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NCI Survey of Members' Research Interests and Capabilities 2021

Between June and August this year, NCI conducted a survey to see what kind of research interests and expertise is held by its members - and we were delighted with the results. We are currently working out how best to engage and collaborate with our members to further our plan to advance knowledge on natural capital. NCI's Steering Committee Chair and founder of Cohab Initiative (Co-operation on Health & Biodiversity), Conor Kretsch, writes:

The importance of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural capital to human health and well-being is increasingly recognised across society. Many of these connections have been highlighted by the ongoing pandemic, which has seen a growing appreciation of the value of nature and natural spaces for recreation and social cohesion. The discussions and outcomes of the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow also gave prominence to the intricate ways in which the biodiversity and climate crises are connected.

However, there is much work to be done to better understand these connections, and how governments, businesses and communities can best act to conserve biodiversity - for its intrinsic value and for the well-being of future generations.

As part of its strategic plan for the period 2021 – 2023, NCI is committed to participating in “original research to advance knowledge on natural capital in Ireland and internationally”. While some of our ongoing work, such as the INCASE project, tackles important research themes, there are many further areas where NCI can make a contribution to the scientific basis for policy and practical action on nature conservation, including by helping to build the national capacity for such research activities.

Between June and August this year, NCI conducted a survey to see what kind of research interests and expertise is held by its members, and to invite expressions of interest from those who may be interested in supporting NCI’s research work in the future. The survey was brief and relatively simple as we aimed for a quick snapshot of our members’ interests and capabilities. A total of 80 responses were received, indicating that at least 7% of our membership at that time was involved directly in one or more research activities.

We asked whether this work was carried out under employment, under private contract (e.g. self-employed research work), in a voluntary capacity (e.g. with a charity), or in the respondents’ own time (i.e. self-directed / self-supported research). Many respondents indicated being involved in several of these avenues, with around 54% researching as a volunteer or in their personal time, 53% conducting research as part of employment, and 26% conducting research under private contract.

A woman and child in outdoor gear walk down a woodland path together, in the background a man and children run happily

All but one respondent who stated they were engaged in research indicated that the primary research areas involved in their work were linked to issues in sustainability. This included a wide range of themes in applied environmental research, biodiversity science, environmental policy, environmental sociology and psychology, and environmental economics.

More than half of the research topics stated were directly connected with natural capital concepts (e.g. the role of ecosystems in water quality, nature-based solutions to climate mitigation and adaptation, sustainability education, biodiversity in food production, relationships between biodiversity and health, and natural capital and ecosystem accounting), with the remainder largely focusing on other aspects of biodiversity science and sustainability – including marine and agricultural biodiversity, forest management, pollution studies, social entrepreneurship, climate justice, land use, urban planning, and the circular economy.

All respondents who expressed an interest in other research themes, additional to the work in which they were then engaged, specified one or more topics related to biodiversity and sustainability science, and / or natural capital approaches.

Around 80% of the respondents indicated that they would be willing to contribute in some manner to NCI’s future research work.

NCI’s Secretariat and Steering committee will follow up with several respondents during 2021 to see if they – as individuals or through their employment – may be able to support some of the projects we have planned for the year ahead.

We also intend to conduct a follow-up survey in summer 2022, which may seek additional data left out on this occasion; for example, we did not pose questions on demographics, research methods employed, the types of organisations with which specific research work was being conducted, or how research activities may have been affected by the ongoing pandemic - all of which could be useful in identifying potential future research areas and partners for NCI.

NCI would like to thank all of the respondents for supporting our work by taking the time to complete the survey – we are hugely grateful for your input. Go raibh míle maith agaibh!

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