The Visiting Group looked at all facets of RBGE’s work in September 2015, with a remit to review the quality and impact of the science, collections, education and visitor services of the organisation as delivered under its Corporate Plan. Recommendations were then reported back to the Scottish Government concerning RBGE’s strategies, current activities and future plans.
The review cites RBGE as "an efficient and effective organisation excelling in many aspects, especially in international science". It states admiration of the depth and breadth of education provided by RBGE and acknowledges its role as a tourist attraction and visitor destination.
The report sums up: "RBGE is a small organisation achieving a great deal. This is in large part due to the knowledge, enthusiasm and commitment of the staff and volunteers who are a major asset. The integration of the collections, visitor services, education and science is almost unique and, supported by corporate services, represents an enormous strength that has built and preserved the international reputation of RBGE and of Scotland in biological and conservation expertise and services".
In particular, the Edible Gardening project, funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, stood out for praise and was commended for engaging under-represented individuals and communities. The Regional Gardens: Benmore, in Argyll; Logan, on the Rhins of Galloway and Dawyck, in the Scottish Borders, meanwhile, were noted as contributing to RBGE as a whole, being "a fantastic asset for RBGE and Scotland, collectively offering many benefits in curating a living collection."
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "This report highlights the fantastic work being done by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which I saw for myself when I visited there late last year. As well as important achievements in conservation and public engagement, this review recognises that RBGE is punching above its weight in international science. Scotland’s scientific research is already world-renowned and organisations like RBGE have a crucial role to play in making the link between the research, how we live our lives and the impact on the environment both in Scotland and internationally. The Scottish Government will now work with RBGE in taking forward the review’s recommendations."
Noting the outcome RBGE Regius Keeper Simon Milne MBE said: "I very much welcome this strategic review which highlights the relevance of our world-leading botanical institute and its national and international contribution to plant science, horticulture, education and public engagement. Its constructive recommendations will help to ensure we remain highly effective and continue to offer value for money."
Professor Stuart Monro (Chair), Scientific Director, Scottish Consortium for Rural Research and former Scientific Director, Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
Professor Henrik Balslev, Department of Biological Sciences, Aarhus University
Ms Jane Carmichael, National Museums of Scotland
Ms Kath Crawford, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre
Professor Rosemary Hails, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Dr Tim Upson, Royal Horticultural Society
Professor Beverley Glover, RBGE Board of Trustees (Observer)