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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.

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 MorrisJoshua Msika, Annabel Pinker, Katrin Prager, Kerry Waylen

PhD students: Gillian Dowds, Andrew Maclaren, Sam Poskitt

Markets, systems and space

This theme seeks to examine the sustainability of traditional resource-based industries such as agriculture and forestry and their response to post-productivist demands and better understand the dynamic interactions between rural and urban areas. It addresses connections between the traditional rural economy based on agriculture and forestry and emerging markets and industries such as tourism and small enterprises, for example, by taking a whole-economy perspective. The research also aims to understand and articulate the implications of both generic and specifically rural policy on the wellbeing of different groups in rural areas.

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

PhD students: Shane Canavan, Lech Pichnor

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 CraigRachel Creaney, Anke Fischer, Kathryn Gilchrist, Kirsty Holstead, Katherine Irvine, Julia Martin-Ortega, 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, Peter Orrell, Christopher Schultz, Richard Snape, Audrey Verma, Megan Watson

Research projects

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.