The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (“Kew”) has a well-deserved global reputation and is widely respected for its pioneering scientific research. The National Heritage Act 1983 defines Kew’s broad objectives and responsibilities, which include scientific research on plants and related subjects; providing related advice, instruction and education; and affording opportunities to the public for the purpose of gaining knowledge.
Defra commissioned an independent review of science at Kew in 2012 to assess the quality, balance, scope, and appropriateness of the programme. This recommended that Kew should develop a clear science strategy and should be very clear where its core strengths lie. Kew’s Director of Science is currently developing a Science Strategy and the results of this should be publicly available in 2015.
The 2012 review noted that Kew showed a good appreciation of the importance of bringing out Kew’s science role to visitors and highlighted the enormous potential for Kew to develop its public awareness and outreach activities. For example, Kew is annually visited by 100,000 children in organised school parties and runs several courses and events per year for the public. Kew is currently reviewing its future plans in relation to its offer to visitors and wider public engagement activity. The aim is to ensure that Kew attracts and engages a larger and wider audience, generates more value from those engagements, and creates a positive impact in relation to public understanding of the importance of plants to everyone’s life.
Defra continues to keep Kew’s performance under review against its Key Performance Indicators, which cover scientific research and visitor numbers, and these are published in Kew’s Annual Report and Accounts.