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Developing systems to explore the effectiveness of countermeasures for addressing food insecurities (EPSRC project)

There is a growing awareness that food security is a pressing issue not only globally but also within the UK itself. One of the many challenges is induced by the complex network of interdependences and multifarious scenarios that can lead to food insecurity. In particular, an appropriate analysis needs a methodology that can properly integrate both qualitative and quantitative inputs from a collection of expert panels - each with their own very different domains of expertise - and stakeholders. This then needs to be developed into a full inferential framework drawing this diverse information together into a consistent composite - taking appropriate account not only of the pertinent predictions of the most informed groups of experts but also their confidence or otherwise in these predictions. Such a system would then provide the framework of an integrated decision support system to help inform government policy making and crisis management. Such a composite would need not only to accurately represent the hypotheses associated with the processes, threats and impacts that might arise from given scenarios, but also to do this in a defensible and transparent way.

Professor Jim Smith has won a three year £400k EPSRC award to investigate formally how and when such a system can be built, what inputs it needs from the various players and how it should present its analyses to the potential user in the most informed , informative and transparent way. It is planned that the support system will be able not only to advise on promising courses of action to address the security issues being encountered but also feed back to the user on what bases it is making these judgments. In this way the analyses presented by the decision support system can be discussed, adapted or overridden.

Jim is collaborating with Warwick colleagues, Professor Elizabeth Dowler (Sociology) and Dr Rosemary Collier (Warwick Crop Centre) and Associate Professor Ann Nicholson (Monash University). The work will be informed by a number of Food Security workshops and will incorporate the latest developments in the efficacious combination of expert judgments that are beginning to be applied to the management of different environmentally and socially driven potential crises.