Deborah Roberts

Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Science
Leadership Team
T: +44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

Professor Deborah Roberts is Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Science. She holds an Honorary Chair in the Business School, University of Aberdeen.

Her research experience spans agricultural economics and regional science and she has undertaken work for a wide range of funding bodies including the European Commission, DEFRA, ESRC, the Scottish Government, Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Deb is Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Science. She is a member of the SEFARI Directors Committee and is responsible for progressing the Institute’s impact and open science agenda. Deb is a Director of ClimateXChange and leads on Macaulay Development Trust funding opportunities. She oversees our Environmental and Biochemical Sciences (EBS), Information and Computational Sciences (ICS), and Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) groups, plus our research farms.

Deb has over 25 years of experience in rural economic analysis with particular research interests in agricultural and environmental policies, regional development and social wellbeing issues in rural areas. She has an Honorary Chair at the University of Aberdeen Business school and she is responsible for the Institute’s partnerships with the University of Aberdeen. Prior to her current role, Deb was leader of the SEGS group.

Deb has research interests in a number of inter-related areas. First, in relation to rural and regional development she focuses on understanding how and why rural economies are unique, the key drivers for change, and reasons for regional disparities. Second, in relation to the policy, she has focussed on modelling the economy-wide impacts of changes in farm, forestry and structural policies using social accounting methods and general equilibrium models. She has also carried research at the micro-level looking at farm household behaviour and the dynamics of fuel poverty. Increasingly her work has considered the importance of allowing for spatial effects and interdependencies in understanding rural markets including, for example, the spatial pattern of farm household transactions, and links between rural and urban housing markets arising from commuting and counterurbanisation.

Ongoing and recent projects


Prior to appointment

Books / chapters

  • Roberts, D.; Torrance, L.; Stirton, G.; Britton, A.J.; Craig, C.-A.; Kyle, C; Newman, C.; Macaulay, C.; Fielding, D.; Watson, H.; Pohle, I.; Robertson, J.; Maxwell, J.; Irvine, K.; Sutherland, L-A.; Dawson, L.A.; Shepherd, L.; Miller, P.; Ellis, R.; Richards, S.; Blok, V.; Hackett, C.; Kettle, H. (2018) Women in Science, The James Hutton Institute, 25pp

Technical / contract reports

  • Brooker, R.; Mitchell, R.; Roberts, D.; Matthews, K.; Waylen, K.A. (2021) Think piece on multifunctional landscapes, Report submitted to Sallie Ballie in response to Call-Down request.
  • Cook, P.; Booth, J.; Roberts, D.; Hopkins, J.; Slee, B.; Grieve, J. (2016) The land based sector in NE Scotland: facing the future (Summary and Main reports)., Report for Aberdeenshire Council, March 2016.
  • Melo, P.C.; Abdul-Salam, Y.; Roberts, D.; Gilbert, A.; Matthews, R.B.; Cohen, L.; Sebastien, M.; Gomez Y Paloma, S. (2015) Income elasticities of food demand in Africa: a meta-analysis., JRC Technical Report, EUR 27650 EN, Publications Office of the European Union.
  • Miller, D.R.; Birnie, R.V.; Dunn, S.M.; Hough, R.L.; Morrice, J.; Roberts, D.; Stutter, M.I.; Sutherland, L-A.; Towers, W. (2013) Review of renewable energy research at the James Hutton Institute., Report to Scottish Government.
  • Roberts, D.; Thomson, K.; Dinnie, L.; Brown, K.; Martin-Ortega, J.; McKee, A.; Prager, K.; Pages, M.; Towers, W.; Munoz-Rojas, J.; Slee, B. (2013) Improving implementationn and increasing uptake of measures to improve water quality in Scotland: key messages for informing policy makers., Scottish Government Land Reform Review Group (LRRG): Call for Evidence – Submission on behalf of the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, 11 January 2013.

Conference papers

  • Ge, J.; Polhill, J.G.; Liu, N.; Roberts, D.; Craig, T. (2016) Modelling lifestyle and energy footprint in Europe’s ‘oil capital’ using an agent-based model., In: Sauvage, S., Sanchez-Perez, J.M., Rizzoli, A.E. (eds.). Proceedings of the 8th International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software, Toulouse, France, 10-14 July 2016. Session A4: Modeling for Low carbon Economies, p253.
  • Melo, P.C.; Abdul-Salam, Y.; Roberts, D.; Cohen, L.; Sebastien, M.; Gomez Y Paloma, S. (2016) Income growth and malnutrition in Africa: is there a need for region-specific policies?, 90th Annual Conference of the Agricultural Economics Society, University of Warwick, 4-6 April 2016.
  • Phimister, E.; Roberts, D.; Gilbert, A. (2004) The dynamics of farm incomes in Scotland., The Future of Rural Development Conference, Aberdeen, December 2004.
  • Phimister, E.; Roberts, D.; Gilbert, A. (2002) The dynamics of farm incomes in Scotland: panel data analysis using the Farm accounts Survey., Agricultural Economics Society Annual Conference, 76th, Aberystwyth, 8-11 April 2002.
  • Gelan, A.; Roberts, D. (2001) Commuting costs and rural development., Regional Studies Association Annual Conference, Durham, 4-6 September 2001.
  • Roberts, D.; Gelen, A. (2001) The changing economic base of rural areas: non-traditional sources of income in the Western Isles., Agricultural Economics Society Annual Conference, Harper Adams, England, 10-13 September 2001. Unpublished.

Conference posters / abstracts

  • Vellinga, N.; Xu, Y.; Roberts, D. (2013) Understanding the economy-wide impacts of decoupling farm support: an assessment of alternative CGE model specifications., Agricultural Economics Society, 87th Annual Conference, Warwick University, Coventry, 8-10 April 2013. Abstract.
  • Xu, Y.; Roberts, D.; Thomson, K. (2013) A comparison of the total energy requirements of rural and urban households in Scotland: A SAM multiplier analysis., 87th Agricultural Economics Conference, Warwick, UK, 8-10 April 2013. Abstract.
  • Roberts, D.; Vellinga, N.; Xu, Y. (2013) Understanding the economy-wide impacts of CAP decoupling: An assessment of alternative of CGE model specifications., 87th Agricultural Economics Conference, Warwick, UK, 8-10 April 2013. Abstract.
  • Courtney, P.; Hill, G.W.; Roberts, D. (2002) The role of the natural heritage in rural development: An empirical analysis of economic linkages in Scotland., The Rural Research Conference of the RICS Foundation, in association with the University of Gloucestershire, ROOTS 2002. Abstract
  • Roberts, D.J.; Crabtree, J.R. (1999) Forestry’s contribution to the wider economy : a comparison of the economic benefits flowing from different woodland types., IUFRO Symposium on New Opportunities for Forest-related Rural Development, Aberdeen, August 1999.