EXPERTS from the University of Exeter have been selected to help tackle some of the biggest challenges facing society - including crop growth. 

Dr Pallavi Banerjee, Dr Katharine Boyd and Dr Stefan Siegert have been awarded UKRI Policy Fellowships and will be based in Government departments. The fellowships are set to connect policymakers and academics so they can work together to tackle large scale challenges.

Dr Siegert will be based in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), creating new complex simulation models about crop growth to support land management decisions. 

He is an expert in computer simulation models for the climate, the spread of Covid-19, geological exploration and air quality.

Dr Siegert said: "I have always been interested in complex computer simulation models, and my research focusses on mathematical analysis of their ability (and sometimes their inability) to model the real world.

"In my fellowship I look forward to support Defra's work to use agricultural system models to shape UK food and land use policy."

In 2021/2022, he supported the UK Health Security Agency’s efforts on modelling SARS-CoV-2 prevalence based on viral matter concentration in wastewater.

Dr Siegert’s work on weather and climate modelling has been used by institutions such as the UK Met Office and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting. He is currently collaborating with the Met Office on spatial statistical modelling methods to reduce biases in weather simulation models.

Dr Boyd will be based in the College of Policing and Dr Banerjee will be based in the Department for Education.

The applications were supported by the University of Exeter’s Policy @ Exeter. 

Director, professor Paul Cornish, said he was 'delighted' for the academics who had secured the fellowships. 

"Long-term policy planning requires a strong evidence base and government bodies are increasingly investing in such positions to bridge the gap between academic research and policy decisions," he added.

"Our academics will be working on pressing policy issues, such as sexism in policing, environmental land management and educational challenges. I’m sure these fellowships will be the start of a fruitful collaboration and will form part of Exeter’s commitment to building a greener and fairer society.”