NUI Galway researcher wins prestigious geography research award

galway daily news shane conway nui galway researcher dr geography award

A researcher at NUI Galway has said he is ‘delighted and honoured’ after being presented with a prestigious geography research award for his PhD research.

Dr Shane Conway was announced as the winner of the Geographical Society of Ireland Doctoral Research Award 2020 for his PhD research which explored farm transfer between generations.

The national award was open to any graduate of a Higher Education Institute in Ireland who had completed their PhD since January 2016.

“I am delighted and honoured to have received this award from the Geographical Society of Ireland for my PhD research,” said Dr Conway.

“None of this would have been possible without all the farmers who generously took time out from their busy schedules to provide inestimable data and information for this research.”

Dr Conway said that the farmers’ willingness to open up and share their stories and experiences provided him with a unique insight into the world as farmers perceive it.

“It is clear that the majority of farmers opt to maintain the facade of normal day to day activity and behaviour in later life, and such empirical findings will help inform more appropriate, ‘farmer-sensitive’ generational renewal in agriculture policy directions, and as a consequence, help prevent older farmers from being isolated and excluded from society, almost by accident rather than intention,” he said.

Dr Shane Conway’s PhD research, supervised by NUI Galway’s Dr John McDonagh and Dr Maura Farrell, gives an in-depth understanding of the emotional and social factors which affect the attitudes and behaviour of older farmers towards farm succession and retirement.

Dr Maura Farrell, Lecturer with the School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway, said that Dr Conway is highly deserving of this award having completed excellent research which has become widely acclaimed both at home and abroad.

“Shane’s research raises key questions about farm succession, considering issues of access to land for the young farmer, but also deliberating extensively on the impact and effect of succession on the older farmer,” said Dr Farrell.

“Shane has made excellent advancements in questioning current generational renewal policy and putting forward key ideas for the future direction of succession and inheritance practices on national and international family farms. “

This important research revealed that the wide-ranging reasons why older farmers fail to plan effectively for the future, such as the potential loss of identity, status and power that may occur as a result of engaging in the process.

The common theme which emerged from the research however is that intergenerational farm transfer is about emotion.