As members of the Climate- Resilient Open Partnership for Food Security project supported by the World Wide University Network (see, we contend that basic social-science theory and methods could transform interventions aimed at improving food production.

Food security calls for agricultural advances, adaptation to climate change and more efficient use of natural resources. Just as important are the social and political considerations of reforming food production and distribution systems.

All too often, poor communication between the scientific community and the public, including potential users, impedes utilization of new technologies. Social networks, power inequalities and institutional resistance to change must all be taken into account if the system is to be reformed (see W. W. Powell et al. in The Science of Science Policy 31–55, Stanford Univ. Press; 2011).

We therefore suggest that research consortia in food security and their funding agencies should include social scientists from the outset (see A. Viseu Nature 525, 291; 2015). This would dramatically enhance project management and conceptual development by dealing with the complex interactions between natural and social factors.