Maximising the benefits of knowledge intermediaries working to connect sustainability science, policy and practice

Project overview

Knowledge intermediaries (e.g. knowledge brokers, boundary organisations, etc.) are increasingly advocated as a solution for bridging the gap between sustainability science, policy and practice to support evidence-informed decision-making processes. However, despite growing rhetoric regarding the potential benefits of knowledge intermediaries, the evidence in support of such claims is largely anecdotal. This is, in part, due to the lack of established methods to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge brokers, or the types of activities they undertake.  In turn, this means that there is very little empirically grounded guidance available to inform how knowledge intermediaries can be most effectively implemented, and their actions tailored, to specific contexts.  This PhD project will seek to fill this gap, by building on recent efforts to understand the roles of knowledge intermediaries (see below – background reading).  Examples of the types of questions this project could address include, but are not limited to:

  • What are the strategies used by knowledge intermediaries across different settings and sectors to connect science, policy and practice, and what can we learn from previous efforts? 
  • How important is trust at the interface of science, policy and practice? How do knowledge intermediaries build and maintain trust, and when trust is broken, can it be repaired?
  • What are the ethical considerations, behaviours and standards required of knowledge intermediaries working at the interface of science, policy and practice?
  • How can we build more effective institutions that can actively support the mainstreaming of knowledge intermediaries in relation to sustainability challenges?

Supervisory panel

Dr Chris Cvitanovic, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU.

Prof Joan Leach, Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, ANU.

Prof Mark Howden, Climate Change Institute, ANU.


Admission to a Doctor of Philosophy degree at ANU requires:

  1. An Australian Bachelor degree with at least Second Class Honours - Upper (First Class Honours is often required) or its international equivalent, or
  2. Another degree with a significant research/thesis component that may be assessed as equivalent to paragraph (1), or
  3. A combination of qualifications, research publications and/or professional experience related to the field of study that may be assessed as equivalent to paragraph (1).

Further information relating to eligibility can be found on the ANUs website:

The candidate

The successful applicant will have a passion for solving modern day sustainability challenges by connecting science with policy and practice.  They will have a background in a relevant discipline (e.g. environmental science, natural resource management, science engagement, etc.), strong interpersonal skills, and be able to work effectively as part of a small team and also independently.  Practical experience working at the interface of science, policy and practice, as well as a demonstrated proficiency in social science research methods, will be highly regarded in the application process, but not essential.


The successful applicant with be based in the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the ANU. CPAS will endeavour to make scholarships available to the applicant, and help guide them through the scholarship application process.

To apply

To be considered for this position, in the first instance please forward a current CV (2-page maximum) and short cover letter (1-page maximum) to Dr Chris Cvitanovic on  In the cover letter, be sure to let us know why you are the perfect candidate based on the skills outlined above.  Shortlisted candidates will then be invited to skype to discuss their applications further. 

Applications will be assessed on a rolling basis as they are received, and this position will remain open until filled.   

Background reading

  • Bednarek, A.T., Wyborn, C., Cvitanovic, C. et al. 2018. Boundary spanning at the science-policy interface: the practitioners’ perspectives. Sustainability Science, 13(4), 1175-1183.
  • Cvitanovic, C., Cunningham, R., Dowd, A.-M., Howden, S.M., van Putten, E.I. 2017. Using Social Network Analysis to Monitor and Assess the Effectiveness of Knowledge Brokers at Connecting Scientists and Decision-Makers: An Australian case study. Environmental Policy and Governance, 27(3), 256-269.
  • Lacey J., Howden S.M., Cvitanovic C., Colvin R.M. 2018 Understanding and managing trust at the climate science-policy interface. Nature Climate Change, 8, 22-28.
  • Maag, S., Alexander, T.J., Kase, R., Hoffmann, S. 2018. Indicators for measuring the contributions of individual knowledge brokers. Environmental Science and Policy, 89, 1-9.