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SEFARI Fellowship: Innovations in Environmental Monitoring

During 2020, I had the opportunity to work with colleagues from NatureScot and SEPA to work as a SEFARI Fellow on a project: Innovations in Environmental Monitoring. In this earlier SEFARI blog post, I introduced my Fellowship and our initial focus on helping Scotland’s environmental monitoring community discuss and learn about new opportunities for environmental monitoring. We have produced a final report.

We are facing a set of linked environmental challenges (climate change, biodiversity loss, and unsustainable natural resource use; often referred to as the planetary emergency or planetary crises) that are due to how we as individuals, organisations, businesses, and nations interact with our planet’s environment.

Monitoring the health of Scotland’s rural, urban, and marine environments and our individual and collective impacts on them, is vital for enabling and guiding a green recovery.

Environmental monitoring is the foundation of how we understand our impacts on our rural, urban, and marine environments and is key to advancing methodologies that integrate the complexity of human–environmental systems into analyses that underlie effective solutions. How we ensure continual improvement of environmental monitoring data pipelines though harnessing science and digital social innovations (people using data and digital technologies) to aid decision making to achieve global sustainability is at the heart of this report. Where an environmental monitoring data pipeline describes how data is collected e.g. by a sensor, is processed and stored, and then is made available for reuse. It is increasingly accepted that all environmental data should be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) (Wilkinson et al. 2016). Though there has been some progress in meeting some of these principles, large amounts of environmental monitoring data do not meet the FAIR principles.

In our report, we expand on these environmental challenges and recent Scottish, UK, European, and global policy responses that are increasingly framed as twin digital and green transitions to a more resilient, green, and digital Scotland and Europe. We present the key roles of environmental monitoring to support these policy responses. We also provide a draft vision and suggest four linked missions (and recommended actions) for how digital social innovations in environmental monitoring can address environmental challenges and support a green recovery. Digital social innovation (also known as civic tech) is about using data and technology to mobilise people to solve some of society’s biggest challenges.



Project Information
Project Type: 
Active 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.