Schofield – part of the University’s ReCon Soil project – contributed to a POSTnote summarising the state of England’s agricultural soils and evaluates soil stewardship opportunities. The report also explores soil indicators that could be used for monitoring in policy frameworks and incentives relating to soil restoration.

<p>FABSoil plant at Eden Project</p>

Reducing agricultural pressures on freshwater ecosystems

Freshwater ecosystems in the UK face a myriad of pressures, and Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan proposes a “systems” approach to mitigate environmental pressures. As one of the UK’s leading experts in water quality, Professor Sean Comber helped to produce a POSTnote describing the components of UK freshwater catchments, then summarises opportunities for developing a more integrated approach to addressing the pressures that agricultural practices place on freshwaters.

Catchment and river science

2021

Blue Carbon

Dr Sian Rees
Professor Jason Hall-Spencer

Marine ecosystems around the UK can both increase and decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Carbon loss and gain globally by these ecosystems has the potential to influence climate change. Dr Sian Rees and Professor Jason Hall-Spencer are renowned nationally and internationally for their work in the field, and this POSTnote summarises the marine ecosystems in the UK that contribute to these processes, their current and potential future extent, and pressures on them.

<p>Getty bubbles ocean sea underwater</p>

Local nature recovery strategies

The UK Government is introducing Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) from April 2022 to map where local habitat improvement and restoration could address national-scale environmental objectives. Dr John Martin has extensive expertise in the potential of nature restoration and co-authored a POSTnote summarising the LNRS approach. This included mapping ecological networks, the opportunities for LNRSs to deliver wider benefits to nature and people, and the likely challenges associated with the strategies and their delivery.

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</p><div>Great Staple tor Dartmoor Devon UK</div><p></p>

Effective biodiversity indicators

The UK is committed to targets under international biodiversity agreements to value, conserve and restore the variety of life on earth (biodiversity). Progress towards targets is tracked using indicators, which are designed to summarise complex monitoring data. Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, a Marine Systems Research Fellow for Defra, contributed to this POSTnote which reviewed indicator use and development in the context of the post-2020 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Biodiversity Framework.

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</p><div>Developing Meaningful Marine Biodiversity Indicators to Support Conservation</div><p></p>

Responding to the challenge of antimicrobial resistance

Dr Tina Joshi
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most urgent global health challenges for the next decade and cases of antimicrobial-resistant infections are increasing in the UK and worldwide. Dr Tina Joshi, Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology and a recognised national expert in AMR, contributed to a POSTnote looking at the progress the UK Government has made towards its publication of a 20-year vision for tackling AMR, published in 2019. The POSTnote looked at the opportunities and challenges to tackling AMR, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

<p>Biofilm of antibiotic resistant rod-shaped bacteria<br></p>

2020

Marine renewables

Marine renewables are technologies that generate electricity from tide and wave motion. They produce electricity without greenhouse gases, and could provide economic benefits for the UK. However, the technologies have been slow to develop, despite previous projections of growth. Professor Deborah Greaves OBE, Director of the UK’s 

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</p><div>Offshore wind turbine in a wind farm under construction off the England coast at sunset.</div>

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2019

Climate Change and Fisheries

Fishing is dependent on marine food webs that are sensitive to overexploitation and climate change. An international expert how marine species are being impacted by climate change, Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop co-wrote this POSTnote focusing on marine fisheries, including wild capture and farming (aquaculture) of fin- and shellfish, and their processing. It summarises impacts on oceans and fisheries of changes including ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation and storms, and explores how fisheries may adapt.

<p>fishing net fishermen boat fisheries marine&nbsp;</p>

2018

Robotics in Social Care

This POSTnote, co-authored by Visiting Research Fellow Dr Torbjorn Dahl, introduces robotic technology and the main ways it has been developed for use in social care. It reviews evidence on the impact of robotics on the costs and quality of social care and its workforce, and explores the main ethical, social and regulatory challenges to its use in social care.

<p>EPIC community engagement session</p>

UK Fisheries Management

Following EU withdrawal the UK will have full responsibility for fisheries policy and management within its waters. This POSTnote, incorporating the views of renowned experts from the University’s Marine Conservation Research Grmaroup, summarises the science used to inform management, current approaches to EU fisheries, and challenges and opportunities for future UK fisheries management.

<p>Fishing trawler leaving Sutton Harbour - Getty Images</p>

2017

Communicating Risk

People's responses to risk are shaped by the way that such risks are communicated. Communicating risks effectively can defuse concerns, mitigate disaster situations and build trust with public institutions and organisations. Co-written by Professor Iain Stewart, one of the UK’s foremost geoscience communicators, this POSTnote defines the often misunderstood concepts of risk, uncertainty and hazard and describes the key stakeholders communicating it. It examines the factors that shape how people perceive and respond to such risks and summarises evidence on effective risk communication strategies.

<p>NET: New technologies and participatory approaches for disaster resilience<br></p>

2016

Marine Microplastic Pollution

Professor Richard Thompson OBE

Dr Kayleigh Wyles

Plastic pollution is accumulating rapidly in the world’s oceans, and the potential effects of microplastics on the environment and human health are an area of active research. This POSTnote was co-written by Professor Richard Thompson OBE – whose seminal paper in 2004 was the first to mention microplastics in a marine context – and Dr Kayleigh Wyles, an environmental psychologist pioneering new ways of examining public relationships with environmental issues. It summarises their sources and spread, the evidence that they present a risk and possible strategies to reduce plastic pollution.

READ MORE: https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0528/

<p>Microplastics floating in ocean water<br></p>

Discover more about our academic, economic and societal impact

At a glance...
  • University of Plymouth submitted 50 impact case studies to REF2014
  • our case studies demonstrated impact on academia, politics, health, culture, technology, society, the economy and environment
  • project funders included 12 national Department of Business, Innovation and Skills funding bodies
  • reaching far and wide, Plymouth's global impact locations included Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, North and South America.

Earth Day concept [shutterstock_187234682]
<p>Parliament</p>

Public Policy

Providing evidence to support policy-making processes
The University of Plymouth has a prestigious record of engaging with and influencing policy, from legislation on microplastics, to innovation in offshore renewable energy to the health of coastal communities. We work with local, regional, national and international partners across a range of complex policy issues including soil erosion, anti-microbial resistance and digital interventions for Parkinsons’ sufferers.