Researchers partner with government, industry and community to address social challenges

Seven Fellows of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia are among the recipients of Australian Research Council Linkage grants announced by Minister for Education the Hon Dan Tehan MP on Friday.

With funding of almost $3.8 million, these projects will tackle issues including alcohol policy in the Northern Territory, real-time environmental water monitoring in Queensland rivers, loneliness and social isolation among older men, the roots of Australian democracy in colonial-era convict activism and stress-related productivity loss in emergency service personnel.

Academy President Professor Jane Hall said the breadth of projects and the wide variety of agencies and organisations supporting the work demonstrates the importance of the social sciences for understanding and addressing pressing societal challenges.

“Every major challenge we face in today’s world has a social component, and the expertise of social scientists is crucial to informing our understanding the problems and developing solutions,” she said.

“The willingness of governments, businesses and community organisations to work with our social scientists and with other researchers to address these issues speaks to the value of this expertise.

“The Australian Government is to be applauded for supporting these collaborative projects through the ARC Linkage scheme,” Professor Hall said.

The grants awarded to Academy Fellows include the following:

As project leaders:

  • Professor Kerrie Mengersen from the Queensland University of Technology leading a project to develop new statistical methods for providing near real-time anomaly detection in water monitoring systems. These new methods will have application in both urban water and river management settings, and the research is being undertaken in partnership with the Queensland Government and Healthy Land and Water Ltd.
  • Scientia Professor Richard Bryant from the University of NSW leading a project with workplace safety providers EML and iCare Lifetime Care to reduce stress-related absenteeism and compensation claims and to improve productivity of emergency services personnel.

As project co-investigators:

  • Emeritus Professor Michael Quinlan from the University of NSW working with the National Museum of Australia and a number of government and industry bodies to document for the first time the extent and character of convict activism in Australia’s colonial past, and the way in which this shaped our modern democracy.
  • Professor Jolanda Jetten and colleagues from the University of Qld working with a local community centre and men’s shed to understand how best to engage isolated and lonely people in ‘prescribed’ social activities.
  • Professor Robin Room from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at LaTrobe University working with the Northern Territory Government, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance and a number of other Aboriginal organisations to understand the impact of the re-introduction of Banned Drinkers Register in the NT.
  • Professor Stuart Macintyre and colleagues from the University of Melbourne working with the ACTU and the Union Education Foundation to understand the impact of a long-running union officials’ training program and the implications for workforce development in today’s less certain and deregulated labour market.
  • Professor Peter Spearritt and colleagues from the University of Queensland working with the State Library of Queensland to develop a comprehensive atlas of religious beliefs and practices in Queensland’s past and present.

/Public Release.