2018 Scientia PhD Scholarships

As part of the UNSW Strategy 2025, the University is looking to enrol up to 700 new PhD scholars of exceptional quality over the next 10 years under the Scientia PhD Scholarship Scheme.

These prestigious scholarships will include a stipend of $40,000 per annum for 4 years and a support package of up to $10,000 per annum to support development activities and international collaboration. Scientia scholars will have a strong commitment to making a difference in the world with potential for contributing to the social engagement and/or global impact pillars of the 2025 Strategy.

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2018 Arts & Social Sciences priority research areas

Potential Scientia scholars can select from the following priority research areas within UNSW Arts & Social Sciences and corresponding research project. Candidates will be matched with our best researchers in these targeted areas with demonstrated excellence in supervision.

For project descriptions and links to the application process please expand the information below.

Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Personalised Learning

Migrant Subjects, Literary Work and Literary Circulation in a Global World

Primary Supervisor - Dr. Mira Kim.

Personalised English Language Enhancement (PELE) was developed to help international students improve their English language skills at UNSW in 2016. It is based on the Personalised Autonomous model (Kim 2014), which is aimed at guiding students to improve their own specific linguistic limitations through developing and implementing a personal project. The course has proved highly efficient in helping students improve their language skills and self-efficacy (Kim et al in preparation). This project aims to enhance students’ experience of PELE by developing a diagnostic assessment to help students identify their linguistic needs and to explore its long-term impact on student learning.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Iranian Studies

The Gendered Imaginaries of Iranian Diasporic Cinema

Primary Supervisor - Dr. Michelle Langford

Decades of socio-political upheaval have led to the establishment of large Iranian diasporic communities in the USA, Australia and Europe. Among these communities, women have established careers in the creative arts and cinema in relatively large numbers. This project will focus on the work of Iranian diasporic women filmmakers and will apply critical frameworks such as cultural studies and feminist film theory. The research will examine how these filmmakers are giving voice and image to women's experience in ways that are impossible in their homeland due to the imposition of strict censorship of women's images, bodies and sexuality

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Migrant Studies

Migrant Subjects, Literary Work and Literary Circulation in a Global World

Primary Supervisor - Dr. Fiona Morrison

In the current world, cross-cultural mobility operates in a number of ways across a wide geographical scale and the Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts have been central in representing and negotiating these ranges of experiences. We are interested in supervising projects that investigate the literary representations of migrant mobilities in late modernity, including those by refugees. We are particularly interested in the ways in which questions of gender, genre and geography frame these representations. The modes of circulations of literary texts in and around global literary systems, including aspects of translation, publication and reception might form a key aspect of this project.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Theatre

Theatre of the Real

Primary Supervisor -   Dr. Meg Mumford

This project explores the politics of participation and representation in “theatre of the real” named after Carol Martin’s groundbreaking work on theatre about real events in her book of the same title (2013). Such theatre explicitly cites or summons the real world and its problems and is an increasingly prominent form of performance internationally. It includes, for example, autobiographical, community-based, documentary, participatory, relational, re-enactment, testimonial and participatory practices. Often involving vulnerable or marginalised people, theatre of the real casts these participants as “everyday experts” with valuable knowledge derived from their lived experience. This project investigates what happens when such experts meet theatre professionals and spectators. To this end it explores the complex politics and ethics that surround the process of representing and empowering real people through theatre.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - World Literature

International Australian Literary Cultures

Primary Supervisor -  Associate Professor Brigitta Olubas

This project aims to develop and support new research into Australia’s global literary contexts. It directs attention to literature that addresses Australian migration, dislocation, expatriation and the exchange of goods, practices and ideas. It asks what literature can tell us about the pressing matter of Australia’s place in the world, specifically the displacements and resistances of Australia’s Indigenous peoples and cultures, our ongoing relations with peoples and cultures of Oceania and the Asia-Pacific, and our relations with distant and diverse cultures and locations. It also focuses on the importance of translation as a defining modality of Australian literary culture.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Political Philosophy

Bridging the Analytic-Continental Divide: Foucault and Normative Political Theory

Primary Supervisor -  Scientia Professor Paul Patton

Towards a historical conception of public reason and rights: The interest of working between Analytic and Continental traditions was the focus of a special issue of the European Journal of Political Theory (April 2016, 15:2), to which I contributed. This project will pursue this innovative research agenda by bringing together the historical focus of French philosopher Michel Foucault and the normative focus of American philosopher John Rawls. By showing how public reason and associated concepts of justice and right should be understood in a historical frame, it will demonstrate the interest and fertility of working across traditions widely considered incommensurable.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Music

Musical Expression in Real Time - Interdisciplinary Approaches

Primary Supervisor - Professor Emery Schubert

Expressiveness in music is poorly understood because of the lack of interdisciplinary perspectives. The proposal will bring together musician, audience and composer perspectives to produce a ground-breaking model of musical expression, exploiting the latest developments in continuous response measurement, allowing researchers to visualise the dynamic aspects of expressive playing and how it influences the listener in real time. In addition to a deep understanding of performance and research, the successful candidate will bring a variety of skills in software data collection, processing and visualisation. Musicians will for the first time understand musical expression beyond current music theory and speculation.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Japanese Language Education

Sociocultural Enquiries into Japanese Language Education

Primary Supervisor -  Professor Chihiro Thomson

Enquiries into Japanese language education can take many shapes. They may range from examinations of second language acquisition, and investigations of Japanese discourses, to analyses of learners’ and teachers’ voices, motivations, and identities, and surveys of Japanese language education in classrooms and school communities. This project encompasses a range of enquiries with a common theoretical understanding of the sociocultural approach, which emphasises interdependence of social and individual processes in the co-construction of knowledge. It embraces studies which proactively feed back to classroom practices, enhances learner and teacher well-being, and positively contribute to the betterment of the multicultural multilingual world.

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Contemporary Humanities and Creative Arts - Multispecies Studies

Multispecies Studies: Rethinking Human/Wildlife Interactions

Primary Supervisor -  Associate Professor Thom van Dooren

Multispecies Studies is an emerging field of interdisciplinary research that draws the humanities into dialogue with the biological sciences and ethnographic methods to better understand the shifting and highly consequential relationships between human communities and wildlife in a period of escalating social and environmental change. Providing new perspectives on issues as diverse as biodiversity loss, climate change and globalization, work in this area seeks to better understand and intervene in human/wildlife interactions to produce more sustainable, equitable and flourishing outcomes for all parties.

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Global Health - Sociology of Health and Illness

A Sociological Study of Antimicrobial use and Resistance in India

Primary Supervisor -  Professor Alex Broom

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is set to be the challenge of the 21st Century, and AMR itself (i.e. the proliferation of resistant bacteria) and its remedies (i.e. the restriction of antibiotics) will disproportionately affect developing countries (due to limited access to prescribed antibiotics) and poorer communities in developed nations (more prone to infection and poorer access to high-level, formalised services). There is very limited work being done globally to meld critical sociology with concerns around AMR, and virtually no work has been done in India. With an emphasis on developing new and critical understandings of the social underpinnings of antimicrobial use and resistance in India, this project will involve periods of fieldwork and data collection in the subcontinent, with a focus on how factors such as enduring and emerging inequalities, access to care, structural violence, governance practices and so on, shape antimicrobial use in the subcontinent (and beyond). Partnering with IIT Hyderabad, the project will involve immersion in communities in India to explore everyday infection management practices, the impact of resistance within communities, and the interplay of cultural beliefs and structural constraints on community antimicrobial use and misuse.

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Global Health - HIV Prevention

Understanding Personal, Social and Community Effects of Biomedical HIV Prevention

Primary Supervisor -  Associate Professor Martin Holt.

The last decade has transformed the practices of HIV prevention. Sustained HIV treatment (‘treatment as prevention’) and taking antiretroviral drugs prophylactically (‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’) have both been shown to be highly effective in preventing HIV transmission, and are endorsed internationally and increasingly promoted in many countries. Biomedical prevention disrupts the ways in which people conceptualise risk and practise safe sex, gives rise to new identities and practices, and affect the ways in which communities respond effectively to HIV. We are seeking students who will examine these issues in depth, using qualitative methods (such as interviewing, participant observation or media analysis).

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Global Health - International Development

Health, Rights and Development - Towards 2025

Primary Supervisor -  Professor Anthony Zwi

Health, rights, disasters and development are all pressing issues at the current time - both in Australia, in the Asia-Pacific and further afield. The recent agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals has set an ambitious agenda for global development. Ambitious approaches to developing innovative approaches to eradicating poverty, promoting gender equity, and achieving universal access to health are important but elusive, especially in marginalised populations. This project will bring together cross-disciplinary thinking to propose and carefully evaluate innovations, policy solutions, and the engagement of affected communities. A key issue will be to "leave no one behind".

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Grand Challenges - Poverty

Poverty and Inequality in an International Context

Primary Supervisor -  Associate Professor Bruce Bradbury

The past three decades have seen major changes in labour markets, savings patterns and social protection systems. Wage inequality and intergenerational wealth inequality have increased as both labour and capital markets have experienced major shocks. What impact have these changes had on poverty and income inequality? How have social protection systems responded to these changes in Australia and other countries? What are the implications for newly industrialising countries? The project will draw upon Australian income and wealth survey data as well the Luxembourg Income Study - a cross-national database of household income and wealth surveys.

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Grand Challenges - Social Justice

Grand Challenges - Climate

Climate Justice

Primary Supervisor -  Professor Jeremy Moss

This project will investigate the question of what countries and individuals owe one another in the face of dangerous climate change. The project will consider the different types of obligations that agents can have as well as the likely impact that such obligations have on transitioning to low carbon societies.

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Grand Challenges - Peacebuilding

Reimagining and Decolonizing Post-Conflict Peacebuilding

Primary Supervisor -  Dr. Susanne Schmeidi

The world has become less peaceful over the last decade and current approaches to post-conflict peace-building have put into question the success rate of top-down, externally assisted and state-centred liberal peacebuilding approaches. Critical scholars have long called for bottom-up, localized and hybrid solutions but so far have failed to propose concrete alternatives that can benefit the post-conflict peacebuilding policy and practice debate. This project proposes an innovative mixed social and data science approach to fill this gap by studying successful localised peacebuilding solutions and the role of external support, and by developing a success matrix of best practices and policy options.

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Grand Challenges - Women

Women and Peace in Africa: Gender-Based Violence in Conflict-Affected States

Primary Supervisor -  Associate Professor Laura Shepherd

The UN Security Council addresses gender-related peace and security issues through the framework of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. A/Prof. Shepherd's research will show how the WPS agenda is translated from international through national to local contexts, through applying discourse-theoretical analysis to the formation of the WPS policy architecture, mapping feminist advocacy around the WPS agenda, and analysing the implementation of the WPS agenda at the national level. The proposed PhD project investigates the implementation of the WPS agenda at the national and sub-national level in Sub-Saharan Africa, asking: How does the UN WPS agenda deal with women’s experiences of gender-based violence in conflict-affected states? The project takes a multi-method approach by combining constructivist and discourse theoretical approaches with quantitative data-gathering at the national and sub-national level on gender-based violence. The project will collect new data on gender-based violence and conflict at (a) the national level in Sub-Saharan Africa and (b) detailed sub-national level data in 3 country case settings within Sub-Saharan Africa.

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Grand Challenges - Intellectual Disabilities

Belonging and People with Intellectual Disabilities from CALD Communities

Primary Supervisor -  Associate Professor Iva Stnadova

While gender and age are characteristics now more often included in research about people with intellectual disabilities (Traustadottir & Johnson, 2000; Strnadová & Evans, 2012), other factors are often disregarded. In this collaborative research with people with intellectual disabilities, the PhD scholar will conduct life histories with people with this disability from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities who may have different experiences and views of belonging. This study is significant, as Australia is a multicultural country and the experiences of people who have moved here from other countries may provide particular insights about the nature of belonging.

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Indigenous - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Intergenerational Trauma and Lateral Violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

Primary Supervisor -  Dr. BJ Newton

Lateral violence is increasingly identified as a significant concern within Aboriginal communities both in Australia and internationally. Emerging literature argues that intergenerational trauma is closely associated with lateral violence, yet there is very little empirical research that explores the relationship between lateral violence, intergenerational trauma, and how this impacts on the lived experiences of Aboriginal people and communities. Using Indigenous research methods that promote the ongoing engagement and collaboration with Aboriginal communities, this study will seek to develop an understanding of lateral violence in Aboriginal communities to inform political and community based healing approaches for addressing lateral violence.

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Interdisciplinary research - Non-Profit Organisations

Australia’s Charities: Strengthening Social Justice for the 21st Century

Primary Supervisor -  Senior Research Fellow Natasha Cortis

Australia’s 55,000 registered charities share $134.5b in annual income, employ 1.2 million staff, and shape social life and wellbeing. The Scientia Scholar will use new complex datasets, including charities’ Annual Information Statements, to generate new understandings of the contribution and diversity of Australia’s charities, and their role in innovation, social impact and change. Topics may relate to charity finances; measuring impact; charities in cross-national perspective; women in the charity sector; dynamics of charities’ growth and change; models of charity regulation; leadership and governance; a subset of charities; or a related topic.

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Interdisciplinary research - Science Education

Design of STEM Simulations that Adapt to Learners as they Learn

Primary Supervisor -  Professor Slava Kaluga

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills will be vital to Australia’s economic future as we position our nation for the ‘ideas boom’. The Government has already provided additional funding to restore the focus on STEM learning, and increase student uptake of these subjects in primary and secondary schools. What we need now is a more effective, engaging and accessible way of teaching these skills so we can also advance the learning outcomes. This project will develop new evidence-based guidelines that will lead to the design of highly effective teaching simulations that personalize training to learner proficiency leading to more efficient learning.

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Interdisciplinary research - Philosophy of Science

What are the Risks of Big Data?

Primary Supervisor -  Dr. Michaelis Michael

This project concerns the way Big Data techniques have changed (and perhaps undermined) scientific inquiry. At a time when the polity depends on scientific claims in many areas of pressing global challenges, the idea that we might be cheapening the coin of science is deeply worrying. Are the ways we use Big Data techniques testable? Can we easily meld Big Data with Small Data? Do we simply have a new tool or are we led by the new tools to ask different questions and give up on other questions which we had been asking?

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Social Justice - Indigenous Knowledge

Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Confronting Biopiracy

Primary Supervisor - Associate Professor Daniel Robinson

This project analyses the commodification of nature/natural products and of Indigenous knowledge. It would seek to conduct a range of case studies, legal analyses, and ethnography, aimed at identifying biopiracy cases. It will also seek to analyse Indigenous mechanisms for protecting their environmental knowledge, including through customary laws and community protocols. This project will reflect upon implementation of the UN Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its role in preventing biopiracy, as well as the World Intellectual Property Organization Intergovernmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge. 

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Social Justice - Social Justice, Government and Health Policy

Social Policy, Government and Health Policy - Artificial Intelligence

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Education Policy

Primary Supervisor - Associate Professor Kalervo Guls

This project will be part of investigations into the ongoing and potential impact of artificial intelligence on both education policy making and analysis. PhD projects that address any or all of the following questions are welcome (1) what are the possibilities and challenges for education and education policy that are occurring and will occur by implementing artificial intelligence into governance, instructional and assessment settings? How might these possibilities and challenges relate to changes already occurring around algorithmic governance and big data in education? (2) what are the ethical, economic, and political biosocial considerations of implementing artificial intelligence into educational organizations? This includes issues of trust and transparency relating to the ‘black box’ of AI and prediction; and (3) how does artificial intelligence, including machine learning, use ideas from social policy, including policy and value networks, and how can policy analysts use these same ideas? What are the epistemological and ontological issues, such as those around representation, posed by AI for policy and analysis?

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Social Justice, Government and Health Policy - Indigenous Self-Determination

Closing the Gap? Critical Perspectives on Health Policy and Indigenous Self-Determination

Primary Supervisor - Associate Professor Christy Newman

Australian governments have devoted substantial resources to the problem of “Closing the Gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, particularly in relation to health outcomes, over the past decade. We seek proposals from students interested in critically examining health policies linked to “Closing the Gap”, and documenting accounts of Indigenous self-determination, health and wellbeing which provide alternatives to a deficit model of policy ‘failure’. Taking a national perspective, the doctoral candidate will be expected to reflect critically on the diverse contributions and perspectives of Indigenous leaders, community organisations, service providers and service users on enacting effective policy change in this area. 

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Social Justice, Government and Health Policy - Illicit Drugs

Contemporary Approaches to the Engagement of Consumers in Drug Policy

Primary Supervisor - Professor Carla Treloar

The engagement of target communities in policy processes ensures representation by the affected community in the policy area. In some health/social policy areas, communities lack power to represent themselves, and mechanisms need to be developed to ensure effective and fair access. This is most potent when considering illicit drugs policy – people who use drugs are most directly affected by the policies but are least likely to be engaged in policy processes. This PhD will analyse past mechanisms of engagement (eg drug summits) and trial three new participatory processes, leading to internationally relevant innovations in participatory democracy for affected communities. 

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Social Justice, Government and Health Policy - Indigenous Self-Determination

Redefining Indigenous Self-Determination in Australian Public Policy

Primary Supervisor - Dr. Christopher Walker

Self-determination remains a key priority for Indigenous communities and organisations across Australia. Governments are repeatedly called upon to engage directly with Indigenous experiences and knowledge when formulating policy, however consultation is often criticised as cursory or inappropriate. We seek proposals from students interested in exploring the potential for genuine self-determination and the pursuit of Indigenous policy priorities reflecting on changing expectations both inside and outside government. The candidate will consider the impact of Indigenous public servants in key agencies and the role of representative and advisory bodies including the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the Indigenous Advisory Council. 

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