Island connections: interviews with aspiring returnees

As part of my research I am looking to interview people with connections to Scottish islands who have an active interest in moving to a island. (Already moved to an island? Find out more about options to participate).

The information on this page is designed to help you understand whether you might like to take part in this research. The information on this page is also available as a downloadable interviewee information sheet (aspiring migrants).

Participant information

Thanks for your interest in taking part in my research. This page provides you with you with information to help you decide whether you would like to take part in an interview for my research into island connections and return migration. 

If you would like to hear more about opportunities to take part other areas of my islands research you can find out more and sign up for updates on the Take Part page.

Who am I and what am I doing?

My name is Kirsten and I am a PhD student in the Department of Geography, School of Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen. I would like to invite you to take part in my research project which includes exploring people’s connections to Scotland’s islands to look at if and how this might affect return migration.  Below is some information about the project to help you decide whether you would like to take part.

Participation in the research project is completely voluntary. You can withdraw from the project at any time without having to give a reason.

Project contact information

  • Principal Investigator: Kirsten Gow
  • University of Aberdeen supervisors: Professor Lorna Philip and Dr Paula Duffy
  • James Hutton Institute supervisors: Dr Ruth Wilson and Dr Mags Currie
  • Mail: Geography and Environment, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, St Mary’s, King’s College, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF
  • Phone: 01224 27 3428 (School Administrator)
  • Email:

The aim of my research

The aim of this phase of my research is to understand more about why people who feel that they have a connection to one or more of Scottish islands might want to move to an island, and what the experience of moving to an island is like for this group of people.

I am interested in speaking to people with an active interest in moving to a Scottish island who either:

  • grew up in a Scottish island,
  • previously lived in an island as an adult,
  • have family from an island (currently or in the past), or
  • who have strong connections to an island or islands in other ways.

I want to understand more about the reasons why people who have island connections might want to move to an island, what their goals and aspirations for a move might be, and what the experience of moving is actually like.

In the first stage I ran a survey and focus groups to understand more about the lives and island connections of those who used to live in a Scottish island or who have other links to a Scottish island but currently live elsewhere. This is the second stage of my research project and, in this stage, I will also be speaking to people who have already moved to an island. The information I gather at each stage will be used to write research papers and a doctoral thesis looking at how people stay connected to islands and the how people with island connections might play a part in helping maintain and grow island populations in the future.

What you will be asked to do

You may have already completed a survey for this research and been invited to be interviewed based on this. If not you will be asked to complete a survey telling me about your life and your island connections. This information will be used to select people to invite to interview. Completing the survey does not guarantee an invitation to interview and you are under no obligation to agree to be interviewed if you receive an invitation. 

If you are invited to interview and choose to take part we will arrange a time to discuss your aspirations for moving to an island and / or your experiences of moving to an island. Interviews will be held either online or in person, depending on your circumstances. The interview will be one-to-one, will last around 90 minutes, and will cover a range of topics related to my research including your reasons for wanting to move to an island, what would need to happen to make this possible, and what you imagine island life will be like after the move.

For in-person interviews I will travel to your home, or another suitable space you are comfortable in. Online interviews will be held via a video conferencing platform (for example Teams). You will need to be able to join the online call from a quiet, private space with your camera and microphone on to allow you to properly participate in an online interview, but you will not need to download any software to your device in order to take part. 

I will be making recordings of both in-person and online interviews so that I can create transcripts of the sessions to help me with my research. The recordings will be stored securely and only accessed by the research team for the purposes of this research. When I create the transcripts I will remove your name and other identifying features. These transcripts will be used to analyse my research and write up my findings.

At the end of the interview you may be asked if you are willing to be contacted for further phases of this research project, or for follow up studies in the future. This is entirely optional and you are under no obligation to agree to this.


As a researcher I have a responsibility to protect anyone participating in my research. Because I am working with small communities I have designed my research to make sure that individual islands and individual people are not identifiable.  To do this, my work will focus on groupings of islands that share similar attributes using an ‘island typology’ developed for this research, rather than focusing on an individual island or geographical grouping of islands. 

Talking about your connections to an island, your desire to move to an island, or what your experience of moving to an island has been like might be more difficult for some than others. You will not be asked to discuss anything you do not feel comfortable talking about and you have the right to refuse to answer any question or end your participation at any time without explaining why.

If you are asked to complete a survey you can request that the information you have provided be withdrawn, up the point the data is uploaded into analysis software by providing the date and time that your survey was completed. You may be asked for further information, such as the name of the island you entered in the survey, to help identify and remove your responses.

After the interview has ended, you may withdraw from the research up until the point where the cleaned transcript has been uploaded to the analysis software. At this point any reference to your name or identifiable characteristics will have been removed. After this, you also have the right to request that you are not directly quoted in publications, though you should note that any quotes will be pseudonymised (i.e. you will have been given a new name and any identifiable information will have been removed).

Data management and storage

The raw data collected in this research will be stored on secure servers owned by the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute for a maximum of 10 years, after which it will be deleted.  Appropriately anonymised / pseudonymised data may be stored in the university or institute repository to help with future research in this area.  It will be managed in line with university / institute policies designed to protect sensitive data, including the Data Protection Policy, Information Security Policy, and Research Data Management Policy and Guidance. 

The data collected in this research will be stored in password protected files held on secure servers owned and managed by the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute. If you have chosen to provide your contact details so we can inform you about opportunities to be involved in further research these will also be stored securely, but separated from other information collect in the interviews so that you cannot be identified as a participant. Your contact information will only be held for as long as is needed to contact you regarding further research stages. You may ask us to delete your contact details at any time by emailing

Confidentiality and anonymity

Confidentiality and anonymity is important to us. The University’s Privacy Notice for Research Participants, which applies to this research, is available at: The James Hutton Institute’s privacy notice, which applies to this research, is available at

Raw data and the identity of participants will not be shared with anyone outside the research team. The data you provide will be analysed and may be used in publications, dissertations, reports or presentations derived from the research project, but this will be done in such a way that your identity is not disclosed.

If you choose to provide a name and contact details so we can contact you about opportunities to take part in further research, this information will be stored separately from any other data gathered in the interview. Because I am working with small communities I have chosen to focus on groupings of islands that share similar attributes using an ‘island typology’ developed for the research, meaning that individual islands will not be identified. When research is published your contributions will be attributed to a grouping of islands to help make sure that people who read my research are unable to identify individuals who have taken part.

If you agree to take part in the research, you will be asked to indicate your consent by either signing a paper consent form (in-person interviews) or completing an online consent form (online interviews).


My PhD is funded by the Macaulay Development Trust and I am supervised by academic staff from both the University of Aberdeen and The James Hutton Institute.

Further information

Thank you for considering taking part in this research.

If you have any questions about this research, please contact Kirsten Gow on 07565286099 or at

You are also welcome to contact my lead supervisors for further information:

University of Aberdeen: Professor Lorna Philip – 01224 272358 /
James Hutton Institute: Dr Ruth Wilson –


For any queries regarding ethical concerns you may contact the Convener of the Physical Sciences & Engineering Ethics Board at the University of Aberdeen by emailing

This research project was approved by the Physical Sciences & Engineering Ethics Board on 24/03/2022.