The Agile Initiative’s Summer School is now open for applications

Keble College (right) and the Beecroft Building from University Parks
Keble College (right) and the Beecroft Building seen from University Parks

‘Connecting environmental research with policy: a pathway to real-world impacts’, 10-14 July 2023, is now open for applications

The Agile Initiative invites interdisciplinary researchers working on environmental and related social challenges and associated policy agendas to attend an interactive Summer School led by experts in the field. Contributors, drawn from academic and practitioner communities, will share their expertise and experiences, enabling participants to build connections across disciplines and the science-policy landscape, and learn what is involved in designing rapid interdisciplinary research to meet urgent environmental policy needs. Participants will develop the skills needed to connect research with policy in practical group exercises throughout the core programme.  

The core programme, developed within the context and conceptual framework of the Agile Initiative, will be delivered on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with Monday for arrival and welcome, and Friday for wrap-up and departure. Bed and breakfast style accommodation at Keble College is included in the programme cost, with a college dinner on the Wednesday evening. Core programme activities and networking opportunities will also take place at Keble College. Highlights are provided in the table below and application information is at the bottom of the page. 

table of programme highlights by day

Monday 10 July Arrivals and welcome 
Afternoon Welcome from the Agile Initiative Summer School team: What to expect, what you will learn, and practical information.  
Tuesday 11 July Core programme day one: ‘Science into policy: setting the scene’ – an overview of UK local, regional and national environmental policy and legislature, and approaches for situating science in policy development.
Key learning objectives: 
Understanding ‘science into policy’ at scale 
What this means for decision makers and policy at different scales 
How to put this into practice. 
Morning Introductory session: What do we mean by ‘science into policy’?  

Panel discussion introduced and led by Sir Charles Godfray: Overview of UK scales of policy and legislature, and implications for situating science into policy    

Facilitated group activity: Science into policy at different scales   
Afternoon Panel discussion introduced and led by Dame Sarah Whatmore: Getting science into policy – decision makers’ perspectives  

Training workshop: Writing a policy brief    

Facilitated group activity: Pulling together learning from the day – reflecting back on science into policy at scale in the context of decision makers’ perspectives   
Wednesday 12 July Core programme day two: ‘Experiences of policy-oriented research’ – sharing learning from the Agile Initiative and other major environmental research programmes on connecting across the science-policy divide and influencing public discourse.
Key learning objectives: 
Exploring how policy-oriented academic research is designed, carried out and delivered 
Understanding of the relationship between research, public policy, and public discourse 
Perspectives and lessons learned from other NERC Changing the Environment programmes. 
Morning Workshop led by Agile Initiative Sprint researchers: Agile Sprint learning on policy-oriented research  

Session led by Professor Sam Fankhauser, Oxford Net Zero: The intersection of research and public policy  
Afternoon Training workshop: How to connect across the divide – influencing public discourse 

 Insights from other NERC Changing the Environment programmes  
Thursday 13 July Core programme day three: ‘Practice’ – an exercise on delivering a rapid-response policy-driven research project to respond to policy needs in an ‘Agile’ fashion.
Key learning objectives: 
Gaining an understanding of the Agile model 
Putting the previous days’ learning into practice when designing an Agile Sprint 
Presenting and giving feedback on Sprint designs. 
Morning Presentation by Professor Nathalie Seddon, Agile Initiative Director: What drives the Agile model? What does this mean for Sprint design? 

 Facilitated group activity part 1: Designing a Sprint  
Afternoon Facilitated group activity part 2: Presentations and feedback on Sprint design exercise  

Workshop led by Agile Initiative Sprint researchers: What Sprint leads might do differently in hindsight – focusing on how the Sprint research, policy windows, outputs and outcomes are factored in  
Friday 14 July Wrap-up and departures.
Key learning objectives: 
Reviewing key learning outcomes from the Summer School 
Reflections on career pathways within the environmental policy and research space 
Morning Plenary by the Agile Summer School team: Discussion of participants’ learning and reflections from the Summer School programme, and how this year’s programme has helped participants to reflect on their research and career destinations  
Afternoon Optional field trip to FarmEd   

Who can apply, and places available

There are fifty places available for UK-based researchers at post-doctorate, PhD, DPhil and MPhil levels. Your research should be actively engaged with both policy and environmental challenges. 

Of the fifty places, there are forty accommodation places for £250 per person (of which £50 is a refundable deposit). Additionally, there are also ten non-accommodation places for £150 per person (of which £50 is a refundable deposit), for those whose circumstances prevent taking up a residential place. We can also offer a number of subsidised places (£50 refundable deposit only) provided a compelling case can be made. 

In each case, deposits are fully refundable provided you have either cancelled your place before 10 May or on completion of the Summer School programme. 

application process

Applications to be submitted as word document via email to by Tuesday 14 March. This should include: 

  • One page narrative CV 
  • 300 words on how the Summer School will benefit your work 
  • 200 words on what you will contribute to the Summer School 

Additionally, where relevant: 

  • 150 words on why you require a subsidised place 

Applicants will be informed of the Agile Initiative Summer School development team’s decision in the week commencing 27 March.