Kari Stange, a PhD student at Wageningen University, will be based in Aberdeen, Scotland during April 2013. She will be spending time with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF). Kari wants to gain insights into how fishing industry stakeholder views and messages are generated and communicated between different actors at local, national, and international levels and how this can help the GAP2 project. You can see all her blog posts here.
Two weeks of life on the exchange and my head is spinning from all the input and stimulation, but there’s nothing like a stroll along the Caledonian Canal to clear the head. Running along a natural fault line between Inverness and Fort William, the canal is an ideal place to let it all sink in. In the summer the canal is filled with leisure boats passing through the locks (or so my brochure says). But on this rainy April Sunday morning, I am the only one here. I hike for a few hours from Inverness up to the nearest lock and back and meet only robins and pheasants.
On the exchange, some days have been very intense, filled with meetings and interviews. Other days have been quiet. Should I try to squeeze in yet another agenda item to make sure I make the most out of my time here in Scotland? I’m learning that being an efficient as a social scientist in the field requires both pre-planning and flexibility. Finding a good mix between the two is the tricky part, especially since many factors are outside my control. Then, sometimes you are just lucky! I at least I felt lucky when this happened to me:
Fisheries stakeholders are busy people. Some of them have more than 200 travel days per year! I have scheduled a meeting with one of the busiest kind, aiming to catch him for an interview on one of his few back-at-the-office days. However, two days before our appointment the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Fisheries Minister, calls in the stakeholders for an urgent meeting, giving only 48 hours notice! It turns out the EU Commissioner is coming to Scotland the following week for consultations. With effort control regulations on the Scottish west coast on the agenda, the Cabinet Secretary and his advisors, the policy officers at Marine Scotland, need input from the stakeholders to plan their negotiations. So, a change of plans: SFF organises for me to sit in at the stakeholder consultation meeting as an observer. The meeting will be held in Elgin, of all places and it turns out, this is home turf for the Cabinet Secretary. I hitch a ride there with my change-of-plan interviewee and this gives us time to meet and talk after all. So, there I find myself, right in the middle of the action, listening in on the exchanges that I want to learn about and understand, in a meeting with the Minister, policy officers, and stakeholders who represent a range of interests from the fisheries catching sector and producers.
Sometimes, things just work out.