Where Are They Now? - ESAI Postgraduate Researcher 2014 Richard Manton

Welcome to the first part of the ESAI WHERE ARE THEY NOW? series where we will be revisiting our postgraduate of the year winners throughout the years. First up is Dr Richard Manton who was our inaugural winner in 2014 for his research titled “Route Selection and Design of Greenways: Guidance for the Irish National Cycle Network”.

1. What role are you currently working in?

I’m the Policy Officer & Deputy Registrar at Engineers Ireland, the professional body for 25,000 engineers, where I work on policy development, public affairs and academic standards. This includes advocacy on safety, sustainability and innovation in construction, utilities and manufacturing. I’m also a Non-Executive Director of Bus Éireann, the national bus company, where I provide strategic direction and independent oversight.

2. How did you feel when you found out you won ESAI postgraduate of the year in 2014?

I was delighted to win the inaugural ESAI postgraduate of the year. I have always found that ESAI initiatives and conferences promoted collaboration and winning the prize encouraged me to explore more multidisciplinary environmental research (soon afterwards, I took up a research position in the School of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway). One need only look at the recent general election campaign to see the increasing need for social and technical scientific collaboration for climate action.


3. Your PhD work largely focused on the design of safe, accessible, and environmentally-friendly greenways. Are you pleased with the direction Ireland is taking with regard to investing in its greenway infrastructure?

It has been great to see some of the progress made in recent years: for example, the Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways was published in 2018, €40 million in greenway funding was announced last June and several new routes have opened (I particularly enjoyed cycling the Waterford Greenway, which opened in 2017). However, many greenways are facing planning challenges and we are a long way off a truly national and connected greenway network. Also, it is important that greenways are not seen as a panacea for cycling; we need to do much more to make our urban areas safe, accessible and attractive for walking and cycling.

4. Do you have any advice for those PG students who may be thinking about applying this year?

I would advise potential applicants to pay particular attention to outreach and impact. Researchers are accustomed to defining impact in terms of peer-reviewed publications, but the ESAI prize criteria look for economic/environmental/societal impact. I would encourage applicants to work, where possible, with community and education partners to apply their research in context (I enjoyed a great relationship with Galway City Council and the NUI Galway Buildings Office). Finally, II would encourage researchers to attend the annual Environ conference. Each year, over six years as a postgrad and a postdoc, I found this event to be a useful opportunity to hone presentation skills, hear from other fields and meet a wide-range of environmental researchers.

5. And most importantly (if you don’t mind answering), did you put the €500 prize money to good use?

I probably spent the prize money on living costs, such as one month’s rent (it can be difficult to get by on a PhD scholarship for four years!). It is shocking to think that, with a 50% increase in rent prices in just five years, €500 will not come close to covering one month’s rent for many of today's postgraduate students. Maintenance grants and scholarships should be increased to encourage more students to pursue research and make a contribution to knowledge.


Further information on Richard’s research may be found here. Many thanks to Richard for his sharing with us his experiences wise words, and we wish him the very best of luck in all his future endeavours! This years competition will be launched on April 29th 2020 whereby the winning entrant will receive a prize of €500, and an invitation to present at Environ 2021! Click here for information on how to apply.


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