Be part of an elite PhD cohort working with CSIRO and UQCSIRO

Below you will find details of the eight available projects including a project description, memebers of the advisory team, UQ enrolling unit and CSIRO Future Science Platform. The projects cover a range of research areas and the academic background of the ideal candidate is different for each project.

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Decision-making, uncertainty and risk communication about novel biotechnologies

Project description

The proposed PhD program will investigate the role of science in lay decision-making about novel biological systems, specifically, synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is a new field of research, which involves designing and building new biological organisms (i.e., plants, animals, micro-organisms etc.) so that they may perform new functions. While academics, applied scientists and policy advisors rely on empirical data and evidence-based theories to make decisions about novel technologies such as synthetic biology, the ways in which lay publics form their opinions about these technologies may depend on their initial emotional reactions, the opinions of significant others and/or their trust in science and the governance of technologies, among other factors. The PhD candidate will work towards understanding the range of inputs to lay publics’ decisions about novel technology and to use these insights to identify effective ways for scientists and/or scientific agencies to communicate with the general public or other important stakeholders. The project will specifically address the following research questions:

  • What is the role of scientific evidence in informing opinions about novel technologies? What other key factors inform opinions and perceptions of risks and benefits?
  • What types of science communication messages and methods are effective and impactful in developing socially responsible engagement with the lay public?

This research is an important step in maximising the impact of Synthetic Biology science, as it will help to establish effective communication pathways between scientists and those receiving the message – whether it be the general public or other important stakeholders.

Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate should have a major in social psychology, cognitive psychology or health psychology, with a minor in sociology, political science, public policy, decision science, risk communication or health communication. They should also be skilled in experimental research methods.

Advisory team

UQ

Associate Professor Kelly Fielding: k.fielding@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Aditi Mankad & Dr Elizabeth Hobman
UQ enrolling unit School of Communication and Arts
CSIRO Future Science Platform Synthetic Biology

You are what you eat: Understanding uptake of new personalised foods for improved health

Project description

The rise of consumer genetics has seen increasing access to and use of personalised genetic testing for a range of uses from recreational ancestry studies to targeted health management. Alongside this, increasing information is being passively collected via sensors in many modern technologies and lifestyle apps that continuously monitor, collect and share data about ourselves and our environment. Given that genome sequencing has made it possible to unlock a person’s unique DNA identity and the increasing ubiquity of personal data collection, we now have the capacity to develop and deliver highly personalised services and experiences and these are increasingly sought after. The personalisation of food to suit our unique genetic/environmental identity is one area that has the potential to deliver tailored health, performance and well-being outcomes.

There is a shift toward increasing our understanding of how nutritional aspects form part of a broader suite of decisions people make about their food choices and dietary patterns. From this, key questions in relation to the social context and factors that may influence the potential uptake of personalised foods may include:

  • Who is the ideal consumer of personalised foods or supplements?
  • What are the perceived benefits of choosing an alternative to mass produced foods?
  • What are the potential risks or negative factors that a consumer may experience from having or accessing personalised foods? What impact will these risks have on acceptance/use?
  • What drives a consumer to seek out personalised food?
  • Does social identity play a role in influencing these decisions? If so, how?
Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate will have a background in social science with (required):

  • Honours degree or Masters degree in sociology, anthropology, or related field.
  • Experience using quantitative and/or qualitative methods.
  • Demonstrated scientific writing skills.

The ideal candidate would also have:

  • Experience conducting semi-structured in-depth interviews.
  • Experience conducting survey research.
  • An interest in nutrition or the social science of food.
  • The willingness to travel as required for portions of the PhD candidature.
Advisory team

UQ

Dr Mair Underwood: m.underwood@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Nicholas Archer & Dr Astrid Poelman

UQ enrolling unit School of Social Science
CSIRO Future Science Platform Active Integrated Matter

Individualised preventative health, privacy and consent

Project description

Health care interventions are drawing on more detailed datasets to help us understand and manage health at individual and population scales. This results in rich datasets that provide a magnitude of data that can be used to enhance individualised or Precision Preventative Health Technologies (PPHT). Obtaining user consent and compliance with applicable (e.g., ethics) rules remains as the major challenge. How can the potential uses of these datasets be accurately captured and reflected in the consent provided by consumers? To what extent do consumers understand the use of data and its implication on privacy and security when consent is given? How can the security and privacy protocols be designed to give users custody of their own data and in this way establish trust in the data (e.g., by researcher) and data platform (e.g., by consumer). This research project work towards creating a cognitive understanding regarding security and privacy implications when providing consent.

Ideal candidate

The candidate should have a strong interest and research grounding in aspects of human behaviour, trust, security and privacy. Prior knowledge of computer science and/or cyber security and an interest in philosophical ethics would also be advantage.

Advisory team

UQ

Associate Professor Andrew Crowden: a.crowden@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

Dr Caitlin Curtis: c.curtis@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Marthie Grobler & Dr Seyit Camtepe
UQ enrolling unit School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry
CSIRO Future Science Platform Precision Health

Using AI and Indigenous knowledge to make better environmental decisions

Project description

Biodiversity is facing numerous threats across the globe, causing species extinctions and ecosystem losses. New analysis shows that most of the planet’s vital ecosystems and threatened species are managed on lands owned by Indigenous people. Indigenous groups face many challenges in managing these lands, including decreasing investment and rapidly growing threats to significant species. These challenges require Indigenous groups to do more with less (and at a faster pace) in order to sustainably manage their traditional estates. In the face of such demands, Indigenous groups are increasingly recognising the need to embrace technological advances to address some of their most pressing problems—specifically, technology that can incorporate Indigenous knowledge (IK) and small data sets to find solutions to complex environmental management problems. AI and digital platforms offer a clear means to inform Indigenous decision makers as they evaluate potential land management options, implement new initiatives, and track ongoing performance. Digital technologies have gained significant traction in Indigenous communities for applications such as communication, Indigenous Knowledge recording, and natural resource management. The responsible application of digital innovation to Indigenous on-country management and enterprise development remains under-investigated. This project will explore this innovation pathway, supporting Indigenous/sustainable development/research partnerships and the realisation of Reconciliation Action Plans and/or Sustainable Development Goal targets

Ideal candidate

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged to apply for this PhD scholarship. The candidate will work in a multidisciplinary and cross-institutional context and so strong oral and written communication and teamwork skills are required. The candidate should have a background in cross-cultural social science and/or business studies, with an interest in focusing on rural and remote area livelihoods. Previous research and/or personal experience of cross-cultural contexts is essential, with experience of Indigenous Australian contexts preferred. The candidate will need to have a strong interest in agribusiness research and innovation. Research knowledge about the adoption and use of digital technologies would also be beneficial, but is not essential. The research can use different theoretical and conceptual lenses and involve a mix of qualitative and quantitative techniques depending on the skills and interests of the applicant, with community and sectoral impact from the research being a clear criteria for methods selection.

Advisory team

UQ

Associate Professor Tim Kastelle: tim.kastelle@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Cathy Robinson & Dr Justin Perry
UQ enrolling unit Business School
CSIRO Future Science Platform Supported by Environomics Future Science Platform

Shaping the digital revolution in agriculture: understanding ethical, legal and social implications

Project description

We are looking to host a PhD candidate with an interest in conducting applied social science regarding the digitalisation of agricultural systems and associated societal implications, focusing on either policy, governance, ethical, social and/or diversity dimensions. 

Potential research questions could include: what are the implications of emerging and diverse models of governance of digital agriculture technologies? How do issues of trust and transparency shape people’s perceptions of these new technologies?  How do the emerging technologies impact on and interact with the governance of agricultural production and supply chains, including how this might transform environmental management and surveillance? How can the digitalisation of agricultural systems transform policy making and service delivery processes in the agricultural sector?

Social lenses of interest (or a combination of) that could be used include:

  • Responsible Research and Innovation
  • Agricultural Innovation Systems
  • Co-innovation in agricultural settings
  • Actor-network theory
  • Institutional logics
  • Power relations
  • Community resilience
  • Rural sociology
  • Digital sociology
  • Science and technology studies
Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate would have an interest in the societal implications of digitalisation as it applies to agricultural systems along with skills and a methodological background in applied social science.  This would involve applying emerging theoretical and conceptual lenses to the gathering of qualitative, quantitative and/or mixed data collection, analysis and extension of results in iterative cycles to various audiences. Prerequisites include:

  • A willingness to engage with and contribute as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • An interest in different worldviews, diversity and social inclusion
  • A willingness to acquire experience with the peer review process in applied social science
  • An ability to communicate openly within various internal and external audiences
A drive to lead the production of individual and team findings in peer reviewed literature.
Advisory team

UQ

Associate Professor Kristen Lyons: kristen.lyons@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

Dr Kiah Smith: k.smith2@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Emma Jakku & Dr Simon Fielke

UQ enrolling unit School of Social Science
CSIRO Future Science Platform Digiscape

The impact of cultural diversity on the development and use of novel biological systems

Project description

Synthetic biology is a new field of research, which involves designing and building new biological organisms (i.e., plants, animals, micro-organisms etc.) so that they may perform new functions. The successful application of advanced technologies such as those presented by synthetic biology applications will require consideration of the multiple and diverse cultural contexts in which any these applications are deployed.

Australia has a highly multicultural society, a distinctive First Nations population, and is part of the culturally diverse and rapidly expanding Asia-Pacific region. Yet multicultural perspectives relating to the need, effectiveness and impact of advanced technologies remains poorly understood in the Australian context. The systematic investigation and consequent inclusion of a broader range of worldviews about synthetic biology in the decision making phases of research and development will enable more equitable and culturally responsive approaches to innovation. It will also increase understanding of local, national and wider regional target markets for novel applications.

This research will prioritise qualitative techniques to empirically explore how major ethnic groups residing in Australia make sense of and are affected by prospective novel biological engineering applications, targeting sectors (e.g. food, health, environmental management) where cultural diversity and difference may play a key role in development, implementation, and uptake.

Ideal candidate

The candidate will work in a multidisciplinary and cross-institutional context and so the ideal candidate should have well-developed qualitative skills (for example, in-depth interviews, focus groups and participant observation), an ability to effectively communicate cross-culturally and be motivated to work collaboratively. A focus on designing and communicating research for diverse audiences in real-world settings is also desirable. Approaches and disciplinary perspectives used to explore this topic may include applied humanities (eg applied philosophy - ethics), applied social science (eg science and technology studies; cultural anthropology; human geography) and/or other relevant interdisciplinary approaches (eg Indigenous studies). The potential for community and sectoral impact from the research will be clear criteria for skills selection. The researcher will provide in-depth analysis of key issues such as the differential effects of Synbio applications on target populations. The candidates’ direct experience of cultural diversity will be an influential factor in selection, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be encouraged to apply for this role.

Advisory team

UQ

Associate Professor Kristen Lyons: kristen.lyons@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Lucy Carter & Dr Marcus Barber
UQ enrolling unit School of Social Science
CSIRO Future Science Platform Synthetic Biology

Understanding consumer perspectives on novel and future health technologies

Project description

Technology significantly impacts how health care is delivered and accessed, and recent years have seen the development of with novel and exciting health applications such as genetic tests to identify disease biomarkers and wearable sensors to passively track activity and support lifestyle interventions. Although these technologies hold great promise to improve health, they also unlock new ethical dilemmas, data security concerns; and the perspective of the consumer is rarely prioritised in application design. The current project will investigate these issues from the perspectives of consumers and the broader Australian community, drawing upon methodologies including discourse analysis of media texts to understand community-level concerns around previous/recent events (e.g. My Health Record, 2016 ABS census), and citizen juries to elicit the consumer voice and understand their wants, expectations, and concerns surrounding new health technologies. Findings may be used to inform policy and the design of user-centred health applications into the future.

Ideal candidate

The project will employ a range of research methodologies and include face-to-face conversations with members of the community. The ideal candidate will therefore possess a sound understanding of basic social science research principles, including the design, administration, and analysis of survey or interview-based data collection methods, and excellent communication skills and ability to build rapport with diverse groups of people. An interest in the intersection between technology and health is also desirable, as well as flexibility and openness to learn new research skills.

Advisory team

UQ

Associate Professor Paul Henman: p.henman@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

Dr Rebecca Olson: r.olson@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr David Cox & Dr Jillian Ryan
UQ enrolling unit School of Social Science
CSIRO Future Science Platform Precision Health

Using probabilistic information for decision making in resource evaluation & environmental impact

Project description

A key research area of CSIRO’s Deep Earth Imaging Future Science Platform is to provide probabilistic information on resources located deep beneath the subsurface to decision-makers. Examples of such information include the probability that a gold deposit can be found, the probability that a gas field will continue to produce gas for the next ten years or the probability that a mine development will have minimal environmental impact. These probabilities are primarily calculated through Bayesian inference of geological and geophysical knowledge and data. However, the decisions that are ultimately made with this information will guide future trajectories of resource development in Australia. Such decisions have significant environmental, economic and societal implications.

Behavioural economics suggests that decision-makers may process information selectively, and that, relatedly, the nature of the decision problem (e.g. investment in exploration vs. environmental impacts) may skew how probabilistic information is used to make decisions. This has the potential to affect how market decisions are made but also the mechanisms that drive public choice. Using experimental economics methods, the PhD seeks to explore (1) how probabilistic geoscience information is used in different sectors and (2) how geoscience researchers can tailor the communication of probabilistic information to optimise its use by decision makers.

Ideal candidate

The ideal candidate will have undergraduate training in economics and be familiar with the use of advanced statistics and econometrics. Prior knowledge of and a strong interest in experimental and behavioural economics would be advantage. Prior knowledge of geoscience and/or software programming is desired (but not essential).

Advisory team

UQ

Professor Daniel Zizzo: soe-hos@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

Associate Professor Lana Friesen: l.friesen@uq.edu.au, researcher profile

CSIRO

Dr Luk Peeters
UQ enrolling unit School of Economics
CSIRO Future Science Platform Deep Earth Imaging

Eligibility for the PhD program

Eligibility requirements for the UQ PhD program must be met and these are in addition to the preferred academic background of the ideal candidate listed against each of the projects.

A PhD is one of the highest degrees that can be awarded. It is an advanced academic qualification seen as a requirement for the majority of academic and research positions in a wide range of fields and industries. The aim of the PhD is to foster the development of independent research skills. These skills include the capacity to formulate a significant problem, to develop mastery of appropriate conceptual and methodological skills, and to relate the research topic to a broader framework of knowledge in a relevant disciplinary area.

Duration: Up to 4 years (full time)
Assessment:

Students are required to produce a thesis of no more than 80,000 words, with the research representing a significant new contribution to the discipline.

Minimum qualifications:

Subject to approval of the Dean, UQ Graduate School, the University accepts qualifications equivalent to a UQ bachelor's degree with honours class IIA or better, which is the standard basis of admission.

This must include a relevant research component as described in the 'Relevant Research Experience' section of this site.

Minimum level of academic achievement:

To meet the Graduate School admissions requirements for a PhD you would need to provide evidence of one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree with honours class IIA or better from approved universities, which should include a relevant research component.
  • A research master’s degree
  • A coursework master’s degree and an overall GPA (grade point average) equivalent to 5.65 on the 7-point UQ scale, which should include a relevant research component.
  • A postgraduate degree of at least one year full-time equivalent with an overall GPA (grade point average) equivalent to 5.0 on the 7-point UQ scale, together with demonstrated research experience equivalent to honours IIA will be considered for PhD entry on a case by case basis.
  • A bachelor’s degree plus at least two years of documented relevant research experience, including research publications.
English language proficiency requirements apply.
Relevance of degree: The completed degree must be in an area that is relevant to the intended PhD, including sufficient specialisation such that the applicant will have already developed an understanding and appreciation of a body of knowledge relevant to the intended PhD.
Currency of applicant's knowledge The applicant’s degree and/or professional experience must demonstrate that the applicant’s knowledge of the discipline in which they plan to undertake their PhD is current. It is therefore expected that an applicant will have completed their tertiary studies and/or any relevant professional experience in the ten years immediately prior to their intended entry to the PhD.
Program 
rules:
Commencement dates:

Enrolment in the PhD program is in research quarters and commencement in a research quarter is fixed to a specific period. 

Terms and conditions

Read the UQ Research Scholarships terms and conditions.

  • The student will relinquish the Scholarship if their PhD project changes such that it is outside the scope of that project description.
  • The student will be required to participate in various cohort activities associated with the CSIRO-UQ Responsible Innovation PhD cohort.
  • Students will be required to sign a Student and Intellectual Property Agreement to accept their offer.   

Apply now

To apply for the CSIRO-UQ Responsible Innovation scholarships, follow the instructions below. 

Prior to applying, check your eligibility for the PhD program (above) and prepare your documentation.

You should also contact the UQ members of the advisory team for your preferred project to discuss your suitability prior to submitting an application.

The button below will take you to UQ's Online Application portal.

Please ensure that you

  1. select 'I am applying for, or have been awarded a scholarship or sponsorship'
  2. enter this text in the free-text field title of the scholarship: CSIRO-UQ-RI
  3. list the UQ enrolling unit as it appears in your preferred project
  4. enter the first listed UQ researcher as your supervisor

Apply now