Some reflections from Angela Karp, Director and CEO, Rothamsted Research

  • 12
  • SEP
  • 2022

People all over the world are coming to terms with the sad news of the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth II.

Rothamsted was always immensely proud to have the Queen as a patron. Our history is long, but the Queen has been an inspiring presence in our lives for as long as anyone currently at the institute can remember.

Her reign has been so long and eventful, that is almost impossible not to find oneself reflecting on the many and profound changes that have occurred at Rothamsted and in the wider field of agriculture.

I am the first female Director at Rothamsted. I am not entirely sure what our founder, Sir John Bennett Lawes would have made of this way back in 1843 when Queen Victoria was on the throne but Rothamsted did gradually recruit many important female scientists and technicians, even at such a time when this was rare. Today about half of the people working here are women and our staff represent over 30 nationalities.

Agriculture changed hugely during the Queen’s reign, from horse drawn carts and teams of labourers, to tractors and now autonomous vehicles and drones. Our research has changed to be more specialised, high-tech and data-driven. But our purpose and the importance of it has not changed. It remains as Lawes expressed:“to gain precise knowledge of soils, fertilisers, and the growing plant in health and disease, and then to put this knowledge into such a form that experts can use it”. The challenges are, however, much more complicated as we strive to find ways of producing food whilst still conserving biodiversity and reducing the impacts of agriculture on emissions.

We have had the great pleasure of meeting many members of the Royal family in person over the years, all of whom have shown great interest in our research as we strive for a more sustainable farming future. A highlight was the Queen’s visit in 1993 to commemorate our 150th anniversary. At that time Professor Trevor Lewis was Director and I was a mid-career scientist furiously cheering in the background.

The excitement and pride such encounters generate is long-lasting and impossible to express adequately. They are highlights in our world of research that bring smiles and elevate spirits. What might in reality be a few moments of time, is remembered and talked about throughout people’s lives. As our Patron, her Majesty has bestowed upon us the greatest honour, together with the Royal family, of bringing such precious memories our way.

We now look forward and pledge our support to a new monarch whose enthusiasm for environmental matters and sustainable farming is well known. We hope that our lasting relationship with the Royal Family can continue to thrive, even as we mourn the passing of the beloved Queen.

About Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research is the longest-running agricultural research institute in the world. We work from gene to field with a proud history of ground-breaking discoveries, from crop treatment to crop protection, from statistical interpretation to soils management. Our founders, in 1843, were the pioneers of modern agriculture, and we are known for our imaginative science and our collaborative influence on fresh thinking and farming practices.
Through independent science and innovation, we make significant contributions to improving agri-food systems in the UK and internationally. In terms of the institute’s economic contribution, the cumulative impact of our work in the UK was calculated to exceed £3000 million a year in 20151. Our strength lies in our systems approach, which combines science and strategic research, interdisciplinary teams and partnerships.
Rothamsted is also home to three unique resources. These National Capabilities are open to researchers from all over the world: The Long-Term Experiments, Rothamsted Insect Survey and the North Wyke Farm Platform.
We are strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional support from other national and international funding streams, and from industry. We are also supported by the Lawes Agricultural Trust (LAT).
For more information, visit; Twitter @Rothamsted
1Rothamsted Research and the Value of Excellence: A synthesis of the available evidence, by Séan Rickard (Oct 2015)

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.
Funded by government, BBSRC invested £469 million in world-class bioscience in 2016-17. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes

About LAT
The Lawes Agricultural Trust, established in 1889 by Sir John Bennet Lawes, supports Rothamsted Research’s national and international agricultural science through the provision of land, facilities and funding. LAT, a charitable trust, owns the estates at Harpenden and Broom's Barn, including many of the buildings used by Rothamsted Research. LAT provides an annual research grant to the Director, accommodation for nearly 200 people, and support for fellowships for young scientists from developing countries. LAT also makes capital grants to help modernise facilities at Rothamsted, or invests in new buildings.