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Keith Matthews

Staff picture: Keith Matthews
Information and Computational Sciences
Information and Computational Sciences
Senior Research Scientist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK



I am a senior researcher with 29 years of experience of working in, and leading, inter- and transdisciplinary research across social, natural and computational sciences. Domains of interest include sustainable land use systems (at business, national and pan-EU scales), climate change and the effectiveness of policy interventions (particularly the instruments of the Common Agricultural Policy). My experience in developing and evaluating multi-objective land use decision support systems (1991-2006) is now being applied in spatial policy analysis and processes of science-stakeholder and science-policy engagement. New challenges include designing and undertaking science-policy processes that use societal metabolism approaches within the institutions of the EU, assessing options for carbon storage in new woodlands in Scotland and the extent and intensity of driven grouse moor management,its impacts and the potential for alternative land uses.

Science-policy research in Scotland and Europe

The Land Systems team with other researchers from the James Hutton Institute and Scotland's Rural College, have, since 2008, been active in undertaking land-related data integration and spatial modelling in support of Scottish Government policy teams. The projects have included specific ex ante policy options appraisals (e.g. for CAP reforms) and other studies that characterise current states, alternative options for use of, or potential impacts of policy or environmental change on land.  Typically, the data integration has taken two forms – linking administrative datasets concerned with land and/or combining administrative and research-based datasets. The nature of integration can be relational (between entities – field-holding-business) or spatial - using geographical information system operations to generate characteristics of land parcels from other maps (e.g. climate, soils etc). There has also been significant effort devoted to generating maps with Scotland-wide coverage and field/business granularity.

Roles and responsibilities

  • Team Leader for Land Systems in the Information and Computational Sciences Department,
  • Hutton Work Package Coordinator for Rural Industries in the Scottish Government 2016-2022 Strategic Research Programme
  • Project Manager for underpinning policy advice and contract research for Scottish Government and other clients,
  • Hutton PI for H2020 MAGIC project and the work package lead of the Quality Check for Policy Narratives

Current research interests

2016-2020 Moving Towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security (MAGIC) was a Horizon 2020 WATER-2015 project on "Integrated approaches to food security, low-carbon energy, sustainable water management and climate change mitigation". The Land Systems team with collegaues from SEGS undertook pan-EU modelling of sustainability using data from FADN and social metabolism accounting methods developed by ICTA in Barcelona. The analysis was embedded in transdisciplinary research processes engaging with EU Directorate General and Agency staff (e.g. EEA) and European Parliamentarians on policy narratives.
2011-2020 Pillar 1 CAP Scenarios/Impact Assessments - Undertook a series of options analyses for e.g. transition from historic to area-based payments and other changes such as capping payments. Emphasis was on how to regionalise payments (land use, capability etc.) and the degree of redistribution between regions and sectors. The analysis has been used by Scottish Government since the Pack Inquiry (in 2009), for a series of CAP Stakeholders Group briefings, the Agricultural Strategy Champions process (2017) and advice to ministers.
2015-16 & 2018-19 Areas Facing Natural Constraint. This was the planned replacement for the Less Favoured Areas. The project undertook the testing of options for designations (biophysical) led by David Donnelly and how payments could be distributed. This formed the basis for a 2016 ANC workshop, and further analysis in 2019/20.
2018-19 & 2019-20 Grouse Moor Management. As part of a wider analysis of grouse moor management this project identified and characterised holdings with grouse moors. The analysis assessed the potential for alternative uses, updated the mapping of strip-burning using remote sensed data and refined the estimates of grouse butt density as an indicator of intensity of management.
2012-2020 New Woodlands for Carbon Storage. This project mapped the net carbon storage for 11 forestry management alternatives for new woodlands on all non-forested land in Scotland. This used a unique climate-soil-land-use combinations dataset with the ECOSSE soil carbon model and datasets from Forest Research.
2014-16 CAP Greening. This study assessed trends in environmental indicators, the uptake of CAP Greening measures in 2014, with maps and provided an expert review of their likely effectiveness.

Contributing to projects led by other Hutton researchers
2016-2020 Future Barley Yields - Mike Rivington (ICS) - This used the unique combinations datasets with the DSSAT crop model to model current and future barley yields under climate change. The analysis was validated against holding level harvest yield data and informed deliberation with Scotch Whisky Research Institute.
2010-2020 Agro-Met Indicators - Mike Rivington - This project downscales the regional climate model data and generates summaries of risks from climate change using agro-meteorological indicators developed in previous analysis.
2019 Risks to private water supply - Mike Rivington - This used the spatial climate data to highlight where changes in rainfall under climate change may cause supply interruptions. Change in evapotranspiration and land use may also have an impact and need to be considered in any future analysis.
2019-2021 Updated Land Capability for Agriculture - Mike Rivington. This project uses the improved resolution climate data and enhanced soil properties datasets to update the Land Capability for Agriculture mapping with emphasis on looking forward to changes by 2050.
2016-2021 Brexit Response - Gary Polhill (ICS) - Used agent-based modelling to assess how cattle-based systems in Scotland might respond to Brexit. The models were parametrised with data from APHA and SG Census/IACS.
2016-21 Farmer Adaptation - Lee-Ann Sutherland (SEGS)- Based on large survey of land mangers a series of analyses of new entrants, diversification, non-commercial farming and female-led farms have been undertaken. The surveys were structured by the Census and IACS data.

Past research

2010: IACS-GHGs - pilot project to determine the suitability of IACS data to provide land use change data for annual greenhouse gas estimates. RERAD with Aberdeen University and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
2010: CAP-Flattening - Modelling scenarios for CAP Pillar 1 Area Payments using Macaulay LCA (and Less Favoured Area Designations) - RESAS - analysis of area based payment options in support of the Pack Inquiry.
2009: Model Ecosystem Framework - RESAS - scoping the use of ecosystem services approaches to the sustainable management of rural land use systems.
2009: Rural Land use Studies 1 and 2 - RESAS - spatial analysis of biophysical and socio-economic datasets to support baseline, trend and scenario analyses.
2008 - 2010: Aquarius: Farmers as Water Managers - Interreg IVb North Sea Region - Coordinator for the Institute - action research on river flow management under climate change - case study of natural flow management.
2007- 2010: SMILE - EU FP7 SSH - Synergies in Multi-scale Inter-Linkages of Eco-social systems - developing cross-scale social-metabolism analyses using the Cairngorms National part as the case study.
2006 - 2011: Coordinator for Institute in the Sustainable Farming Systems work package of the RESAS research programme Environment and Rural Stewardship - leading on ecosystem based sustainability assessment, resilience of land use systems and adaptation to climate change.
2006- 2007: AGRIGRID: Methodological grids for payment calculations in rural development measures in the EU FP6 Specific Targeted Research Action - multi-scale analysis options for organic conversions and support payment.
2007: C4LU - communicating climate change consequences for land use - SG Science Communication Fund project using case-studies with rural stakeholders to stimulate deliberation on adaptive responses to climate change.
2007: SAF-JAC: Scottish Government research study to assess to what extent data from the Single application Form could be used to meet the statistical requirements of the June Agricultural Census: creation of spatiotemporal land use maps at field scale for Scotland.
2004-2006: Policy relevant assessments of farm-scale sustainability, PI for a RELU scoping study with colleagues from Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
1997-2006: Development of strategic farm-scale decision support systems for multi-objective land use planning - this included both the development of computer-based simulation models and their use in deliberative inclusive processes, for example: on trade-offs in land use planning, options for Common Agricultural Policy reforms and the key research questions for stakeholders posed by climate change.
2001-2005: Development of the multi-crop simulation model CropSyst - collaboration with Washington State University, Department of Biological Systems Engineering.
2003-2005: Case study analysis of the impacts of climate change for mixed farming in Scotland and Italy with the Institute for Industrial Cropping in Bologna.
1995-2005: Decision-support systems for assessing land use options at the farm level.
1995-2002: Development of low cost remote sensing method to enhance field survey.
1991-1993: Evaluation of the regional impacts of climate change on agriculture.


  • McIntosh, B.S.; Giupponi, C.; Voinov, A.A.; Smith, C.; Matthews, K.B.; Monticino, M.; Kolkman, M.J.; Crossman, N.; van Ittersum, M.; Haase, D.; Haase, A.; Mysiak, J.; Groot, J.C.J.; Sieber, S.; Verweij, P.; Quinn, N.; Waeger, P.; Gaber, N.; Hepting, D.; Scholten, H.; Sulis, A.; van Delden, H.; Gaddis, E.; Assaf, H. (2008) Bridging the gap: developing tools for environmental policy and management., In: Jakeman, T., Rizzoli, A., Voinov, A. & Chen, S.H. (eds.). 2008. Environmental Modelling and Software: State of the Art and New Perspectives Developments in Integrated Environmental Assessment. Elsevier, Volume 3, 33-45.
  • Cadell, W.; Matthews, K.B. (2005) Mapping downhill skiing's environmental impact: evaluating the potential of remote sensing in Scotland., In: Mountains of Northern Europe: Conservation, Management, People and Nature (eds. D.B.A. Thompson, M.F. Price and C.A. Galbraith). The Stationery Office Ltd., Edinburgh. pp197-202.

Printed from /staff/keith-matthews on 01/06/23 12:30:09 PM

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.