Researcher biography

Dr Kathy Witt is an internationally-recognised senior social science researcher and currently an Advance Queensland Fellow at the UQ Centre for Natural Gas. Previously working in the areas of environmental and community change for the Queensland Government, Kathy went on to receive her PhD in 2013 before joining UQ-CNG’s Social Performance research team in 2014. Kathy specialises in the social dimensions of land use, natural resource management and energy technologies and transition, particularly in relation to sustainable regional development.

With degrees in Environmental Management (Natural and Rural Systems Management)/ Sociology from UQ Gatton and St Lucia campuses, she is an inter-disciplinary researcher fluent in both environmental and social sciences. She applies ‘socio-ecological systems’ approaches to her research.

Leading the UQ-CNG Social Performance team, Kathy currently studies the cumulative social and economic effects of energy development for local communities, and non-technical risks. Her recent work focusses on social acceptance and ‘social licence’ across a range of industries and technologies, including the cattle industries, future fuels, hydrogen, carbon capture, use & storage and utility-scale renewable energy. Through her work Kathy has fostered mutually trusting and enduring relationships with different stakeholders including in the agricultural and energy sectors.  She has collated and analysed longitudinal data on town and regional social and economic indicators alongside community members’ own interpretations of lived experience.

While currently in a research-focussed position, Kathy has previously lectured in Effective Stakeholder Engagement, Environment and Community, Global Challenges in Agriculture, Non-Technical Risks and Sustainable Energy. Her excellent understanding of participatory research methods and ability to apply approaches from different academic specialisations, is combined with an ability to engage with diverse stakeholder groups.                                               

Research Impacts

Dr Witt is internationally recognised for her work through her current positions as co-chair of the Social Impact Assessment Committee of the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) and the IUCN/IAIA Impact Assessment in Protected Areas Taskforce. She provides input into natural resource management policy briefings to federal and state governments and has contributed significantly to regional communities through her work on cumulative effects assessment and shared value. 

Kathy is a current member of the Australian Hydrogen Council Social Licence Working Group, a member of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand and a member of the International Association for Public Participation.  She is also part of the US National Science Foundation’s Energy Impacts Researchers Network.