The following blog has been written by Samantha Timbrell, the Guest Editor of Volume 20 of the IEMA Impact Assessment Outlook Journal, Impact Assessment Frontiers Part 1: Environment, Technology and Place.

The range of IA discussed in this Journal Volume just scratches the surface of the diversity of impact assessments out there, which is still growing in order to manage new environmental and social risks (for example, into new sectors) and risks that have not been assessed before.

Impact assessments can be associated with specific environmental and social topics, certain places or regions, or specific activities. While there are certain types of Impact Assessment (IA) such as EIA that are well known within the environmental and sustainability profession, there are likely to be many types of IA that you are aware of but have not experienced, others which you may never have heard of, and yet others that are only just coming into existence. The impact assessment landscape is always shifting and the frontier of practice in this area is an exciting place to be.

This is the first volume of a two-part series exploring the frontiers of IA. This Volume investigates environmental IA with a focus on technology and place; Part 2 (Volume 21) will consider the frontiers of health, wellbeing and social impact assessments.

Here, we aim to shine a spotlight on a range of emergent IA forms and methodologies and the sectors in which they are used. The articles here provide the opportunity to share experiences, look into the practices of related impact assessment fields, and peer into the corners of our own practice areas. This volume will provide inspiration for your IA activities and to improve IA practice; opportunities to borrow complementary approaches, and spark ideas to collaboratively resolve IA conundrums.

The first three articles explore how digital opportunities relate to multiple IA fields. Ella Niehorster explores how the use of databases in IA can bring both challenges and benefits, and she encourages others to give it a try. The second article is provided by Paul Wyeth who shares his perspective on the potential role of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology in improving seascape assessments. The theme of AI, and its responsible adoption, is picked up and explored further by Dr Vincent Miller, along with a discussion around the need for the impact assessment of AI itself.

The second set of articles reflects the strong desire among practitioners to improve existing IA practice approaches; a desire that supports the development of new IA approaches. Robyn Burman’s article sets out the challenges faced in assessing the environmental impacts of a relatively new UK sector for the licensing of spaceflight activities. Valentina Cavanna explores new requirements for supply chain IA, which is something that relates to many products and services with which we may interact indirectly in our lives on a daily basis, but which we rarely see. Dino Giordanelli has provided an enlightening thought piece on the future of contaminated land assessments within or without EIA. The search is on for the proportionate assessment of impacts to designated heritage assets in the article by Jenny Timothy. The development of guiding principles in Ed Walker’s article helps to navigate uncertainty and implement highly specialist IA for coastal projects. Finally, Dr Rufus A Howard outlines the Bioregional Impact Assessment as an innovative approach to the evolution of traditional EIA.

Download a copy of the Outlook Journal here.

Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing member and are not necessarily representative of the views of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated.

Photo of Sam Timbrell
Sam Timbrell

Senior Associate – Environment and Sustainability, Mott MacDonald, Mott Macdonald


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