The power of the research process
: co-producing knowledge for sustainable upland estate management in Scotland

  • Jayne Glass

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


This thesis developed and piloted a suite of sustainability indicators for assessing the extent to which upland estate management in Scotland delivers sustainability goals. In Scotland, upland areas have a unique pattern of land ownership, with much of the land divided into ‘estates’ owned by private individuals and organisations, public bodies, and non-governmental and community organisations.

Upland estate management objectives and land uses are wide-ranging - agriculture, forestry, nature conservation, property and sporting interests – set
within discourses of sustainability and multifunctionality and also including new
developments in tourism, renewable energy and biodiversity conservation. The
complexity of upland estate management presents a great challenge, both
theoretically and practically.

To tackle this complexity, indicators were developed using a transdisciplinary
research approach, combining academic and non-academic knowledge within a
deliberative research process to address a ‘real world’ problem. A conceptual
framework guided the adaptation of the Delphi technique so that the indicators
were selected in a manner which: (1) increased transdisciplinary capacity; (2)
facilitated knowledge integration; and (3) enhanced the potential for social
learning. Using the adapted technique, the researcher facilitated an anonymous,
iterative research process that took place over four rounds, and involved a mixed
panel of individuals who comprised expertise in sustainability, rural and upland
land use, and estate management. A contemporary and consensual definition of
‘sustainable upland estate management’ was developed by the panel, through the identification of five ‘sustainable estate principles’ (Adapting Management;
Broadening Options; Ecosystem Thinking; Linking into Social Fabric; Thinking
beyond the Estate) and 16 corresponding indicators (‘opportunities for
sustainable estates’) within a ‘Sustainable Estates Toolkit’. The anonymous nature of the process created a safe environment for open dialogue and the researcher played an active role in stimulating participant motivation, creativity and learning.
Date of Award30 Sept 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of the Highlands and Islands
SponsorsHenry Angest Foundation Scholarship
SupervisorMartin Francis Price (Supervisor) & Alister Scott (Supervisor)


  • land reform
  • Scotland
  • property
  • sustainable development
  • participation
  • transdisciplinarity
  • social learning

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