Decision on Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
13 March 2006
The Council of the Natural Environment Research Council met on 8 March and confirmed plans to restructure the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH).
Council agreed that the original drivers for the restructuring - funding only the highest quality science, the reducing trend in external income and ensuring long-term financial sustainability - remain. However, after thorough consideration of the various issues raised during consultation with staff, stakeholders and the public, Council has decided to make some amendments to the original proposal.
The plan to focus the staff and research on to four of the existing sites at Bangor, Edinburgh, Lancaster and Wallingford is unchanged. The other four research sites will close (Banchory, Dorset, Monks Wood and Oxford). The Director's Office will relocate from Swindon to Wallingford, which will become the new HQ. Key science currently carried out at sites that are to close will be continued at retained sites.
The consultation raised concerns that some strengths of CEH might be jeopardised, such as in biodiversity, datasets and long-term monitoring. To reduce any risk and ensure that critical work is not only maintained but also enhanced, Council revised its funding allocation, adding £1·3 million to the original £15 million* per year. It has also agreed a revision of the original target for commissioned research, regarded by the consultations as too prudent, from £11 million to £12·4 million per year. As a result, up to 40 of the 200 posts at risk in the business plan will be saved.
The important activities that stakeholders feared would be at risk will be strengthened. Examples include the Countryside Survey, long-term monitoring, research in freshwater ecology to help implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive and predicting the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. CEH holds and develops key sets of data, such as those within the Biological Records Centre, which will be moved to Wallingford. None of these key data sets will be lost and extra resources will ensure good management and availability of the information.
Council also confirmed that NERC will go ahead with a partnership funding initiative of £2 million per year, available for bids in key areas of ecology and hydrology from CEH and partners, such as universities, in order to develop high-quality collaborative research.
CEH will remain a science-driven, not a site-based, organisation and the high quality science it delivers will continue through three core programmes - biodiversity, water and biogeochemistry - with two cross-cutting themes of climate change and sustainable economies, all supported by environmental informatics.
Bringing science teams together on four sites will create important synergies across different programmes and disciplines, enable us to build on recent significant improvements in CEH facilities and improve resources available to carry out first class science. By focusing CEH activities at four sites, significant savings will be made overall in running and maintenance costs so that more funding will be available for science. Council believes that the restructuring creates the right size and shape for CEH.
It is anticipated that the restructuring will cost about £43 million, will take four years and lower CEH's operating costs by over £7 million per year. Allowing for the impact of a lower target for external income, this leaves about £5 million per year to invest in high quality science across NERC's priority areas. Current priorities include environment and human health; the role of aerosols in climate change; and the possible shutdown of the North Atlantic current, which gives Europe its mild climate.
Council believes that the decision on restructuring will enable CEH to sustain and improve on its position as a leading centre in environmental research and monitoring. It greatly regrets the impact on CEH staff, and will ensure that everything possible is done to assist all staff, particularly those adversely affected. Council is certain, however, that this plan is essential if the long-term scientific and financial sustainability of CEH is to be secured.
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* all figures are expressed as 2004/05 values for ease of comparison with the business plan.
1. Council's responses to the consultation are available on the CEH Consultation page of this website.
2. A statement of intent to restructure CEH, based on the CEH business plan, was issued by Council on 7 December 2005.
3. A consultation was opened for NERC staff, the trade unions, scientists, stakeholders, customers and the general public to express their views before Council made a final decision on 8 March 2006. The stakeholder consultation inputs will be made available shortly.
Press release: 13/06
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