Ruth Wilson

Social Scientist (Mixed Methods)
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
T: +44 (0)1224 395 393

Ruth joined the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Department as a social scientist in 2017. Her research focuses on rural and island communities and what helps them to thrive - socially, economically and culturally. Ruth currently works on projects that aim to support a green and resilient recovery process, including coordinating action research-based case studies in rural and island communities across Scotland.

Ruth is a sociologist by background but enjoys working across disciplinary boundaries and in transdisciplinary teams to achieve real-world impacts. She uses a range of methods in doing so, including interviews, surveys and digital methods. 


  • Lived experiences of rural and island residents during times of change and crisis
  • Symbolic understandings of rural and island life
  • Depopulation in and migration to rural and island communities
  • Community dynamics, identity and belonging
  • The relationship between technological, environmental and social change

PhD supervision

Kirsten Gow (due to submit in 2025)

Marcus Craigie (due to submit in 2025)

Past research

Ruth’s PhD (University of Aberdeen, 2015) explored the nature of rural social relations in an increasingly digitalised world. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked at Robert Gordon University as a Research and Impact Officer, helping the university to widen access to students from diverse backgrounds. She was also involved in an AHRC-funded project, with the University of Manchester, about understanding everyday participation, particularly in rural and island societies.


Books / chapters

Technical / contract reports

Conference papers

  • Wilson, R.; Noble, C.; Currie, M. (2022) A new idyll Harnessing newfound appetite for rural migration during Covid19, Trans-Atlantic Rural Research Network (TARRN), 23-25 May 2022, Newcastle University
  • Colley, K.; Craig, T.; Scholz, G.; Hague, A.; Wilson, R.; Polhill, G.; Salt, D.; Somervail, P.; Nazli Koseoglu, M.; Wooldridge, T. (2022) The role of individuals and households in the transition to a circular economy a social simulation approach, International Association of People-Environment Studies (IAPS) 2022 conference, online
  • Salt, D.; Polhill, G.; Craig, T.; Wilson, R.; Colley, K.; Pinker, A.; Scalco, A.; Muhammad, M. (2021) Modelling coconstructed scnearios of district heat network adoption in Aberdeen, Social Simulation Conference 2021, Online, 20-24 September 2021.
  • Polhill, J.G.; Salt, D.; Craig. T.; Wilson, R.; Colley, K. (2021) Sensitivity analysis of an empirical agent-based model of district heating network adoption., International Work Conference on Artificial Neural Networks, Online, 16-18 June 2021.
  • Hopkins, J.; Atterton, A.; Copus, A.; Wilson, R. (2019) How can we improve the evidence base for place-based policy making?, Presentation, 17th Rural Entrepreneurship Conference, Inverness, 17-19 June 2019.
  • Wilson, R.; Copus, A. (2019) A collaborative approach to developing an index of rural service delivery., Rural Entrepreneurship Conference, Inverness, 17-19 June 2019.
  • Wilson, R.; Copus, A. (2018) Well this works for us: Unpacking the complexity of changing SGI provision in Sparsely Populated Areas – and implications for the transferability of “good practice”., Nordic Ruralities, Denmark, 14-16 May 2018.

Conference posters / abstracts

  • 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.; Melnykovych, M.; Wilson, R. (2022) At the crossroads of possibilities for smart mountain villages the role of social innovation , Session: 60_Smart Mountain Villages, International Mountain Conference 2022, September 11-15 2022, Innsbruck, Austria
  • Colley, K.; Wilson, R.; Craig, T.; Polhill, G.; Salt, D.; Pinker, A.; Somervail, P. (2021) SMARTEES: Modelling household uptake of a city-wide district heat network in Aberdeen, Scotland. Virtual poster for Behavior, Environment and Climate Change Conference 2021, Virtual poster for Behavior, Environment and Climate Change Conference 2021, 8-10 November 2021, Online
  • Polhill, J.G.; Craig, T.; Salt, D.; Wilson, R. (2020) Simulating the dynamics of trust in one-off decisions such as joining a heat network., BEHAVE 2020: 6th European Conference on Behaviour and Energy Efficiency, Copenhagen, Denmark, 21-23 October 2020. Abstract.
  • Wilson, R.; Copus, A. (2019) Islands Revival: Stories of island population turnaround in Scotland and beyond., Scottish Consortium for Rural Research Mini-Conference, Inverness, 13 November 2019. (Poster)