PhD opportunities

13 September 2019

CPAS has a number of potential PhD projects open to applicants. 

Contact for more details, or click through to specific projects. 

From March 2020

The Scientific Revolution and its others in popular discourse

The Scientific Revolution concept has been challenged by historians on many grounds in recent decades, with some seeking to dismantle it altogether.

Yet it remains prominent in popular discourse about science history, philosophy and methods, and is still often the only version of science history  most people know.

This project will examine how the Scientific Revolution concept and its associated narratives are represented in public discourse about science. You will investigate who is talking about it and what they're saying. Digging deeper, you'll interrogate how Scientific Revolution discourse is used to support or oppose different ways of thinking about science, and what messages this discourse packages about science. You'll also examine popular representations of alternative narratives about science history, with a view to mapping the ideological landscape these ideas co-construct.

The project forms part of an ongoing research program examining the uses of history in science communication under lead researcher Lindy Orthia.

Doctor Who characters as STEMM role models

Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television show in the world and has reached countless millions of viewers across the globe since its inception in 1963.

During that time it has featured hundreds of scientist, engineer, mathematician and medical practitioner characters, so it has the potential to role-model STEMM careers and personas for viewers. Some such characters have appeared only once, while some are recurring, offering different representations of life and work as a STEMM professional. At times the show’s central character, the Doctor, has also characterised themself as a scientist or engineer, and they have frequently been identified as a scientist role model by STEMM advocates and commentators.

The question is, do Doctor Who audiences respond to the show's characters that way? Previous research reveals Doctor Who has inspired some fans to pursue study or work in STEMM fields, but exactly what part have specific characters played in those decisions? And have any characters turned people away from STEMM careers? What does a good Doctor Who STEMM role model look like?

In this project you will conduct audience research with Doctor Who viewers to explore these questions. You will document and analyse viewers' experiences with the show through interview, focus group and/or survey methods.

The project forms part of an ongoing research program examining science in Doctor Who under lead researcher Lindy Orthia.

Improving the implementation of participatory research approaches for ocean sustainability: the role and importance of gender, equity and inclusion

The promise of participatory research approaches has led to substantial commitments by research funders and policy communities worldwide.  For example, notions such as co-production are at the heart of global sustainability initiatives such as Future Earth and the Global Land Programme, and they form the foundation of national level strategies in the UK, Switzerland, Germany and Australia.  However, it has become apparent that commitments to participatory research approaches have outpaced our understanding of how best to implement these processes to ensure their success, and that many challenges with their successful implementation remain. 

One such challenge is understanding the role of gender, equity and inclusion in participatory research approaches.  However, recent evidence related to the management of coastal and marine ecosystems suggest gender diversity, equity and inclusion in participatory approaches  are key correlates of successful participatory research.  Thus, the overarching goal of this project will be to empirically understand the role and importance of gender, equity and inclusion for facilitating meaningful participatory research approaches, and the ways in which gender considerations can be improved and more effectively managed to enhance ocean sustainability. The project will take a case study approach (most likely on coral reef ecosystems), and use both quantitative and qualitative research methods.    

CPAS, Fenner School and Research School of Social Sciences projects

There are also a number of joint PhD projects on offer with colleagues across the university:

From September 2019

Mulligan's Flat: The biosocial shaping of conservation and biodiversity practices in Australia’s capital

With our partners at Australian National University and the ACT Government we want to smash the mould on conservational thinking and practice in Australia by putting people and their actions front and centre in our analyses.

We are looking for social science and science communication graduates to take our interdisciplinary mission to the next level! So if you’re invested in the environment and are keen to partake in cutting-edge socio-ecological thinking and multi-method research on the various factors that shape how diverse communities engage with environmental issues, check out our four PhD project topics and get involved in the next generation of conservational work!

Gender equity in STEM

Attracting, retaining and progressing girls and women in studies and careers has become a prominent topic and area of activity. The adage ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is consistently used to highlight the importance and influence of role models. But do role models actually have the impact we think?

We are seeking two PhD applicants to contribute to this inter-disciplinary, mixed method longitudinal study, based within the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the Australian National University (ANU).