Call – Proportionate approaches to uncertainty

Pilot Project 7

Proportionate approaches to uncertainty handling given time constraints

Applications are invited to undertake a collaborative project with Natural England, to explore proportionate approaches to uncertainty handling and communication, given time and other constraints on the provision of relevant advice.

Natural England, as the Government’s adviser on nature conservation, has to provide advice using the best available evidence and inevitably this raises numerous and complex uncertainties. We have been seeking to develop a proportionate approach to the handling of uncertainty, beyond listing and being open about uncertainties.

A proportionate approach is required because of the range of complexity we deal with, from a relatively simple decision-making approach to determining the appropriate stocking rate for a pasture, to the layered uncertainties associated with fundamental unknowns such as the cumulative impacts of development and pollution on dynamic natural processes across a landscape over time.  In choosing an appropriate approach to uncertainty for a given task it is important to be proportional in the effort and expertise required given the varied nature of individual tasks. Natural England handles many thousands of requests for advice each year and operates a range of risk assessment procedures to gauge the complexity and evidence analysis required for each case and the time constraints on that analysis.

We would like to explore up to 3 casework examples ranging from simple to complex issues and thus evidence requirements and to develop and test a proportionate decision-making framework regarding uncertainty handling and communication.

The intended outcome would be a simple proportionate decision tree style framework to guide those advising decision makers on planning casework, on the approach to uncertainties inherent in the evidence base used to develop individual advice products. The framework should include a proportionate approach including options for low to high risk casework, accepting that there may be time and other constraints in the provision of acceptable advice.


Up to £15,000 is available for this initiative. Applicants should provide a 4 page A4 document setting out how they would approach the task and why they think they are suitable to carry it out. They should provide details of grant administration, finances, time line and deliverables (and an indication of supervisory responsibility for junior researchers if applicable).

The proposal will include ideas about the kinds of information needed for the study, how it will be analysed and followed up, and the types of outcomes that may be expected.

Natural England will provide full access to case study material and arrange interviews with relevant stakeholders where requested by the successful applicant.  The proposal should set out clearly what is required so that this can be arranged in good time.  If you would like some further background reading from Natural England in advance of preparing the proposal please contact CRUISSE as below.

It is envisaged that a senior academic, postdoc or research student will apply to conduct the project themselves or to obtain funds to employ someone else suitable to conduct the work under their supervision over a period of about 6 months starting as soon as possible.

The PI, Co-I or other core members of the CRUISSE Network will be available for consultation and expect to receive informal updates on progress occasionally during the project as well as any formal deliverables specified by the applicant.

Before the project commences, the successful applicant in collaboration with the project partners will be expected to draw up a brief (maximum 2 page) summary of the expected outcomes and impacts of the work. This document should also set out the expected level of interaction between the applicant and the project partners, and an approximate timeline for the work.


Eligibility and Evaluation

Applications for Project 7 should be sent to

Applicants must be staff (including current postdocs and PDRA’s) working at an eligible UK institution. Please refer to the EPSRC Eligibility of organisations webpage to check your institution’s eligibility:


The proposals will be reviewed and evaluated quickly within the CRUISSE Network.

Deadline for Applications: 20th December 2017