Two exciting social science PhD top ups available now

The University of Queensland Centre for Coal Seam Gas (Social Performance team) has two (2) exciting PhD top up opportunities available now. The PhD projects contribute to real-world projects focused on the socio-economic impacts of large resource development in local communities.

  • Interested in doing a social science PhD?

  • Like innovation and complexity?

  • Want to do ‘real world’ research?

  • Make a difference in regional communities!

About the Centre:

The Centre aims to generate and contribute knowledge which enables a transition to low GHG emissions future. We inherently recognise the dilemma that in the same year the number of people without access to electricity fell to below 1 billion (2018) for the first time in decades, CO2 emissions were the highest on record. The International Energy Agency recognise that growth in use of natural gas is essential to this transition and that globally around 30% of global gas output will be ‘unconventional’ i.e. onshore, by 2040. However, there are many technical and social challenges to effecting a sustainable transition. The Centre aims to assist government, community and industry in these challenges.

About the project:

The PhD positions will work on exciting participatory research to further an existing world-leading study by the Centre for Coal Seam Gas into the cumulative social and economic impacts of coal seam gas development.

The study of cumulative impacts in relation to resource development is a relatively new and exciting field of applied research.

Cumulative impacts arise from multiple projects and activities located in the same geographic space over time. The research investigates impacts not only from the direct effects of a project or activity, but also from the combination of the effects in relation to existing stresses, and the effects of other projects in the area.

The successful candidates will build on a world-class online toolkit developed by the Centre for assessing and responding to cumulative social and economic impacts of large-scale resource development (coal seam gas), with a focus on leveraging potential benefits for social sustainability outcomes. The toolkit has broad application over many development types and industries.


Outlines for the two projects (these are negotiable):

1. The application of participatory systems modelling to cumulative social & economic impacts of large resource development

  • Be one of the first researchers to apply complex adaptive systems theory to a social system to assess social impacts
  • Use your skills in systems theory and analysis
  • Be part of a landmark project which is creating applied information about the impacts of the development of the large rescoure industries for local communities

This PhD will explore the options for modelling our existing longitudinal data for a set of social and economic indicators. You will investigate using complex systems modelling to cumulative impact assessment’ (e.g. causal loop or Bayesian belief networks). You will also be part of updating the existing indicators dataset with new information unveiled during annual analysis. You will have excellent skills in systems theory and analysis and perhaps ecological or economic modelling. Some knowledge of social theory would be helpful.

2. Social aspects of large resource development

  • Social innovation & resilience
  • Community engagement & public discourse on contentious issues
  • Participatory monitoring & collective impact assessment

This PhD project will use the UQ Boomtown Toolkit as a case study to explore the concepts and challenges of ‘shared measurement’ approaches to cumulative impact assessment, with a particular focus on the use of technology. ‘‘Shared measurement’ is a new approach that evolved from the need to communicate complexity to multiple stakeholder groups.   You will also be part of updating the existing indicators dataset with new information unveiled during annual analysis. You will have interests in either multi-stakeholder communication, community development, social learning, social performance evaluation as well as very good technology skills. Experience with, or a willingness to acquire skills in website design and interactive data visualisation is preferred.

The person

Prospective applicants must meet the following entry requirements:

  1. An Honours (H1 or H2A) or Masters degree in sociology, economics, business systems, environmental management, rural development, or related field.
  2. One position requires skills in systems modelling (such as causal loop diagrams).
  3. Excellent written and verbal communication skills as the research requires engaging with multiple stakeholders.
  4. Must be able to work well in a multi-disciplinary team.
  5. Must enrol full-time in the higher degree (PhD) by research at the University of Queensland (and join the social performance team at the UQ Centre for Coal Seam Gas, based at the St Lucia campus)

Scholarships and remuneration

Selected prospective students will receive assistance to apply for a scholarship under the UQ Graduate Scholarships Program – open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand citizens) and international students. For possible scholarship options see

The current base stipend for a scholarship living allowance is AUD$27,596 per annum (2019 rate, indexed annually) tax-free for three years with a possible six-month extension in approved circumstances.

Applicants must be eligible to apply for a UQ or other Commonwealth PhD scholarship. Funding is dependent on the applicant receiving such a scholarship.

This top up scholarship is for an additional annual top-up stipend of $5000. This is reviewed annually, based on progress and performance. It also includes funding of project related costs.

To apply

Please email your expression of interest to

  • Include “Interested in PhD study” in the subject heading
  • Include your most recent curriculum vitae, academic transcripts, and contact details for two academic referees
  • Include an outline of your research interests and why you are interested in this opportunity

The application closing date is 23 February 2019 (for international students) and 31 March 2019 (for domestic & New Zealand students)


For more information, please email Dr Katherine Witt on or call 0418 619 341.