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Evaluating CREW

This project was commissioned by CREW with the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of the centre’s work

This project was commissioned by Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW) with the overall purpose of increasing the effectiveness of the centre’s work. CREW provided the funding for the project, which runs from April 2011 to March 2015.


  • Understand existing science: policy: practice interfaces.
  • Measure and analyse how CREW’s structure, members and activities contribute towards these interfaces.
  • Evaluate performance and suggest ways to improve links between research, policy and implementation.


The methodology involves defining a baseline for CREW engagement with key end users (policy makers and practitioners) and then to evaluate and periodically report on those interactions. End-user feedback will be used to identify what has worked and why or why not, and to adapt the next cycle of engagement to address any imbalances

Year one conclusions

  • CREW structures have worked well in year one to increase networks, increase researcher skills and capacity in knowledge exchange and increase impact of CREW knowledge generation. Membership has widened from the original stakeholder group to include a range of policy makers, scientists and expertise available to CREW. Closer links have been formed with ClimateXChange, Scotland's centre of expertise for climate change. CREW appears to be more focussed on the science-policy interface, having no practitioners on the Steering Group or Policy Research Advisory Group, and with practitioners involved primarily through inclusion in some capacity building project stakeholder events.
  • CREW has been characterised as a programme of individual Knowledge Exchange (KE) projects (Evely et al. 2012) and the different structures have used a wide range of KE mechanisms in year one. These include methods of communication and specific KE mechanisms: stakeholder workshops, questionnaire surveys, focus groups and interviews. Interviews with project principal investigators indicated that researchers are increasing their skills and capability in KE through their work on CREW capacity building projects.
  • As indicated in the literature on evaluation of KE, assessing CREW's research impact has been difficult so early in the life of the centre. Some policy impacts can be demonstrated however: in presentations of project findings at key stakeholder conferences and at Westminster; involvement of team members on expert panels; use of call down briefings and research summaries by senior policy makers; and contributions to the Hydro Nation agenda and Scotland’s bid to host the 2015 World Water Forum.
  • The review of literature on evaluating knowledge exchange showed that there are very limited examples that relate directly to evaluating KE. It also found that KE is highly context specific; therefore no ‘catch-all’ and generic methods for evaluating KE are likely to be identified. Despite such challenges, the literature notes many advantages to evaluating KE and these are particularly linked to participatory approaches to evaluation, which provide significant opportunities for enhancing implementation and evaluation of KE interventions.
  • Participatory evaluation is particularly pertinent to KE because KE itself often aims to include some form of participation. Applying principles from participatory or empowerment evaluation can therefore assist projects to increase the effectiveness of their outcomes through more participatory mechanisms while simultaneously encouraging adaptability and flexibility as new understanding about KE emerges.

See the CREW website for publications.


ESPPI-CREW is an ongoing project. Staff involved are currently drafting reports of year 2 research and findings.

Staff involved

Kirsty Blackstock, Emily Hastings and Sue Morris

Key contact

Kirsty Blackstock

Project Information
Project Type: 
Archived Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.