Scaling up qualitative research to harness the capacity of lay people in invasive plant management

Publication Name

Conservation Biology


Successful management of invasive plants (IPs) requires the active participation of diverse communities across land tenures. This can be challenging because communities do not always share the views of scientists and managers. They may directly disagree, have alternative views, or be unwilling to manage IPs. Reviews of IP social science identify opportunities to better understand the role of cultural processes and everyday practices to address these challenges. To scale up and leverage the insights of existing qualitative social science IP research, we used meta-ethnography to unlock accounts and interpretations of lay perspectives. Meta-ethnography is a form of qualitative research synthesis increasingly used beyond its origins in health and education to produce interpretive syntheses of an area of research. In the 7 phases of meta-ethnography, we systematically identified and synthesized 19 qualitative articles pertinent to lay experience and knowledge of IPs in diverse settings. Action and meaning regarding IPs were influenced by 6 meta-themes in personal and social life: dissonance, priorities, difference, agency, responsibility, and future orientations. Through descriptions and examples of each meta-theme, we demonstrated how the meta-themes are higher level structuring concepts across the qualitative research that we analyzed and we retained grounding in the in-depth qualitative research. We characterized the meta-themes as leverage points and tensions by which we reframed lay people in terms of capacity for reflective IP management rather than as obstacles. The meta-ethnography synthesis shows how leverage points and tensions emerge from everyday life and can frame alternative and meaningful starting points for both research and public engagement and deliberation regarding IP management. These insights are not a panacea, but open up new space for reflective and mutual consideration of how to effectively navigate often complex IP problems and address conservation and social and livelihood issues in dynamic social and physical environments.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)