Does the ecovillage welcome research?
Yes, it does. We welcome any kind of interest in our project but we have a particular interest in research. Cloughjordan Eco-Village (CEV) is a learning community run by an educational charity, Sustainable Projects Ireland Ltd (SPIL). It follows that participation in research is a core element of our mission. Please refer to our Research Guidelines for our philosophy, principles and ethical guidelines: see www.thevillage.ie.
What kinds of research are covered by these FAQs?
We address all levels of research in these notes, from simple school projects to advanced projects run by university-based professional researchers. The notes in Appx 1 give more detail specific to particular levels.
What research topics can CEV assist with?
Many of the research proposals we receive relate to such ‘obvious eco topics’ as sustainability, resilience, building energy consumption and construction methods. However, a complex and wide-ranging project like CEV could be the subject of research in a host of other disciplines too. These could include community health, transport, ITC, agriculture, politics, economics, community development, political economy, sociology etc, etc.
What research topics would be of most interest to CEV?
We plan to publish a list on the ecovillage website of research that we would be especially keen to promote. This will be updated from time to time.
At what stage in my research should I contact CEV?
We strongly prefer researchers to contact us before committing to any research project. There are a number of reasons for this but the key reason is that willing participation is a core principle in any set of ethical guidelines. A researcher who invests weeks or months in a literature study before asking us for data or information or requesting permission to conduct interviews places us under pressure to participate. This may not be the best route to a fruitful partnership. Another issue that can arise is substantial overlap with another project, which could be a major difficulty at higher level, If consulted early, we may be able to propose an alternative topic.
Would my research benefit from prior consultation with CEV?
Questionnaires or research questions based on inappropriate assumptions are a common concern. There may be no rational answer to some such questions. In other cases, a proper reply would require an essay, which would make excessive demands on our time. Appendix 2 lists some common examples of such assumptions.
Does CEV vet or approve research projects?
No. We do not consider that such a role would be appropriate. However, we can often advise on a proposed project, provided we are contacted at an early stage. Researchers who choose a less collaborative approach may find themselves pursuing an unproductive line of study.
Does CEV have any expertise in research?
A number of residents are actively engaged in research, on a range of levels. Several have research qualifications and experience of supervising PhD students, in diverse disciplines.
How should I contact CEV about research?
The email address firstname.lastname@example.org will be routed directly to project members currently responsible for research. Please bear in mind that these people are volunteers, so you might not get an immediate reply. However, if you do not get a response within a few days, please email again or call our office on 0505 42833 or 42810.
What kind of help can CEV give?
We generally welcome pre-arranged visits from researchers. An appropriate project member can usually be found to give an interview, either face to face or via telephone or Skype.
What kind of help may not be available?
We are generally reluctant to complete questionnaires, because of the time it takes. Access to data may sometimes be possible – but researchers often make unwarranted assumptions about the kind of data we have readily available.
Can I visit the ecovillage?
Where an individual visit is required, often at short-notice, we may have to charge for our time. However, given sufficient notice, we can often invite researchers to join a relevant class visit at a nominal charge. This can be a cost-effective way to do the groundwork, with a focus related to the subject of the research. Alternatively, we give free tours most Saturday and Sunday afternoons: please see the ecovillage website for current details. However, these tours should be considered as no more than a preliminary reconnaissance; guides are not generally able to answer questions of a technical or specialized nature.
Are residents willing to be interviewed?
We get many requests to facilitate research projects, so residents can become weary of being interviewed. Consequently, researchers must understand that our current population of only 55 adults (in March 2013) may not be enough to yield a viable sample.
How should I arrange interviews?
Interviews must be pre-arranged. We will circulate your interview request to residents, who then have a free choice whether or not to engage with you. Please note that most residents have other priorities, so the response rate might be low.
How can I improve the response rate?
Higher participation rates are more likely to be attained by researchers who make the acquantaince of residents by spending time in the ecovillage (eg as a volunteer). In such circumstances, it is essential to make clear from the start of any conversation that you are engaged in research. This applies as much to casual exchanges as it does in a formal interview situation.
Could I just go round knocking on doors?
No. We regard cold-calling to residents or unannounced visits as invasions of privacy. We therefore advise residents not to engage with such callers.
What survey methodology works best?
Methodology varies widely between disciplines. However, the response rate to posted or emailed questionnaires and on-line survey tools can be very low. We generally find that surveys of residents are best done on a face to face basis, since most people prefer a chat over a cup of tea to keyboard work. Researchers may find it necessary to stay here for a few days or weekends in order to complete their programme of interviews.
Does CEV benefit from the interest of researchers?
This varies greatly with the subject and level of the research. We generally get some benefit, whatever the level, even if it is only an introduction to new ideas or a chance to see our project through fresh eyes. However, the educational objectives of CEV are better fulfilled when a researcher engages with the ecovillage and its members. Consequently, we do not favour simply emailing information to researchers who have made no input to the project. Where appropriate, we may expect the researcher to commit to spending a day or two here as a volunteer helper. Alternatively, a donation to project funds could be considered. Each case is considered on its merits – and exceptions are made where the research is likely to be of great interest or value to us. Appendix 1 gives more detail.
How much help can I expect from CEV?
The ecovillage has no full-time staff, so your enquiries will almost certainly be handled by a volunteer, as an addition to their primary duties. The time they give to you may impact on their own business or on their other voluntary duties, so the time they can give to helping most researchers is very limited. They may, however, be able to spare you more time if you can offer some voluntary hours to the project, especially if your input contributes to the workload of your contact.
Would CEV welcome a copy of my project report?
An undertaking to to send us a copy is a standard condition of our participation in your research. We prefer to receive a copy at the draft stage, so that we can comment on it, as well as the final version. We may wish to publish or circulate your report, for example on the CEV website.