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Orla Shortall

Staff picture: Orla Shortall
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences
Agricultural Sociologist
+44 (0)1224 395302

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Orla is a researcher in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) research group at the James Hutton Institute. Orla has a multidisciplinary social science background: her work draws on agricultural sociology, science and technology studies and agricultural bioethics. Orla's main research interest could be described as the philosophy of agriculture: what agriculture is for, why we value it and how we can understand change within agriculture. Orla has used qualitative and quantitative methods to explore this research interest in different projects.

Current research interests

Orla's current research at the James Hutton Institute:

  • British Academy Fellowship 2018-2021. Orla is currently undertaking a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship on the project "Cows eat grass don't they? Exploring values and visions of indoor and outdoor dairy farming in the UK and Ireland." The project explores farmer, stakeholder and public views on indoor dairy farming in the UK and Ireland.
  • EPIC: The Scottish Government's Centre for Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks. ST2.4.1 Understanding attitudes to biosecurity: Exploring the challenges of bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) detection and response. This work will explore how cattle farmers in the Scotland are experiencing the scheme to eradicate BVD. Work will feed into the next phase of the BVD eradication scheme. Research is carried out through qualitative interviews and audio visual ethnographic methods.
  • EPIC: The Scotish Government's Centre for Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks. Undestanding attitudes to biosecurity and avian influenza in the commercial poultry sector in Scotland. This work involves interviews with commercial poultry producers and key stakeholders to explore attitudes to biosecurity and risk within the sector, with a particular focus on avian influenza to better inform decision making in the future.

Past research

  • PLAID - Peer to Peer Learning: Accessing Innovation through Demonstration (2017-2019). EU H2020. The PLAID project aims to understand the role of demonstration farms in spreading best practice and innovative farming approaches. More information can be found here:
  • Soil management in the monitor farm programme (2016-2021) Scottish government RESAS Research Programme. This work involves of the monitor farm programme as an intervention device to encourage soil and nutrient management techniques. This work involves qualitative interviews and ethnographic work on two monitor farm programmes in Scotland.
  • Water management in the Lunan Water catchment (2016-2021) Scottish government RESAS Research Programme. This work involves exploring stakeholder perceptions of measures to improve water management in the Lunan Water catchment. Work will focus on different mechanisms and governance structures and the potential for introducing a payment for ecosystems services (PES) style approach to the catchment.
  • Biosecurity and vaccination on dairy farms: Exploring vet and farmer views and developing best practice guidelines, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham. Here Orla worked on an interdisciplinary project funded by AHDB Dairy using qualitative and quantitative methods to explore vet and farmer views on biosecurity. The goals of the project were to assess ways of improving the vet-farmer relationship in order to enhance biosecurity and develop best practice guidelines for farmers on biosecurity.
  • Social and ethical issues raised by the production of non-food biomass on agricultur land in the UK and Denmark, University of Nottingham and University of Copenhagen. In Orla's PhD project she explored the values and assumptions underpinning visions of the production of perennial energy crops and use of crop residues on agricultural land in the UK and Denmark. She developed a theoretical framework of different types of industrial and alternative agricultures to understand these visions. The work was part of two interdisciplinary teams at the University of Nottingham and University of Copenhagen conducting research on biofuels.
  • Exploring the governance of the proposed release of genetically modified insects, University of Nottingham. Orla worked with researchers at the University of Nottingham on public responses to the proposed release of genetically modified diamondback moths by researchers at Cornell University in New York State. Work on this project is ongoing.


  • Shortall, O. (2018) How to use theory to elucidate values rather than pigeonhole professionals in agriculture? , In: Springer, S. & Grimm, H. (eds.). Professionals in Food Chains. Wageingen Academic Publishers, Chapter 8, pp66-71.
  • Mohr, A.; Shortall, O.; Helliwell, R.; Raman, S. (2016) How should land be used? Bioenergy and responsible innovation in agricultural systems., In: Gordon, I.J., Prins, H.H.T. & Squire, G.R. (ed.). Food Production and Nature Conservation: Conflicts and Solutions. Routledge, London, Chapter 10, 204-222.

Printed from /staff/orla-shortall on 02/12/20 10:23:16 AM

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.