Edgeley, Catrin M., Amanda M. Stasiewicz, & Darcy H. Hammond (2020, August). Prioritizing research needs in natural resources: Using Q-methodology as a focus group discussion tool. Journal of Forestry. (ePub in advance of print) (doi: 10.1093/jofore/fvaa035) (Link: https://doi.org/10.1093/jofore/fvaa035)

Abstract: Combining Q-methodology with focus groups offers a novel opportunity to explore how researchers and managers can collectively address natural resource management issues. We explored the potential utility of this pairing for prioritizing long-term vegetation recovery research needs after wildfire at a two-day workshop. The approach entailed individual Q-sort activities, followed by focus group discussion about differences and similarities in Q-sort outcomes between managers and researchers. We found that Q-methodology was a versatile discussion tool that offered opportunities for building shared definitions of management issues and identifying new pathways for collaboration between diverse participants. Group discussion around research needs also fostered opportunities for identifying organizational barriers and fostering partnerships to overcome them. Collecting social data on research needs prior to designing or conducting data collection efforts can help ensure that outputs have practical value and utility for land management. Study Implications: Establishing shared research priorities between researchers and managers is one way to ensure that scientific advancements have practical applications. Using outputs from Q-sort activities as a prompt to initiate discussion between researchers and managers is an effective technique for understanding divergent prioritizations, identifying organizational and scientific barriers, and establishing feasible next steps for collective action to produce application-oriented research. Employing mixed-method social data collection early in the land management planning process is increasingly valuable; many recent policies for forest and natural resource management require the incorporation of collaborative components.

Catrin M Edgeley <catrin.edgeley@nau.edu> is in the School of Forestry, College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ.

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