The Floodplain Meadows Partnership is a research project based on key academic work carried out at the Open University by Professor David Gowing and others on the response of species-rich floodplain meadows to changes in management, particularly hydrological changes. The partnership recently received an Evidencing Engaged Research seed funding award to look at the impact that advice from the project has had on site managers and sites across the UK.
Over the past few years, we’ve undertaken many site visits to meet new people and help with management advice but we haven’t re-visited all the sites. Our seed funding will enable us to go back and interview some of the site managers to uncover the agri-environment history of their scheme and to understand if, as a result of our visits, they implemented any changes on their sites. We would like to see if the advice we gave was followed and if it resulted in positive or negative changes.
To collect this information in a way that makes it publishable, we need to think hard about our research question, carefully select the sites we are going to visit, and try to write up the findings in ways that are appropriate for both academic and non-academic audiences.
My background is not academic (except for an MSc some 20 years ago, does that count?) and so this process is a little daunting to me. I have plenty of knowledge about the sites we have visited, contacts with the site managers and the ability to write about these sites in a generally accessible way but I feel very overwhelmed about putting this information into a more academic format.
Luckily, Jim McGinlay (who worked in the Floodplain Meadows Partnership as a research student) has now passed his PhD and is available for work and able to help. This is great, as his research involved interviewing site managers, farmers and other people, to understand value assessments in floodplain meadow management. Also part of this ‘mini team’ is Gareth Davies, Research Associate on the Open University’s RCUK-funded Schools-University Partnership Initiative, Engaging Opportunities. Both of these very useful people have helped to start identifying the research question and thinking about how we can structure the interviews for maximum effect. I am also really hoping that they will be able to help in a major way with writing up the findings into a research paper.
We stand at the edge of our project, identifying the sites we are going to choose, thinking about our research question and wondering if the site managers will be pleased to talk to us. Will we have had an impact (even a small one, in a positive way, would be good)? Time (and of course the money we have been awarded), will tell!