Dr Harley Pope from Walker designed and delivered three workshops for the Summer School at Queen’s University, Belfast, assisted by Konstantina Pratta, also from Walker. Their aim was to help PhD students from across the UK to structure and reflect on their thinking about food systems.

The FoodBioSystems Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)  enables students to contextualise their often detailed technical work within the larger food system and enhance their understanding of food systems thinking methodologies.  It also provides a forum for them to engage with other stakeholders or contribute to food policy debates.  Participants engaged in a variety of applied critical systems approaches in three, four hour workshops that involved group exercises and discussion as well as teaching.

Dr Pope designed the course content around the principles of food systems literacy, as outlined in (Pope et al., 2021) (Developing a Functional Food Systems Literacy for Interdisciplinary Dynamic Learning Networks. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 5(November), 1–13). This approach promotes the concept that food systems analysis and intervention strategies are collaborative endeavours that require the uncovering, or surfacing, of explicit shared frames of reference among different stakeholders.

The FoodBioSystems DTP’s vision is to develop a cohort of bio scientists with in-depth knowledge and technical expertise of food systems and biological processes across the Agri-Food system from pre-farm to post-fork. The approach upskills future experts, enabling them to tackle the challenges of sustainability, efficacy, authenticity, and safety in food production systems whilst delivering better nutrition and health benefits for society.

Attendees came from Aberystwyth University, Brunel University, Cranfield University, Queen’s University Belfast, University of Reading, and University of Surrey.

Engaging people in tackling problems through a systems approach is a truly transdisciplinary and holistic way to addressing complex problems – one that lies at the heart of much of the Walker Institute’s work. See for example our work on integrating climate science into policy decisions for climate resilient infrastructure and livelihoods here and recent blog on our new partnership with Historic England on tackling climate threats to wetland archaeology here.