Cardiff University has led the systematic review on the European food policy ecosystem, on behalf of the SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) consortium
The SAPEA Evidence Review Report A sustainable food system for the European Union provides an evidence base for the Scientific Opinion of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors. It was requested by the European College of Commissioners and written by a multidisciplinary group of leading scientists, nominated by academies across Europe. Cardiff University led the systematic review for the report. Dr Alison Weightman and Professor Terry Marsden tell us how the review was conducted and its primary purpose.
About Alison Weightman
Dr Alison Weightman is the Director of the Specialist Unit for Review Evidence (SURE), a unit at Cardiff University that specialises in carrying out systematic reviews, as well as research and teaching.
About SURE and Cardiff University Library Services
Alison, can you tell us about your unit, SURE, and Cardiff University Library Services? Why were they well-placed to conduct this systematic review?
“A systematic review aims to provide a comprehensive summary of the current literature that relates to research or policy questions. SURE conducts all forms of systematic and literature reviews, and also provides consultancy and development services. In the work for SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies), we collaborated with Cardiff University Library Services, including the European Documentation Centre. The review was coordinated and overseen by Academia Europaea, which is a partner in the SAPEA consortium.”
How we did the systematic review
How did you go about doing this systematic review?
“The request for a systematic review came from the European Group of Chief Scientific Advisors. The Advisors particularly wanted the review to achieve a broad understanding of the present policy system and how it has developed, looking at both individual policy instruments and more generic policies.
SAPEA asked the specialist review team at Cardiff to conduct the review. It would complement the Evidence Review Report being compiled by the SAPEA international working group, chaired by Professor Peter Jackson.
We formed a Review Team at the beginning of the process, comprising methodologists, a subject expert and project manager. The process has been overseen throughout by an Advisory Panel of food systems experts, together with the SAPEA Working Group.
In line with systematic review practice, we developed a detailed protocol of how the systematic review would be undertaken, and this was followed throughout.”
About Terry Marsden
Professor Terry Marsden is Chair of Environmental Policy and Planning in the School of Geography and Planning at Cardiff University. He is Director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) at Cardiff.
About PLACE and its role in the systematic review
Terry, tell us more about PLACE, its work on food policy, and the role it played in the systematic review.
“The Sustainable Places Research Institute focuses on finding new connections in sustainability research. We offer pragmatic, policy-led locally-based solutions for individual cities, regions and nations. The Research Institute has six interlinked research programmes, of which food and land security is one.
At the start of the systematic review process for SAPEA, I readily agreed to join the Advisory Panel, along with other topic experts at Cardiff and other universities, as well as hosting the meetings at PLACE.”
The importance of the systematic review
What are the main outcomes of the systematic review, and how might these be useful in informing European policy?
“The systematic review’s report is divided into two parts. The first part contains a detailed analysis of over 200 peer-reviewed empirical studies on the named EU policy instruments. The second part provides an overview of a further 430 publications that discuss broader EU policy and were analysed at keyword/abstract level only.
The systematic review provides a number of insights from the social sciences into the dynamics between EU policy and food system sustainability objectives, as well as demonstrating the breadth of evidence on issues shaping the food system and transitions to greater sustainability.
The reviews completed are a landmark state-of-the-art contribution concerning the scientific work completed on European Sustainable food systems. As such, they will be a timely and invaluable source of reliable evidence for the European Commission in its continuing work on policy development in this critical field.”
For all reports (systematic review, Evidence Review Report and Scientific Opinion of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors), visit the SAPEA website.