GSI’s latest funding success is ‘out of this world’

Published: 20 April 2018 at 12:30

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Support from sixth UK research council helps to draw on astrophysics expertise

The Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University has received backing from the Science & Technology Facilities Council – the sixth UK research council, out of seven, to provide funding to the GSI since it was launched in 2011.

The funding will allow the Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) to benefit from expertise within the University of Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics to carry out a review of data analysis techniques that could be applied to food systems and associated risks around the world.

When a country experiences a food production shock – through disease, drought, flooding, hail damage or wind – global food trade is expected to fill the gap. However, in 2007 and 2008 crop failures caused by drought, low levels of global stocks and the widespread use of export bans, led to a more than doubling of the price of wheat, maize, soybeans and rice.

For many developed countries the increase in grain price was easily absorbed and had marginal impact on food availability. For developing countries, domestic prices increased dramatically. This triggered sometimes violent protests and, when governments responded with violence, the outbreak of civil unrest.

The GSI has been building models, gathering data and developing methods to explore the dynamics involved in civil unrest, financial instability and local responses associated with food production shocks. They hope the collaboration with the University of Cambridge can open up even more sophisticated approaches to data analysis that could yield new insights, and better inform policy and market based responses.

Professor Aled Jones, Director of the GSI, said:

“We are delighted to have received a small amount of funding from the STFC Food Network+ to help us engage with the astrophysics research community at the University of Cambridge. 

“Exploring this expertise in data analysis should allow us to find novel techniques that can be applied to better understand food price dynamics and the societal risks associated with market and government responses to food production shocks.

“We are particularly delighted that this represents the sixth UK research council that the GSI has received funding from following AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and NERC.

“Building on our success with European funding in projects such as SHAPE-ENERGY and MEDEAS this demonstrates how truly interdisciplinary we are. As an institute we believe that working across academic fields can bring new insight into tackling and understanding today’s global challenges.”