Diana Valero

Research Scientist
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
T: +44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)
Diana Valero is a social scientist in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) Department at the James Hutton Institute. She joined in 2021 as MDT Fellow in Rural Water Security and since then her research has focused on water related challenges, rural innovation and policy processes.   Her educational background is in political science, local development and rural policy.   Prior to joining The James Hutton Institute in 2021 she carried out postdoc research at the University of Stirling and in the Centre for Mountain Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Diana earned her PhD from the University of Valencia in Spain.

With a strong focus on social justice, Diana works with people, communities and stakeholders to understand and address pressing societal challenges while supporting positive transformative change. Her research investigates social change and sustainable development, particularly in rural communities, in order to contribute to the development of a fairer society in the light of challenges such us climate chaos, water scarcity and increasing social inequalities. She focuses on understanding the drivers of cooperation, innovation, conflicts and inequalities in rural areas and their links with social cohesion and positive social change.

Her key research interests include:

  • Water security and water scarcity
  • Social innovation
  • Public narratives and policy processes
  • Social justice and inequalities
  • Socio-environmental conflicts

Diana is experienced in qualitative and mixed research methods, with a strong focus on participatory methods and working creatively with stakeholders. She is experienced in implementing a variety of research tools including: in-depth interviews and focus groups; participatory workshops; games-based research; research with social media groups, and narrative analysis and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA).

Ongoing research projects:


Past research

Finished projects:


Before joining Hutton:

Before joining Hutton she worked as a postdoc on several international projects exploring different aspects of sustainable rural development such as social innovation (Horizon 2020 SIMRA- ‘Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas’), ecotourism and stakeholder engagement (Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme SHAPE- ‘Sustainable Heritage Areas: Partnerships for Ecotourism’), production and provision of renewable energy (ESPON 2020 BRIDGES –‘Balanced Regional Development in Territories with Geographical Specificities’), and land management decisions in (Newton funded project ENDORSE ‘Enhancing Diversity to Overcome Resistance Evolution’).

Diana’s PhD and pre-doctoral research investigated social exclusion in rural areas in Spain and the local policies that were in place to address it.


Prior to appointment

Technical / contract reports

  • Holstead, K.; Valero, D.; Pahl, O.; Helwig , K.; Helwig, K.; Henderson, F.; Gray, R. (2023) Creating an inclusive wastewater culture in Scotland and codesigning wastewater services for the future Wastewater legacy. Concept note for future research, Deliverable of the project WASTEWATERSHIP
  • Miller, D.; Aitkenhead, M.; Artz, R.R.E.; Baggaley, N.; Black, H.; Iannetta, P.; Irvine, K.; Lilly, A.; Matthews, K.; Miller, D.; Nijnik, M.; Lopez, D.; Wardell-Johnson, D. (2022) Perth and Kinross Council Carbon Sequestration Study, Contract report to Perth and Kinross Council.
  • Kluvánková, T.; Nijnik, M.; Miller, D.R.; Spacek, M.; Perlik, M.; Lukesch, R.; Valero, D.; Brnkalakova, S.; Bryce, R. (2020) SIMRA D2 3 Operationalization of stakeholder engagement: a guide., Deliverable D2.3, Report to the European Union, Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA), 53pp.
  • López-Francos, A.; Aguinaco, M.; López Marco, L.; Cerezo, M.; Secco, L.; Da Re, R.; Miller, D.R.; Blackett, S.; Bryce, R.; Dijkshoorn-Dekker, M.; Górriz-Mifsud, E.; Ludvig, A.; Lukesch, R.; Marini Govigli, V.; Pisani, E.; Plana, S.; Rogelja, T.; Sfeir, P.; Slee, B.; Valero, D.; Vicentini, K. (2020) Deliverable 7.5: Report of the Training Course, Including the E-learning Version. Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA)., Report to the European Commission, H2020 SIMRA, Grant Agreement No. 677622, 56pp.
  • Kluvánková, T.; Gezik, V.; Spacek, M.; Brnkaláková, S.; Valero, D.; Bryce, R.; Slee, W.; Alkhaled, D.; Secco, L.; Burlando, C.; Kozova, M.; Miller, D.R.; Nijnik, M.; Perlik, M.; Pisani, E.; Polman, N.; Price, M.; Sarkii, S.; Weiss, G. (2017) Transdisciplinary understanding of SI in MRAs., Deliverable 2.2, Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA), Report to the European Commission, James Hutton Institute, 58pp.
  • Barlagne, C.; Bryce, R.; Valero, D.; Price, M.; Mosdale, L.; Clotteau, M.; Miller, D.R.; Nijnik, M. (2017) Ethical approvals for research with human participants in the SIMRA Project, Deliverable 9.5., Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA), Report to the European Commission, James Hutton Institute, 29pp.

Conference papers

  • Valero Lopez, D.; Ellis, R.; Juarez Bourke, A.; Joyce, K. (2023) Rural water (in)security at the peripheries of Water Provision, 2023 RSA Annual Conference. Transforming Regions: Policies and Planning for People and Places,
    14-17 June 2023,
    Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Valero, D.; Ellis, R. (2023) How to go from “our water is wonderful” to addressing water security issues in rural supplies Insights from emerging narratives in Scotland, XXIXth European Society for Rural Sociology Congress: Crises and the futures of rural areas, 3-7 July 2023, Rennes, France, WG 25 “Rural narratives of water and hydrosocial dynamics in rural areas”. 7 July 2023
  • Valero, D. (2023) Unpacking discontent in rural councils in Spain during the Great Recession from socioterritorial features to socialjustice dimensions, XXIXth European Society for Rural Sociology Congress: Crises and the futures of rural areas, 3-7 July 2023, Rennes, France in WG 11: Social and political consequences of spatial inequalities – the rural gap, peripheralisation and left behind rural areas.
  • Nijnik, M.; Miller, D.R.; Price, M.; Sarkki, S.; Bryce, R.; Valero, D.; Barlagne, C.; Melnykovych, M. (2018) Social innovation to link ecological sustainability with rural development objectives in marginalized mountain areas., Proceedings of International Conference on Natural Assets Use in Regional Settings, University of Lviv, Ukraine, 4-6 October 2018, pp260-264.

Conference posters / abstracts

  • Valero, D. (2023) Rural Water Security understanding water security challenges in Scotland and the potential for community action and social innovation, Poster at the 44th TB Macaulay Lecture
  • Nijnik, M.; Miller, D.; Valero, D.; Melnykovych, M.; Wilson, R.; Hopkins, J.; Martinat, S.; Brnkalakova, S.; Kluvankova, T. (2023) Empowering marginalised mountain communities to act for change , CANSEE2023 BY DESIGN NOT DISASTER: Grounding Economies During Uncertain Times, 11-13 October 2023, York University, Toronto, Canada
  • Nijnik, M.; Miller, D.R.; Price, M.; Sarkki, S.; Bryce, R.; Valero, D.; Barlagne, C.; Melnykovych, M. (2018) A role of social innovation in linking ecological sustainability with rural development objectives in marginalised mountain areas., International Conference on Natural Assets Use in Regional Settings. University of Lviv, Ukraine, 5-7 October 2018.
  • Kluvánková, T.; Spacek, M.; Brnkalakova, S.; Nijnik, M.; Miller, D.R.; Valero, D.; Bryce, R.; Gezik, V. (2018) Understanding social innovation for the well-being of rural communities: a preliminary theoretical framework., 5th Conference of the Forum Carpaticum: Environmental and Social Risk and Adaptation in the Carpathian Mountain Region, Eger, Hungary, 15-18 October 2018. Book of Abstracts, p78.