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Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences

Group at table during workshop
We seek to address major contemporary social and economic research challenges.

The Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) group contains a range of researchers, using a range of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods and often taking interdisciplinary and/or participatory perspectives. We seek to address major contemporary social and economic research challenges, such as natural resource governance, ecosystem services valuation, sustainable behaviours, rural community vibrancy, and wellbeing and socioeconomic transitions in rural economies. The activities of the group frequently unite around a particular project and many members work on more than one topic. Work ranges from case study areas in Scotland through EU-wide projects to projects in developing countries such as Africa, Latin America, etc.

You can read and comment on the SEGS Blog here and follow @HuttonSEGS on Twitter.

Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group Leader: Deborah Roberts

Society, institutions and governance

Research conducted under this theme draws on a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches from disciplines such as sociology, geography and institutional economics. The aim is to examine how people negotiate access to and control over rural resources. One strand examines governance structures and practices that enable and constrain coordination of management activities. Another focuses on individual, social and institutional adaptation in response to processes such as climate change and extreme events such as flooding. Particular attention is given as to how stakeholder engagement with complex environmental decision making can be enhanced, blending theory with a focus on practical policy application.

Staff involved in this work: Kirsty Blackstock, Katrina Brown, Anja Byg, Margaret Currie, Liz Dinnie, Dominic Duckett, Sharon Flanigan, Emily Hastings, Petra Lackova, Annie McKee, Sue Morris, Joshua Msika, Annabel Pinker, Katrin Prager, Kerry Waylen

PhD students: Gillian Dowds, Andrew Maclaren, Sam Poskitt

Markets, systems and space

The research of this group is characterised by a holistic, or aggregate market level approach. We explore socio-economic systems; the ways that they vary across space and time; are affected by proximity; and interact with the environment. In more concrete terms we aim to understand the location, distribution and spatial organisation of economic activities, and to explain regional disparities in socio-economic performance and wellbeing, both within Scotland and across Europe. Other issues explored by the group are; place-based policies, local economic performance, the role of the primary sector and natural resource use, and impacts of, and responses to, climate change.

The group comprises researchers with a variety of backgrounds and experience, all broadly within the disciplines of Economics and Geography. The methods used include whole economy modelling, with particular expertise in input – output modelling, general equilibrium models, spatial and panel data econometrics, and GIS, together with mixed methods (e.g. of multi-criteria, cost-benefit/cost-effectiveness analyses) to assess policy and environmental (including climate change) impacts and to value ecosystem services.

Staff involved in this work: Andrew Copus, Jelte Harnmeijer, Jonathan Hopkins, Carol Kyle, Melf Ehlers, Patricia Melo, Maria Nijnik, Deb Roberts, YakubuAbdul-Salam

PhD students: Shane Canavan, Peter Orrell, LechPichnor

Values, choices and behaviour

The aim of this theme is to improve our understanding of the ways people experience, make sense of and value natural resources and the environment using geographical, psychological, social and economic approaches and to explore people’s decision-making and sustainable behaviour, particularly with respect to climate change, energy production and consumption, and use of greenspace. Our work explores values, choices and behaviour of individuals in their social and institutional context. Research under this theme draws mainly on environmental psychology and environmental economic approaches and employs both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Staff involved in this work: Anna Conniff, Tony Craig, Rachel Creaney, Anke Fischer, Kathryn Colley, Kirsty Holstead, Katherine Irvine, Paula Novo, Lee-Ann Sutherland, Andy Vinten

PhD students: Rebecca Bell, Stephanie Graf, Ruth Kelly, Charlie Langan, Asanterabi Lowassa, Florence Lwiza, Senna Middelveld, Marie Pagès-Gold, Christopher Schultz, Richard Snape, Audrey Verma, Megan Watson

Research projects and summaries

Centres of expertise

Staff from the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group work on projects for Scotland's three centres of expertise.


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.