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Our Science

Our research topics

Through the development and application of a variety of quantitative and qualitative research tools, we provide new insights into complex problems relevant to contemporary environmental and rural issues in Scotland, Europe and beyond. 

We contribute insights to discourses on sustainability, social and economic dimensions of rural development, culture & social norms, local food, agriculture and wider food systems, transport, land management and transitions, energy, natural resource use, human-environment relationships, valution of natural resources, governance & institutions, risk, communities and health.  We achieve this through 'free-standing' social science, interdisciplinary work with natural and data scientists, and also transdisciplinary work with a range of stakeholders.  Regardless of our research methods and topics, we share a commitment to engagement and dialogue outside of academia, sharing and often co-creating insights with stakeholders ranging from policy makers to community groups.

Our collaborators and partners

Much of research is carried out within collaborative projects. This can involve teams collaborating within SEGS, and in interdisciplinary collaborations with all the other departments of the Hutton. As an example, we collaborate with colleagues in EBS to understand natural flood management.  We also have many external collaborations, with peers in Scottish and UK universities, often reflected in PhD supervisory teams. We also have many contacts and collaborators across the world. This is especially the case in Europe, relating to our Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects, where we have contacts and active collaborators everywhere from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to the Autoomous University of Barcelona (UAB).

Our research is funded from a variety of sources.  A significant proportion of our work is carried out for the Scottish Government as part of its Strategic Research Programme. We are aso involved in the Scottish Government Centres of Expertise on: Animal Disease Outbreaks (EPIC); Climate Change (CXC); and Water (CREW).  Other funders of our research include Leverhulme, UKRI, UK and Scottish government agencies, and European Commision funding mentioned above, and ESPON. 

Our research methods

Across the group we use a range of methods, which reflects our disciplinary variety and also the requirements of particular research questions and topics. Some of the 'traditional' methods of data collection are postal and online surveys, interviews, focus groups and workshops.  We sometimes combine or incorporate spatial data analysis (GIS) often in collaborations with colleagues in ICS.  We also have expertise in innovative methods, including 'walk alongs' and especially a variety of visual methods, ranging from photo prompts for discussions through to partipatory video. These methods are often excellent for aiding discursive community engagement and fostering knowledge exchange.  The equipment used to support our research includes the TouchTable and the Institute's Virtual Landscape Theatre.  We use and often combine a variety of quantiative and qualitative approaches for analysis, ranging from R and other statistical and econometric packages through to Leximancer and Nvivo. We contibute to the International Land Use Study Centre (ILUSC) which also reflects and reinforces a commitment to open science.

Further information

For further detail about the topics and issues that we work on, visit our description of the two research groups that comprise SEGS.  Alternatively, the staff pages of individuals within SEGS, will indicate their specific research expertise and current projects. An overview of all our current and recent research projects linked to SEGS can be found listed at Current SEGS projects and  Recent SEGS projects.


Areas of Interest

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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.