NUI Galway Rural Studies is a third level education and research cluster based within the discipline of Geography at NUI Galway. The cluster brings together researchers exploring rural issues across economic, social, cultural and environmental domains. NUI Galway Rural Studies works to understand the contemporary, diverse and changing countryside, build an evidence base to influence policy and support sustainable rural development. In recent years, research within the cluster has focused on a range of rural issues such as farm succession, rural innovation, female entrepreneurship, globalisation, migration, natural resource governance, rural tourism, territorial cohesion, agricultural innovation and the cultural economy. Drawing on all this experience, in 2020, NUI Galway Rural Studies will launch a new Masters on Rural Futures Planning and Innovation. The programme will fill a gap in rural specialist training focusing on how innovation can identify future needs and challenges to plan for a range of alternative, feasible and desirable rural futures.
Working as part of European-level projects, such as IMAJINE (2017-2021), BuSK (2016-2019) and DERREG (2009-2011), is vital to the cluster’s work. On the national level, the cluster is also part of a four-partner consortium running Ireland’s National Rural Network, which in turn provides a unique opportunity to become involved in promoting rural issues at everyday societal and policy levels, both in Ireland and Europe. As part of the RURALIZATION project, NUI Galway Rural Studies will leverage and build on this experience. It is leading work package 3 that develops RURALIZATION’s ‘Framework for Research and Innovation’. This includes reviewing relevant European projects, developing conceptual guidelines and an assessment framework for the project. The NUI Galway Rural Studies team will also carry out research in the Irish context for RURALIZATION in relation to the future dreams of rural youth, access to land, facilitating rural newcomers and new entrants into farming.
Dr Maura Farrell is Principal Investigator on the RURALIZATION project at NUI Galway and a Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography. Maura’s research interests include rural and agricultural geography, processes of social, cultural and economic change for rural inhabitants and rural migration. Maura is also Principal Investigator on the National Rural Network and is extremely active outside university life. She has been appointed to committees and organisations both nationally and internationally, such as the national-level Action Plan for Rural Development Monitoring Committee and the European level evaluation and reflection group for the LEADER Programme.
Dr Aisling Murtagh is a Postdoctoral Researcher with the RURALIZATION project. She has worked on a number of rural development related national and European research projects in areas such as cultural and creative industries, short food supply chains and food cooperatives. Before joining the RURALIZATION project she worked as Research and Development Officer with the National Rural Network where her work particularly focused on the LEADER programme.
Dr Marie Mahon is a Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography. Marie’s research interests include civic engagement and governance; urban-rural development; place-based identity; governance of spatial planning; and spatial justice and participatory democracy. She is the Principal Investigator for the Horizon 2020 IMAJINE Project at NUI Galway.
Dr John McDonagh is a Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography. John’s research interests include agricultural restructuring; the multifunctional countryside; and the broader challenges of rural sustainability. He is the Principal Investigator for the BUSK project (Building Shared Knowledge Capital) funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme.
Dr Therese Conway is a Lecturer in the Discipline of Geography with research interests including rural tourism, rural space and participatory action research. Therese has positioned her research agenda with a focus on the concepts of networks and networking, and in particular their role in development, including studies that engage with their role in tourism, ecotourism, community development (communities of practice) and rural development.
Dr Shane Conway is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the field of rural and agricultural geography, with a particular focus on generational renewal in agriculture, the human side of farming, smart villages and rural sustainability. He is also a member of the National Rural Network research team at NUI Galway; and is leading Ireland’s participation in the International FARMTRANSFERS Project.