IGFS was established in 2016 as one of three bespoke Global Research Institutes (GRI) within the university with a brief to promote interdisciplinary research (IDR) with research partners from around the world in order to meet the needs of society.
This research would also be carried out in close partnership with business and industry to ensure application and impact beyond the university. Reflecting this, IGFS is guided by both an International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB) and an Industrial Advisory Board (IAB). A number of honorary 'Professors of Practice' have been appointed from the business community to strengthen the academic-enterprise interface.
There is also a strong emphasis on creating the kind of research culture which attracts talented ECRs – 10 out of 70.8 FTE research staff are now ECRs. Two cohort-based doctoral training programmes (UKRI-BBSRC; UKRI-NERC) ensure we are training the next generation of food-system leaders. Overall, PhD numbers at IGFS have tripled in the past seven years.
Inter-disciplinary research (IDR) is the lifeblood of IGFS. Innovation, teaching and enterprise links the disciplines of life sciences, medicine, environmental sciences, economics and social sciences, working with key external stakeholders, including the agrifood industry, to deliver on key challenges in global food security.
Connections have been strengthened between the School of Biological Sciences (within which IGFS is anchored) and the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences (SMDBS). IGFS Deputy Director, Professor Jayne Woodside, belongs to SMDBS. More recently, new links have been forged with the Schools of Pharmacy; and Natural and Built Environment, as well as our sister GRI, the Institute for Electronics, Communication and Information Technologies (ECIT). In 2019, IGFS appointed a Director for IDR, Professor Aedin Cassidy, to further drive this aspect.
Since 2014, IGFS staff have published 3,121 research outputs which have received 52,040 citations across 197 countries. The outputs have recorded a Field-Weighted Citation Impact of 1.80, well above the world average of 1.0.
Of these outputs, 69.7% were published in the top quartile of journals (as ranked by SNIP) and 26.8% are included in the top 10% most cited papers in the world. The strong international collaborative linkages are evidenced by the international co-authorship: from 2014-20, 66.3% of all IGFS outputs included an international co-author (Russell Group average – 55.1%). We collaborate with world-leading research institutions including: McGill University (Canada), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China), the University of California (Davis and Berkeley; USA), Broad Institute (USA), Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (USA), Institute for Agrobiology (Austria), University College Dublin (UCD; Ireland), Ghent University (Belgium), Wageningen University & Research (WUR; Netherlands).
We strive to create an environment that is attractive to, and helps develop, talented Early Career Researchers (ECRs) - indeed, 10 out of 70.8 FTE academic staff at IGFS are now ECRs.
A further 90 (approx) Post-Doctoral Research Fellow staff work across our research themes. As well as leading up discrete areas of research projects, promising and ambitious ECRs are given the opportunity to co-lead a major research theme alongside a senior member of academic staff.
IGFS strongly and actively supports the principles of open science, supported by dedicated support staff. In recent years, open access has been embedded as the norm across Queen’s, and staff have access to resources including a dedicated website, training and an institutional data repository.
Specifically, IGFS staff are also able to obtain central University funding to publish in open-science journals and the Uni has deals with many publishers, ensuring that publication fees are not a barrier. Our Research Data Management Policy aligns closely to the UK concordat on Open Research Data and IGFS staff strive to ensure their research is findable, accessible, re-useable and interoperable (FAIR). They also aim to keep stakeholders and funders up-to-speed with research and progress, eg. via Researchfish and via the IGFS comms function.
The School of Biological Sciences (in which IGFS is anchored) is very active in this area and recently renewed its Athena Swan Gold Award - making it a third, consecutive Gold.
The School of Biological Sciences holds one of only two departmental Athena Swan Gold awards at Queen's – and one of only 12 in the UK. This puts our School in the Top 1.5% for gender equality in UK universities. The Athena Swan team regularly meets and hosts activities, including a recent all-Ireland ‘sharing of best practice’ event, addressed by Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell from Oxford University. It also pursues actions to help make the culture and environment more inclusive.
Our researchers are supported to undertake regular media activity, from local BBC up to international coverage in outlets including the New York Times, CNN, the South China Morning Post and the Times of India.
They also regularly write for The Conversation UK website; nearly 14.5 million people worldwide have read articles by Queen's researchers on this platform. In 2020, IGFS produced a series of podcasts on the impact of Covid-19 on global food systems which reached overseas audiences in USA, Spain, Japan, Egypt, Indonesia and India. Visit our news and media coverage pages.