Methodology and Policy: Who’s Listening?
|Elizabeth Beaton, Ph.D. Atlantic Agriculture Project Cape Breton University P.O. Box 5300 Sydney, Nova Scotia B1P 6L2, Canada Elizabeth_Beaton@capebretonu.ca|
|Most research related to sustainability issues has some policy implications, whether direct or indirect. Consequently, researchers are constantly looking for ways (and means) to catch the attention of politicians and others who develop policy. It appears that the most successful in this area are quantitative researchers who present their findings as blunt numbers or complex graphs, often without any empirical context. What happens to the research results of ethnographers, phenomenologists, or those doing case studies, for whom the “lived experience” forms the basis of their research and analysis? Should lived experience be reduced to numbers, charts, and graphs to draw the interest of government? Specialized software exists to do this, but to what extent should qualitative research be quantified? Or should qualitative researchers persist in up-holding the value of individual and community “stories”, and risk not being listened to?|
I propose a roundtable discussion on the problems and potential of bringing qualitative research to the notice of policy- makers. The model proposed by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg (Circle of European Studies, Wageningen University), and my research of the small farm experience in Atlantic Canada, may open debate on this situation. Intangibles constituting “agricultural styles” - value systems, structures of decision-making, and social interactions - demonstrate that farming is a socio-technical phenomenon particular to its own region. It can be argued that such particularities present a sound foundation for policy development. Participants are invited to present other models and contexts which might contribute to “being heard”.