David Arnott – NPIF Innovation Placement Programme
Details of student and placement
Name: David Arnott
Institution: Bangor University
Placement Host: North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA)
What motivated you to apply for the Placement?
My BSc degree in Agriculture, Conservation and Environment focused on the interface between agriculture and the environment and this led to my PhD which focuses on the impact of agricultural policy change and the future of farming in the uplands. The NYMNPA is one of a number of other organisations selected to conduct research on behalf of Defra as part of the test and trials for the future Environmental Land Management Scheme which is expected to replace the current Basic Payments and agri-environment schemes (AES). When the opportunity arose to apply for a placement which allowed me to contribute to this research I did not hesitate to apply.
Please describe how the placement aligned with the UK Industrial Strategy, giving specific examples where possible.
This placement aligns to the grand challenges and the Ideas, People, Places and Climate Change foundations of the UK’s industrial strategy. Specifically, my research contributed to the Clean Growth grand challenge through improved knowledge of barriers and opportunities to farmer participation in land management schemes designed to contribute to UK climate change targets. The North York Moors National Park Authority (NYMPA) has a well-established, positive relationship with farmers within the National Park, principally as a result of the land management schemes and capital grant programmes that have been developed and delivered over the past three decades. Because the willingness to participate, or not, in AES is complex, a deep understanding of people’s perceptions, attitudes and behaviour is needed. The qualitative study conducted during this placement allowed the researcher to reveal and understand the complex processes behind the decision making process and provided a means for developing an understanding of complex phenomena from the perspectives of those who make the decisions. This study was based on 42 in-depth interviews with farmers, across four AES behavioural categories and four land use types. The qualitative procedures used in the study enabled us to gain insight into the underlying attitudes towards the Countryside Stewardship AES and its uptake.
Please outline your placement achievements.
On completion of the placement I continued to volunteer at the NYMNPA for two days a month to ensure the completion of a final report which will form part of the final MYMNPA test and trials report to Defra. A paper entitled “Overcoming barriers to CSS uptake through the decentralisation of agri-environment policy” is currently in draft and awaiting final review by supervisors prior to submission to an academic journal. On 16 Dec 2019 a presentation was given to the members of the NYMNPA on the findings of the final report.
How has this placement influenced your future career aspirations?
On completion of my PhD I would like to continue working on the interface between agriculture and the environment and this placement has given me experience in at area I would like to work. I would like to continue to work with the NYMNPA or a similar organisation but on a full time basis focusing on combating climate change and delivering positive public goods through a sustainable approach to faring in the uplands.
What were your expectations and did your placement fulfil these expectations?
I had worked alongside the placement supervisor on other projects related to my PhD and expected to be fully engaged and integrated into the work being conducted at the NYMNPA. This placement delivered on all of my expectations.
Any final comments you feel would be useful for future placements/ to summarise your experience?
This placement enabled me to gain practical experience of putting my new found skills and expertise into practice contributing to a report which has the potential to influence policy at a governmental level.