Cranfield’s Economics, Risk Analysis and Decision Science group undertakes applied research in the areas of natural and built environment to support decision-making in uncertain and complex situations.
Our group takes a transdisciplinary approach to research and deploys a number of methods within the social sciences, spanning economics, policy, governance, risk and futures.
Our research provides the foundation for developing policies and strategies for energy, environmental, agricultural and industrial systems. A range of scientific approaches are being deployed in this context, including energy systems modelling and analysis, economic and financial modelling, environmental valuation, risk and futures analysis, and stakeholder analysis.
Our strength is bringing these concepts and techniques together to support decision making in both operational and strategic contexts.
Key areas of research
- Modelling land use systems (Anil Graves);
- Market and non-market valuation of ecosystem services (Anil Graves, Paul Leinster, Nazmiye Ozkan);
- Risk and futures studies (Simon Jude, Kenisha Garnett);
- Socio-technical transitions and emerging technologies (Kenisha Garnett, Simon Jude, Nazmiye Ozkan);
- Climate adaptation and mitigation (Simon Jude, Nazmiye Ozkan, Anil Graves);
- Stakeholder analysis and public engagement (Anil Graves, Kenisha Garnett).
Key research areas
Spatio-temporal modelling and analysis of energy systems
The UK is leading global efforts for decarbonisation of energy system by adopting a legally binding target of 80% emissions reduction target from 1990 levels by 2050. Transition to such a low carbon economy will require significant changes in the ways we generate, transmit, distribute and use energy. While energy efficiency and recovery of waste heat have been on research and policy agenda since 1970s, their full potential has not been realised yet due to a number of economic, policy, social, organisational and financial factors, to name a few. Utilisation of renewable resources via solar photo voltaic panels or wind turbines, use of storage technologies to help with their intermittency and electrification of transport are other important aspects of this transition which requires highly granular near real-time data to understand consumer’s energy behaviours and UK’s changing energy mix.
Using a whole-system perspective and recognising the first law of geography that ‘everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things’ (Tobler, 1970), our research aims to shed light on the spatio-temporal dynamics of transition to a low carbon economy and draw out their implications for policy and planning. We use optimisation methods, agent based modelling, neural networks and fuzzy logic to analyse different energy actors’ (for example, individuals or industrial users) decision making process as well as other economic and engineering approaches (including spatial econometrics, thermodynamic analysis and intelligent control).
Modelling land use systems
Land use systems, such as arable, livestock, bio-energy, forestry, and agroforestry systems provide a range of benefits in the form of food, material, and energy for the UK and European bio-economy.
A key challenge for decision-making and policy over agricultural land is in evaluating how the performance of new land use systems and management practices compare with conventional systems and practices.
To support this process, a number daily and annual time-step computer simulation models, such as YieldSAFE, FarmSAFE, ForageSAFE, and Silsoe Whole Farm Model, have been developed at Cranfield University to predict how growth, yield, inputs, outputs, and financial and economic costs and benefits evolve over time. This has allowed the implications of land use decisions to be evaluated at the plot, farm, and regional scale over the short, medium, and long-term.
Current and recent research has involved quantifying the biophysical and economic benefits of land use systems in the UK, Europe, and globally. This for example, includes using the models to compare the benefits of novel agroforestry or bio-energy systems against baseline arable, forestry, or livestock systems, to determine the effect of future climate change on tree, crop, and livestock performance, and to determine the biophysical and economic consequences of integrating trees in monoculture land use systems for climate smart farming.
- SidaTim - Novel pathways of biomass extraction: Assessing the potential of Sida hermaphrodita and valuable timber trees
- AGFORWARD - AGroFORestry that Will Advance Rural Development
- Economic and environmental impact of livestock production in the UK
- The impact of lowland peatland restoration on food production and security in the UK - 2010- 2011. Sponsored by Defra with funding of £25k. Many lowland peatlands are prized for their high agricultural productivity. At the same time, they are sinks for carbon and agricultural use results in high levels of degradation and releases of GHG from peatland. A number of future scenarios were developed, based on different land use options for lowland peatlands. These were evaluated to quantify the market and non-market ecosystem services impacts within a cost benefit analysis.
Market and non-market valuation of ecosystem services
Natural capital provides a range of benefits to society in the form of provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting ecosystem services that are important for human welfare.
The flow of ecosystem services to society are altered by decisions over the environment. However, a key challenge exists in identifying the true costs and benefits of such decisions, since, many ecosystem services are not traded in markets, and hence are unrepresented in cost-benefits analyses that are used evaluate the impact of decision-making over the environment.
To improve the completeness of cost-benefits analyses, Cranfield University has linked spatial analysis, life cycle assessment, financial and economic valuation data within cost benefit analysis models that are then used to predict the impact of different land use options and management over the environment.
Current and recent research includes quantifying the market and non-market costs and benefits of options over lowland peatlands, precision farming benefits, the livestock sector, soil degradation, and agricultural, forestry, and agroforestry systems.
- WetlandLIFE - Taking the bite out of wetlands: Managing mosquitoes and the socio-ecological value of wetlands for wellbeing - 2016- 202. Sponsored by NERC with funding of £1.3 million
Partners: Greenwich University, Robert Gordon University, University of Brighton, Bristol University, Forest Research, Public Health England.
WetlandLIFE is a project exploring the ecological, economic, social and cultural values associated with wetlands in England to better understand how to manage change into the future, particular in light of risks associated with mosquitos. Wetlands have always been an integral part of our landscape. Expanding and reinstating wetlands can bring many benefits to people and wildlife, but can also create concerns for local communities. Cranfield University will assess the role of wetlands particularly in the context of potential future scenarios, in particular assessing how the value of cultural services, business activities, and linked income earning opportunities might change.
- AGFORWARD - AGroFORestry that Will Advance Rural Development
- WessexBESS - Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Multifunctional Landscapes
- Economic and environmental impact of livestock production in the UK - 2010- 2011. Sponsored by Defra with funding of £150k.
The Economic and environmental impact of livestock production in the UK project aimed to identify the market and linked non-market and gross value added impacts of each enterprise system of the livestock sector in the UK. Based on this, a range of objectives for the livestock sector were identified, with a view to identifying how the livestock sector could best be configured to meet these competing objectives.
- The impact of lowland peatland restoration on food production and security in the UK - 2010- 2011. Sponsored by Defra with funding of £25k.
Many lowland peatlands are prized for their high agricultural productivity. At the same time, they are sinks for carbon and agricultural use results in high levels of degradation and releases of GHG from peatland. A number of future scenarios were developed, based on different land use options for lowland peatlands. These were evaluated to quantify the market and non-market ecosystem services impacts within a cost benefit analysis.
- Solving Water Issues for Concentrated Solar Thermal Power Plants (SOLWATT) - 2018- 2022. Sponsored by European Commission and H2020 with funding of €12.6Million.
As Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants are implemented usually in hot and arid areas, soiling can reduce their efficiency. Significant amount of water is used for cleaning solar field mirrors – e.g. cleaning of a 50MW plant with 600K m2 mirrors would consume 600 m3 of water at once. Our research will analyse livelihood and sustainability impacts of CSP plants on local communities in five different locations. More specifically it will analyse territorial nature of and socio-technical evolution of CSP energy networks, the influence of social and institutional agency, including local, regional, national and supra-national actors, spatio-temporal changes in ecosystem services and access to resources and how these influences and interactions transcend through in space and time and their implications on justice.
Risks and futures studies
Socio-technical transitions and emerging technologies
As new technologies emerge so are new practices, rules and norms. Our research aims to understand how society and technologies may evolve together using scenario analysis. We have particular expertise in the use of morphological analysis.
Climate adaptation and mitigation