Island connections and return migration survey

This survey is now closed but I have left the following participant information online for reference. 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.

Participant information

Thanks for your interest in taking part in my research. This page provides you with information to help you decide whether you want to complete the survey as part of my study on island connections and return migration:
The role of return migration in the sustainable repopulation of Scotland’s Islands.

The survey should take around 10-15 minutes to complete.

This page provides information to potential participants. You can also download the Participant Information Sheet if you prefer and save it for future reference. All of the information in the Participant Information Sheet also appears on this 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 people who feel that they have a connection to one or more Scottish islands, even though they don’t live on an island at the moment.

I am interested in speaking to people:

  • who grew up on an island, or
  • who have lived on an island as an adult, or
  • whose family come from an island, or
  • who have strong connections to an island or islands in other ways.

I want to understand more about how people maintain connections with the islands when living elsewhere. I also want to understand more about the reasons why people currently live off-island and whether or not people might like to return to live on the island they have connections with, or a different island, in the future.

This is the first stage of my research project. Further stages will include speaking to people with island connections who are actively planning to move to an island, and to others who have already made the move. 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

In the first instance I would ask you to complete a short survey telling me a little more about who you are, what island connections you have, and how you stay involved in island life. You will then be given the option to say whether you would be interested in taking part in other research activities. You are welcome to complete the survey even if you do not wish to take part in any further research. If you say you would like to be contacted about being involved in future research your contact details will be stored separately from your survey answers so that your answers remain anonymous.

If you say you are interested in taking part in a focus group or interview I may contact you with an invitation to an online or in-person session where the discussion will include: how people continue to stay involved in island life, why they currently life off-island, and whether or not they would be interested in moving to an island one day. Further information about what would be involved will be provided if you are invited to take part in a focus group or interview.


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 members of specific island communities, 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.

You have the right to choose not to answer a question and / or to end your participation in the survey at any time. When you submit the survey, your information will be fully anonymised and added into a pool with other responses. Once the survey has been submitted 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 us identify and remove your responses.

Data management and storage

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. 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 your survey responses and 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

Other raw data, such as survey responses and recordings of focus groups, will be securely stored for the use of the research team for a maximum of 10 years, after which it will be deleted. Appropriately anonymised data may be stored in the university repository to help with future research in this area. All data will be managed in line with university policies designed to protect sensitive data, including the Data Protection Policy, Information Security Policy, and Research Data Management Policy and Guidance.

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:

Raw data and the identity of participants will not be shared with anyone outside the research team. The data you provide will be amalgamated for analysis with all other survey responses. Findings may be presented 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 your survey answers. 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 ticking a box on the online consent form at the start of the survey.


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 14/10/2022.

Take the survey

Now you have read the participant information, if you would like to take part you can head on over to the survey page. The survey should take 10-15 minutes to complete.