As part of the research that went into this project, Montana State University's Kristin Smith spent time asking North Dakota and Montana community members about their experiences with being contacted for interviews, surveys, research, etc. As part of this, she convened a focus group. She also conducted individual interviews. Below you can read the transcripts from interviews with various community members, as well as some of the feedback from the focus group.

Kristin kicks off the focus group, Richland County, Montana, June 8, 2017.

K: Am I the only person who has asked you to participate in research? Do people have additional experiences?

R: Oh geez.

(General laughter. Implication that they had a lot of experience with others)...

Interview with a rancher in North Dakota

Interviewer: How many times have you been asked to sit down and do an interview, whether with a researcher like me or with the media?

Rancher: I'm trying to remember, I should write this stuff down. I will tell you there have been a handful of requests that either because of their entity or their approach I've just said no, there's probably been 6-7 of those. I'm trying to remember, between phone interviews and face to face just what I would call popular public, I would guess there's been... a 5-8 and then there's been one other researcher and I wish I could remember her name. What is her name? She too was... from Montana I thought. Do you want me to go back and find her card? Are you that interested in knowing?

Interviewer: I'm getting the impression that you've been talked to a lot and we want to make sure that our research is mutually beneficial, so do you have any advice on how can we make it more of a two-way street so it's not just us coming in and talking and see you later?

Rancher: Well after being through it, what's that saying no pain, no gain. I think if other communities have an understanding of as technology adapts to the current economic, socio-economic, socio-environment, and one of the things I'm thinking of specifically this shift from non-renewable fossils to renewables, there's a lot to be said about the downfalls and burden on surface ownership for a lot of the renewables. I think if you can engage communities in a way that they're planning and preparing, that that is beneficial and as I was saying as we got completely drug through the whatever you want to call it, the gauntlet, I think if other communities can learn what we went through… our lack of preparation, our lack of understanding of how big this impact would be... I will be real honest when I say this, North Dakota, I don't know how different our state law is from other states, but it is a very unpleasant place to be at the front line because there is just not consideration for balance, not consideration for local impacts ... and I hope that at some level good state policy can come forward too.

Interviewer: Are you still hoping to get your voice out? I'm trying to understand where that balance is?

Rancher: I think at first people were like, “we want people to know what's going on here. We feel like victims. We feel like we have nowhere to turn,” and then the phones started ringing and people started talking and then the product of those interviews were coming forward and they were not flattering in the least. My cousin’s [spouse] is one of the most rational people I know and … he was quoted in a very unfavorable way in a publication that clearly has an agenda and they had to disconnect their telephone. And he received hate mail. And I still... question if he was even quoted accurately, and then we went through that phase. We don't know who we want to talk to or who we don't want to talk to, and when it's emotionally raw you say things. I'm remembering one other research project so this is the third one….I'm still questioning what they will do with are much more open and willing to talk when you're not going to be cited and quoted but with popular press, 1) they quote you, and 2) it's frequently taken out of context. So I think people got to the point where they're like, okay if that's the way you want to paint me then I don't want to be painted. I think now people are just trying to figure out moving forward how we can protect our futures and so I think we're willing to still talk about that. The past is still difficult too.

Interviewer: I'd like to get some advice for best practices for researchers.

Rancher: This time of year is really difficult with the farming and ranching community. I don't know if you have control over that, usually winter is when you get your warm cup of coffee and you sit down.

Interview with a local government official

Interviewer: How many times have you been contacted to participate in research studies?

Government representative: I have been contacted probably a number of times, I don't know how many but most of them were by email. And they were college students or whatever and most of those I really discounted. And then I've been contacted a number of times by media people, and those I'm hit and miss on. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. It depends how that all starts out.As far as [a researcher] that came and went to the [local government] meeting and said I'm [NAME] and I was at the [local government] meeting and stuff like that, I don't recall anybody else ever really doing that. So the face to face is critical. And let's call it a pre-emptive strike of you coming to the meeting. That was critical also for me. The fact that you were at the meeting, committed some time to that and then said, hey I want to do an interview. Hey I'll work you in some place.

Interviewer: For the previous people that contacted you, did you ever hear back?

Government representative: Very seldom. I did do some surveys and stuff. Some of them would send a survey but again they're not getting good information, they're not doing in depth research. It's like they were trying to do a homework assignment and they were doing whatever minimally they had to do as far as to get that done. So there is a difference between doing research and saying you're doing research too.

Interviewer: [Asks about being quoted by researchers or the media]

Government representative: Sometimes with a reporter you say some things and you go that's not really what I meant. was half of one sentence and the back half of another sentence and I've seen reporters do that. And that's where you lose and that's part of the reason that sometimes you're probably going to get some no's, I don't want to talk to any researcher.Because they're trying to sell newspapers or their radio show and so the more sensational it can be that's where they're going to go. So you do have a tendency to avoid things like that.So yes, if you had contacted me, just out of the clear blue I would've probably agreed to an interview. I maybe wouldn't have met you in person or anything like that. But again your being at the meeting in there in person, you're committing some time and effort to it. I'm going,hey I'm going to do this one.

Interviewer: Do you have any advice you would give to communities that are at the beginning of a boom stage, how they could handle this influx of media requests or research requests?

Government representative: Not really, because that's a difficult thing as far as it's a lot easier to tell somebody how to handle their infrastructure needs or their water needs or things like that but when it comes to media or researchers, not everybody is like me, not everybody is going to be like [me] so they have to pick their way. I really don't know how I would advise somebody in a situation like that.

Interviewer: On a scale from 1 to 3 with 1 being not at all beneficial and 3 being neutral and 5 being very beneficial, how beneficial has your participation in the research been that you have participated in?

Government representative: Probably 3. It helps me to recount the history and tell the story a little bit, so that it stays a little fresher in my mind but beyond that, will I see some benefits from you and I spending a few hours here together? Probably not. It's more of a... I don't know the term for it. I think it's important that we do pass on information and things like that otherwise how do you expect anybody to. But I don't think I'll probably get much out of that.

Interviewer: [The interviewer asks what data or other information could be useful for the researchers to give back to the community]

Government representative: Data is critical to us as we plan.I don't know how we would really go out and plan for the future without the data that some of the researchers do... it is a critical piece so as opposed to just taking a shotgun and shooting up in the air, it's nice to have a model community that you can come back on and say they did this, they did that, this worked, this didn't work.

Interview with a local government employee

Interviewer: Do you get asked to participate in research frequently?

Government employee: I mean, no, I give city tours to people and we had a Wall Street Journalist here a month ago and I took her around for like a day just to see what [TOWN] is like. I enjoy that kind of stuff so I wouldn’t call it fatigue.

Interviewer: So the Wall Street Journal… came out with an article. Do you see that as being beneficial for the community?

Government employee: Oh yeah, very much so, yeah. I mean because what we’re looking for is job seekers that are interested in moving here. I think that article helped portray that. They like to use words like boom and bust and I don't feel like [TOWN] has ever gone through a bust. We experienced a downturn, but they were like “the shale oil town as looking back from the bust or whatever. Climbing out of the bust.” And I was like, well I don’t know if we busted. I think most people welcomed it as a chance to catch our breath type thing. And nobody wants to return to the levels that we were at before.

Interview with a teacher

The interviewer asks a question about advice the interviewee would give to communities that are just at the beginning of an energy boom phase. The interviewee, a teacher, also describes some of the many rapid changes that occurred in their very small town.

Teacher: Ohhh…You know…the one thing and maybe I wasn't too good at it right away. You know I moved back to [TOWN]. It was old [TOWN]. Started teaching here and I knew probably 90% of the kids, either because I had known their parents before I left or they had lived in town long enough that I had run into them at different events that we were back for.

And the most frustrating thing in [TOWN] was the traffic, for sure, when the oil boom started, before the bypass and everything opened. The stoplight that you come down through here, by the fairgrounds, there was no stoplight there.

So, two-lane road, no turning lanes, no nothing, so at the height of the boom there would be somebody down trying to take a left hand turn - a truck or somebody - and the traffic coming out of town was steady. They couldn’t turn. And traffic would be backed up all the way past the golf course. All the way up to that. I mean, a mile and a half….2 miles of traffic because one guy was trying to take a turn!

We had two local grocery stores. The lines were huge, the shelves were bare, they just couldn't get stuff in fast enough.

So at the beginning of that, I was less than impressed. We’ll put it that way. …and then some of the attitude. It was our hometown, and a lot of the new ones - we were outnumbered by a long, long ways. There was a lot of clashing. Lots of letters to the editor from local people about garbage in the ditches and this, that, and the other thing. When I started on this project with that group though, really the forward thinkers and then when I learned what was going to happen - the new bypass that was being planned and all of those things and the new grocery store.

There were those people who said, ‘We just gotta make it through this. It is going to turn out well.’ And now that it’s slowed down, absolutely, I think it has. I mean it really – [TOWN] is a different place, but it certainly offers a lot more opportunities than when I first moved back. You know, I'm sure my parents thought that I would never move back or have the opportunity to move back. I never thought my kids would have the opportunity to move back here. But, absolutely they will now.

The first part, I wanted it to be my same little town of 1,500 people where you knew everybody on the street and in the grocery store. But now older and looking at my daughter, she’s going to be a junior next year, I'm excited at the possibilities that they'll be able to come back and live here and find something to do.

So yeah, get through it. Take a breath. Take a breath and get through it. That's all you can do. It is a whirlwind, and it's not much fun, but if you can stay with it through the end and hopefully get a chance to catch your breath and then look back and kind of see what – take a good look at what actually has happened and what things, what good things have happened. It does…I don’t think about the traffic very much anymore. Kind of clouds the bad ones out when you walk into things like this [pointing at a new municipal building]. Makes you appreciate the changes that have happened.

Interview with a citizen in an energy-impacted community

Interviewer: When you participate in [research] studies do you get any benefits from doing them?

Citizen: The only benefit we'd ever received is maybe public recognition, public awareness of the project as you write a story. As long as it’s in a positive manner, I guess however it's portrayed can be beneficial to us, someone seeing it from not involved in the project, an outside person looking in and expressing their support of it or whatever, where those things on the other side that can also have a negative side if they portray it in a negative manner so we've had them both... ways...

Sometimes the facts that they compile can be beneficial as they are dealing with some of those... or rounding up all that information from different entities that we don't really deal with. So seeing some of those facts can be beneficial to us. Other than that it's more or less part of my job is educating as well, not only promoting the project but educating people as we move forward. The more people that understand it or will be more supportive of it and the concept of it.

Interviewer: Do you typically hear back from folks, like will they send you an end product?

Citizen: I would say that's probably been part of the... negative part of it is you don't always hear back what they wrote. You take the time and I always find it interesting, I like to see the end product or where it was... put out to or what was done for and here's my article, here's my finished product. Some people are good at that and some people aren't. Never did see the final thing, product. It's been a mix.

Interviewer: [What advice would you give researchers?] Make sure you get them the final product?

Citizen: Yeah I think so. If you're compiling a lot of information, I think the ones involved would like to see what you came up with. And a lot of times if you're using quotes, like you said, I'd like to have you read it if I'm going to list your name on it before I print it just to make sure I'm understanding you correctly, where we've had that come out too, where on purpose some people have done it, taken bits and pieces of things that I've said but... just by taking those little bits and pieces it can make it sound like I was being totally... it's choice journalism... and this whole thing was set up to be really a public/private partnership.

Survey from a Texas Energy Impacted Community Citizen

Survey: Describe your personal experiences (if any) interacting/working with researchers investigating the impacts of shale energy development in/around your community.  

Citizen: Most of my interview experiences resulted from my position as a school district leader/community leader.  I participated in individual face-to-face interviews and group interviews.  One interview was video recorded.  

Survey: If you interacted or worked with researchers, please elaborate on any interactions that were particularly positive and/or negative. Why would you describe these interactions as particularly positive or negative?

Citizen: All of my interactions were positive, but that's because I personally enjoy assisting with research.  Once, a university student who is a native of Kenya interviewed me to discuss renewable energy vs. non-renewable energy and the resulting industry impact on a community.  

I realize that the researchers are supposed to ask most of the questions, but I enjoyed asking the student about her own experiences with energy development in her home country.

Survey: Do you believe it is important that researchers share their findings/results with the members of the community? Why or why not?

Citizen: I think it's extremely important to share the findings with the community.  This practice shows that the members' participation is useful.  Not taking the time to share the findings would make it much less likely that anyone would be interested in participating in future research interviews.

Survey: To what extent have researchers who have conducted studies in/around your community shared the findings/results with the local citizens? Please elaborate.

Citizen: I remember only one time when researchers shared their findings with our local citizens.  It's possible it happened more than once, but the one time is all I can remember.  The researchers scheduled two public sessions for the community to listen to the findings.  In the session I went to, most of the attendees were community leaders.  It wasn't a large crowd, but the sign-in sheet showed the previous session having more people.  

The information shared that I remember most didn't really have much to do directly with the actual findings.  The researchers politely commented several times that our community and another nearby community had some of the lowest research participation rate that the researchers had ever seen.  I was very disappointed (and a little embarrassed) that our community members weren't interested in participating in the research.

Survey: What might be the best way(s) for researchers to share findings/results? (community meetings, print media, electronic media, etc.?)

Citizen: This definitely depends on the target audience.  I think our older community members would prefer community meetings and print media (as long as the print media is visually easy to read and only one or two pages) to receive the findings.  Electronic media is the best way to share information with anyone who is under the age of 50.

Survey: What (if any) advice would you have for researchers planning to study issues (energy-related issues or any other issue) in your community?

Citizen: It seems to me that the primary roadblock is simply finding enough people who are willing to participate in the research.  I would ask for assistance from as many community leaders as possible to recruit people for the study.