Sustainability in bioscience fieldwork: Practical information from a UK agricultural research institute

Awduron Sefydliadau
Math Erthygl
Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
Tudalennau (o-i)54-67
Nifer y tudalennau14
CyfnodolynInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
Cyfrol10
Rhif y cyfnodolyn1
Dangosyddion eitem ddigidol (DOIs)
StatwsCyhoeddwyd - 01 Ion 2009
Cysylltiadau
Gweld graff cysylltiadau
Fformatau enwi

Crynodeb

Purpose – Owing to the specialist nature of biological experimentation, scientific research staff have been largely neglected from the pro-environmental initiatives which have inundated other areas of higher education. This dearth of studies is surprising given that scientific research is recognised as a substantial contributor to the environmental impact of tertiary institutes. The present study seeks to utilise the current sustainability literature to identify barriers to sustainability in scientific fieldwork and determines which methods or procedures might increase pro-environmental behaviours in this technical environment. The resultant information serves to provide a comparison with previously identified barriers to sustainability in the laboratory environment and identifies which environmental initiatives might be successful in both the field and laboratory.

Design/methodology/approach – This study gathers qualitative data from a sample of scientific researchers presently conducting field experimentation in the agricultural sciences. A “sustainability in science” questionnaire was developed and distributed to all staff undertaking research at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research.

Findings – Despite favourable sustainability beliefs and perceptions, almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of researchers at this institute agreed that they were not conducting their current research activities in the most sustainable way possible. Barriers to sustainability included lack of support, lack of information, lack of training and lack of time. The provision of awards for pro-environmental behaviours and the application of costs for unsustainable behaviours were the initiatives most likely to encourage research staff to be sustainable in the work environment.

Research limitations/implications – Many agricultural field based research projects manipulate the environment in order to cultivate and develop commercial foodstuffs. Identifying the potential to reduce such waste was an inherent part of the present study. However, identifying the ways in which such environmental manipulation modifies the landscape – whether sustainably or unsustainably – was outwith the scope of the present study and presents an interesting area for future sustainability research.

Practical implications – The information presented in this paper has immediate practical implication for tertiary bodies and agricultural institutes wishing to adopt more sustainable fieldwork practises.

Originality/value – This is the first study to design a sustainability questionnaire specifically targeting field active research scientists in a tertiary institute.

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