Writing the Hurley Story

Writing The Hurley and North Wyke Story

Roger Wilkins writes

I am responding to your email to Martin Blackwell.
We'd very much encourage you and your colleagues to go for it and also to try and get funding for a hard copy publication.
I put some of our views and experience on the attached. This incorporates some comments made by Steve. He and Martin may follow up with things that I have missed (or misrepresented).

Come back to us if you think we can be of further help. Do you have a hard copy of our book? Would be pleased to send one.
Best wishes - and remembering from quite a few years ago contacts with you in Brussels and on EU projects.


The Hurley and North Wyke Story: 60 years of Grassland Research

Some comments in relation to queries from Richard Hardwick

  1. This book has been extremely well received particularly by former members of staff (including people on staff in the very early days), present and new members of staff and visiting scientists/post-grad students who spent time working at Hurley and North Wyke. Many recipients have written or emailed with comments such as read it "from cover to cover". Others, I am sure will have scanned the vignettes and photographs and got much interest from perusal at that level. It has also attracted favourable comments from some with little connection with the Research Stations, who found it an interesting account of the adaptation of research and research structures during a period of tremendous change.

  2. We consider the effort well worthwhile and are pleased that we obtained sufficient funding to produce hard copies (available for free) as well as the internet version. The glossy hard cover edition has been much appreciated even amongst the most electronically orientated. It is very much a legacy document and the web is really too ephemeral.

  3. We started pretty well from scratch, with there being no start-to-end account of Hurley and no previous attempt to give some reflections on the social/cultural side of the Research Stations. I see that you already have a tremendous amount of material on your Google friends group, and this spans both technical and social and so the "returns" from producing something like our book may be less for Wellesbourne.

  4. Some of our important decisions:

    1. Approach We decided that we wanted to combine a record of development and achievement together with something of the flavour of the social and cultural side of life in the Institute. We also wanted to provide some signalling for the on-going programme at North Wyke. The main audience was to be previous and present members of staff and visiting scientists with other grassland scientists being a secondary audience.

    2. Boundaries As indicated in the title, the boundaries were the 60-year period and research (and activities) carried out (or led) from Hurley and North Wyke. It is not a comprehensive account of grassland research in UK. Setting these clear boundaries was very valuable in maintaining focus.

    3. Structure Reckoned we could achieve this by combination of a series of (generally single-author) chapters relating to development and major areas of research, together with a considerable number of short (c 250 word) articles by different authors relating to particular activities or particularly consequential 'discoveries'. A structure like this was we think a real key to the production of publication that has created wide interest and appreciation.

    4. Method of publication Whilst the fall back position would be putting the book only on the internet, we were keen to get hard copy publication if possible.

  5. We had a Steering Group of six people, including the three editors. In our circumstances this worked well and we were able to hold physical meetings as all lived close to North Wyke. It could though have been progressed pretty well entirely by email or tele-conference. Five of the group had had many years on staff and worked both at Hurley and North Wyke (three still on staff and two now retired), whilst the sixth (Martin Blackwell) is a relatively recent recruit to North Wyke staff and brought a valuable different perspective. Roger Wilkins and Steve Jarvis wrote the major chapters and were in a good position to do this from their involvement as active scientists and in senior management positions in the Institute; they probably also had a bit more time as they had retired from full-time work. Martin took on much of the collation of the effort and contact with the printers. All of the Steering Group were involved in final editing and compilation.

  6. Some reflections on how it all progressed:

    1. Financial We were disappointed not to get support from BBSRC, but had donations of approaching UKP 5,000. This was sufficient for the production of 1,000 copies of the 78-page book ( UKP 569), with a small amount left for postage (considerable extra postage cost funded by North Wyke Research). We called in a few favours from organisations and companies that had been associated with the Research Stations over the years. The biggest contribution was UKP 2,000 from the Stapledon Memorial Trust. We would really have liked to have sufficient funding for 1,500 copies and also for the production of a hard-backed book with rather smaller pages - to make it more a book, than a booklet - but we didn't have sufficient funds. I think with time we could have got more support, but we were working to quite a tight deadline.

    2. Production Draft texts were received promptly with little need for chasing. We did not have any photographic archive to use for early events at Hurley - much had been 'lost' with progressive Institute re-structuring. We should have put more effort earlier on to source appropriate photographs of high quality, but we got rather up against deadlines. You will probably be in a better position with good photographs already accessed. We gave our printer 'near camera ready' material - the photos still needed to be inserted. In retrospect, we would have probably been better to do a completely camera ready job, but we had not been confident about the reproduction quality of some of our candidate photos.

    3. Distribution We prepared a master list for initial distribution from various lists and contacts and have promoted availability through North Wyke website and British Grassland Society. Information on availability has travelled by 'word of mouth' and we have responded to requests. Fortunate to have been able to use admin. staff at North Wyke to deal with this.

    4. Feedback As noted earlier, this has been very positive.