UKEOF was launched in April 2008, following acknowledgment of the long standing issues surrounding monitoring, observation and surveillance at the September 2006 Environmental Research Funders Forum (ERFF) workshop on environmental monitoring. It was initially set up as a five year programme.

The original work programme was split into five distinct streams:

  1. Develop a holistic picture of overall evidence needs
  2. Share knowledge and information on observation plans, programmes and data
  3. Enable effective and transparent decision making processes
  4. Enable funding for observation programmes to be effective, transparent and capable of supporting the long-term needs of the UK
  5. Build a strong community that provide evidence in an efficient and effective manner

This first phase of the programme focused on the development of tools for use by partners and stakeholders to support transparent and evidence-based decision making.

As the programme progressed, the requirements of the partners and stakeholders changed resulting in the need to accelerate the progression of some activities and postpone others. The programme therefore developed into a more flexible model and UKEOF moved into a second phase of promoting the uptake of the tools by partners and focusing on a number of priority areas.

Following the development of the Statement of Need, in 2010, the scope of UKEOF was increased to include environmental socio-economic information that is required to fully address environmental issues and questions. A workshop was held in September 2010 to assess the socio-economic observation needs within UKEOF.

In June 2010 ERFF was merged with Living With Environmental Change (LWEC), and UKEOF became their core activity on observations.

Five years after the start of the programme (in 2013) NERC and Defra, as the two main funders, commissioned a review of UKEOF that reported in April 2013. There was full support from the Management Group of the recommendation to continue UKEOF.