Guidelines for Conducting Research in the Ecovillage

Here at Cloughjordan Ecovillage, we recognize the importance of facilitating quality academic research into the project as it advances, which contributes to both documenting its development and harvesting valuable lessons from the ecovillage. Our Village Education, Research and Training (VERT) group, therefore, offers advice and support to researchers, details of which can be found on this page. We ask that incoming researchers read through our full guidelines on this webpage before submitting a proposal to ensure fruitful engagement with the project, its members, and valuable outcomes to the research.

We have no desire to limit academic discovery or research studies of our ecovillage. However, our membership includes a number of people with experience in a wide range of academic disciplines, and so we ask researchers to submit a research proposal for comment.

Research enquiry forms can be found here.

Advice on research proposals

As an educational charity and a learning community, we are committed to maximising the educational value of the ecovillage project. The better the research, the more valuable it is likely to be – to us and to others.

As we seek to ensure that ‘survey fatigue’ does not reduce response rates, we ask that researchers take into account previous research to ensure as much as possible that residents are not being asked to give information that is readily available.

Role of VERT

VERT seeks to support research and is happy to advise researchers on how to carry out research in the ecovillage. VERT also undertakes to pass on any communication from outside researchers to residents.

Advice on survey recruitment

There is no substitute for spending time in the ecovillage and getting to know residents. Approaches to people who have already met you are far more likely to get a positive response than an e-mail or letter ‘out of the blue’. Interviewees need to be given all relevant details of the project and fully consent to participation. We ask that any recordings of interviews are held in safe storage to ensure confidentiality.

General ethical principles for research in the ecovillage

Ethical approval is required for all research carried out in the ecovillage. This condition can be met either by providing VERT with evidence that such approval has been granted for a specific research project by a recognised educational or research institution, or by application to VERT for such approval.

For ethical approval, all research must adhere to the following principles (this includes research where there is no face-to-face interaction between researcher and participants, for example, postal questionnaires, telephone interviews, and internet surveys):

  • All researchers are obliged to protect their participants from possible harm, to preserve their dignity and rights, and to safeguard their anonymity and confidentiality.
  • No research on a person may be carried out without the informed, free, express, specific, and documented consent of the person.
  • There should be no coercion in the recruitment of participants.
  • Participants must be given the right to withdraw from any given research, at any time without penalty and without providing reason even when they have previously agreed to participate. Participants can also require that their data be withdrawn from the study. To fulfill this requirement, researchers are required to furnish their full contact details to each participant; when the research is being undertaken as part of a supervised research project, contact details of the researcher’s supervisor must also be provided.
  • Participants must be assured that all information they give will be treated with the utmost confidentiality and that their anonymity will be respected at all times unless otherwise agreed with them. Researchers are reminded that the ecovillage is a small community and details given of members’ homes or views can easily identify them; therefore additional care is required to ensure anonymity. Where relevant, participants should be informed where information about them will be stored, who will have access to it, and what use will be made of it. Express permission must be obtained for any non-confidential use of participant information.
  • Recruitment of participants for a given study should be done in such a way as to ensure that their health and well-being are not adversely affected. There is a duty of care on researchers to ameliorate any adverse effects of their research on participants.
  • As a general rule, researchers should debrief participants at the end of the research either verbally or in writing.
  • Special safeguards need to be in place for research with vulnerable populations such as young people under the age of 18. This must include signed informed consent by the young person’s parent or guardian.

Submitting a proposal:

Proposals should be submitted to the Village Education Research & Training group (VERT), by email to: [email protected]

Please use our Research Enquiry Form when sending in proposals.

After the submission of a brief outline initially, VERT is happy to engage in informal discussions with incoming researchers before a formal proposal is drafted. In the case of supervised research, it would be helpful for us to have the name and contact details of the supervisor, and we strongly advise that the supervisor is given a copy of our Terms and Conditions.