• To provide assurance, through external peer review, of the robustness of the science proposed to address the research questions in the commissioned research programmes
• to review the quality of science provided by Forest Research and external providers to ensure it is fit for purpose and defensible
• to provide a perspective on the quality and applicability of applied research, particularly where it is not subject to formal external peer review
• to support Forest Research scientists through the mentoring and development of its staff, by complementing the work being done by FR itself
• to give advice on opportunities for collaboration and new research programmes
• to provide an independent view to the Commission on forthcoming challenges which might require a research focus in the future
The research and analysis commissioned by the Forestry Commission provides the evidence base for policy formulation, decision making, and the development of best practice in public and private forestry.
Forestry is a devolved function, and research priorities are determined by each country responding to its own policy agenda. This creates challenges as well as opportunities for forestry research and will result in an evolving research landscape, driven by decisions such as the recent formation of Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which subsumed the functions previously performed by Forestry Commission Wales.
However, it is recognised that some functions can best be delivered though cross-border co-operation. The Science and Innovation (S&I) Strategy for British Forestry is undergoing review, and the new Strategy will capture those areas of common interest where a commissioned research programme can be developed to meet the needs of all parties.
Forestry research is funded through a number of routes within the Commission. The funding which delivers the S&I Strategy is part of the Defra (Westminster) vote, is managed by the Commission’s Corporate & Forestry Support division, and 90 per cent of it is spent with Forest Research. The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also fund forestry research through their forestry functions.
Forest Research, as the UK’s foremost body for forest and tree-related research, also undertakes work for other organisations. The Research Councils and various charities also fund forestry research, increasingly in the field of tree health.
The scope of the committee’s work will be with the first of these only, and will focus on the research delivered under the direction of the S&I Strategy.
The Committee operates in line with the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees, including the UK Government’s Principles for Scientific Advice (GoScience, 2011). It will meet twice a year, and will play a role in setting its own agendas, as well as responding to issues raised by the Forestry Commission.
The committee will establish a policy on what documents are to be published, based on principles of openness and transparency. It will be expected to publish, as a minimum, programmes of work, meeting agendas, minutes, final advice (where appropriate) and an annual report. Unless there are particular reasons to the contrary, the committee should also consider routinely publishing supporting papers. However, the Committee will also respect restricted information of a personal or commercial nature.
The committee’s functions and performance will be subject to three-yearly review by the Forestry Commission. It will formally report to the Commission’s Research Strategy Management Board, which oversees the implementation of the S&I Strategy on behalf of the Commission’s Executive Board.