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Centenary Research Professors

Covering a gamut of research topics ranging from citizen engagement in politics to the social impact of digital technologies and the human impact on biodiversity – the University of Canberra's Centenary Research Professors are helping to strengthen its position as a research-led institution.

Following an international search, the University is recruiting 10 leading researchers as Centenary Research Professors as a means of increasing research depth and leadership and to strengthen its position as a research-led institution. Two more Centenary Research Professors will join the University in 2015.

The ultimate aim of their recruitment is the development of successful research programs, success with major external funding and competitive fellowships and the development and nurturing of new research leaders, early career academics and PhD students.

Profiles of the Centenary Research Professors

Centenary Research Professor John DryzekTwo things make John Dryzek tick: environmental issues and democracy.

His dedication to both has been at the core of his ground-breaking work on deliberative democracy – or encouraging people's participation in decision-making – which recently earned him a prestigious Australian Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council (ARC), a first for the University of Canberra.

The $2.6 million fellowship will allow Professor Dryzek and his team to take on three of the biggest challenges facing today's world: the promotion of global justice, how to navigate a potentially chaotic Earth system, and how to involve people from different cultures in productive democratic communication and therefore, effective joint problem-solving.

"This will allow us to contribute to the building of deliberative capacity, not only in political theory but more importantly in applied practice, informing Australian positions in global negotiations or how Australian public policy responds to environmental governance," he says.

The UK-born political theorist says effective, inclusive and transformative communication in decision-making is of critical importance, not only among those who make the decisions but between them and the public in order to solve global problems more effectively.

Professor Dryzek, from the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University's Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), is hailed as the instigator of the 'deliberative turn' in democratic theory.

The prize-winning beer brewer and skilful rock-climber has published five books in his academic field and his widely-published work in environmental politics ranges from green political philosophy to studies of environmental discourses and movements to global climate governance.

Find out more about Professor Dryzek at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance website and his staff profile.

Prominent political scientist and active social media user Patrick Dunleavy joined the University as a Centenary Professor in early 2015.

Professor Dunleavy, currently a professor of public policy at the London School of Economics (LSE) and director of its Public Policy Group, is never far from the hottest political debates.

But unlike most of his colleagues, Professor Dunleavy, who specialises in the fields of public policy and government, takes the debate beyond the traditional walls of academia and places it at the centre of today's most active political forums: Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere.

His blog, British Politics and Policy at LSE, is the highest-ranked university blog and the second-most read economics blog in the UK.

Professor Dunleavy's research ranges from sectoral conflict and bureaucracy to electoral analysis and the contemporary public management field of digital age governance.

His work on, and analysis of, the development of public sector IT systems and large-scale modern public policy systems, as well as future trends in public management and liberal democratic governance, will be some of the topics he'll be exploring with colleagues at the University's IGPA.

Professor Dunleavy was awarded a Political Studies Association Special Recognition Award in 2012 and the Political Scientists Making a Difference Award in 2013. In 2012, the LSE Public Policy Group led by Professor Dunleavy was jointly named the world's fourth-best university think tank in a global survey.

Discover more about Professor Dunleavy at his IGPA staff profile page.

Professor Ross GibsonA born story-teller, Professor Ross Gibson is fascinated with narrative and finding creative ways and technologies to tell these stories.

Over the past 30 years he has worked in university, government and industry contexts, providing leadership in the development of new cultural institutions and new scholarly and creative practices, with a special expertise in the innovations made possible with digital technologies.

Professor Gibson, former creative director of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image at Melbourne's Federation Square and a senior consultant producer at the Museum of Sydney, joined the University of Canberra as a Centenary Professor because "I was impressed by the ambition and the can-do approach of the University of Canberra".

"I like how UC wants to make an emphatic and quick impact, especially in research and community engagement. UC seems much more engaged with the dynamics and complexity of contemporary culture. This is exciting. It's why I do the work: to be involved and engrossed in the world."

Professor Gibson, a lover of film, prose and poetry, the current golden age of American TV series, and music, "especially all forms of Jamaican music", is thrilled to be working with his colleagues at the University's Centre for Creative and Cultural Research.

His strength as a researcher stems from his ability to work across several inter-connected fields, from new modes of writing ranging from writing for electronic devices and the web as well as for traditional modes, to revitalising and reinterpreting collections and archives of cultural institutions.

But perhaps his most exciting work has been his long-term projects, in which he has explored how storytelling can work as a way of capturing communal memories, such as his project using the enormous crime-scene archive of NSW police photography kept at the Justice and Police Museum in Sydney.

Using digital technologies, Professor Gibson and his team helped saved 150,000 frail photograph negatives taken by NSW police officers between 1900 and 1970 and developed several cultural projects from this collection.

"The collection is a treasure that tells us so much about the 20th century, but in its original form was almost completely inaccessible," he says. "Now, we've developed films and interactive apps and mapping systems, art installations, online exhibitions, online research communities, as well as the more traditional media of museum displays and hard-copy books."

Find out more at Professor Gibson's website.

More details about Professor Gibson's current research work are available at the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research webpage.

Centenary Research Professor Moosung LeeFor Moosung Lee, education should be a journey to give back to the community, not just an instrument to gain status.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Professor Lee has always believed in the power of education to change the world. His body of research has previously focused on achievement gaps and education for socio-economically disadvantaged groups through the lens of social capital and lifelong learning.

"I've been very interested in how education brings opportunities to people in disadvantage and how those who gained social mobility through their journey would sometimes return home, and I wanted to see what that meant for their community," Professor Lee says. At 42 he is the youngest Centenary Professor.

More recently, his research has centred on issues around international schooling and elite education, since he believes that understanding the impact of elite education systems on social stratification and inequality is another way to help socio-economically disadvantaged people.

The comparative educational researcher is currently developing a longitudinal study into the elite schooling system.

"Educational opportunities are now very polarised between the poor and the rich, while such opportunities also get more complicatedly hierarchical within each polarisation, particularly in some East Asian societies such as Hong Kong, Singapore and China," Professor Lee says.

"Over the last two decades, a new type of elite schooling system such as private international schools has emerged in these societies. Well-off parents pay a huge amount of money to secure a place in an elite international school, which they think will lead their children to the world's elite universities.

"However, if education is something that can be transactional, especially for only a selected group of parents in a society, without a base of any acceptable meritocratic components, such an education system can be viewed as merely an apparatus for reproducing or maintaining those selected groups' socio-economic status."

Learn more about Professor Lee at his staff profile page.

More information is available at Professor Lee's canberra.academia.edu page.

Centenary Research Professor Thomas LowrieCompetitiveness in numeracy and literacy worldwide should be an aspiration for Australian education but not at the expense of children's wellbeing, according to Thomas Lowrie.

The internationally renowned mathematics educator says there is an increasing tendency to measure Australia's education system on student performance in international tests, potentially to the detriment of our school and community environments.

"Students in some of the top-performing countries like Singapore and South Korea do very well in these international measurement tests, but they are some of the most pressured children in the world," Professor Lowrie says.

"They are at school from 7am to 5pm, often staying behind to practise for these tests, continually being pushed by parents and teachers, sometimes to breaking point.

"We could do that in Australia and be high performers in tests, but do we really want to change the fabric of who we are and the innovative way in which we teach?"

In his opinion, performance should not be measured solely through these tests but rather by also looking at other factors, such as multiculturalism, teaching quality and socio-economic backgrounds.

"We should celebrate our culture instead of just 'train' our students to perform well on rigid tests that don't allow for creative thinking."

Professor Lowrie is also internationally recognised for his work on the use of technology to support problem solving, having taught in several primary school and university settings in Australia, Canada and the US.

His most recent ARC Discovery Project grant of $428,484 will help him and his team investigate whether new technologies like computers or iPads can help improve children's ability to solve maths problems. Other research projects include looking at the social dimensions of learning such as in rural, remote or out-of-school contexts, and the promotion of mathematics engagement and learning in disadvantaged communities in Indonesia.

The former professional tennis coach is also a current member of the ARC's College of Experts.

Find out more about Professor Lowrie at the STEM Education Research Centre page.

Professor Lowrie's profile at canberra.academia.edu

Centenary Research Professor Deborah LuptonFascinated by social media and other digital technologies, Deborah Lupton is one of the world's few specialists in digital sociology and has been looking at the impact of these technologies on human life.

Professor Lupton, who joined the University's News and Media Research Centre in early 2014, recently questioned the impact of social media use on children, saying they are being thrust into the digital realm with no regard for the implications on their future privacy.

An advocate of using social media for academic research and engagement, Professor Lupton says more research is urgently needed to understand the issues related to effectively forcing a social media presence upon children before they are able to give their consent.

"We are now taking our first steps into the digital world long before we learn to walk in the physical world – already it seems normal, but it is actually extraordinary," she says.

"It is now typical for an Australian to begin to have a digital presence before they are even born, with the customary ultrasound photo posted to Facebook by the expectant mum or dad.

"Nobody knows what the implications will be of documenting and publishing every milestone of children from the foetal stage through to their birth and beyond. We need to consider how this public profile may affect children later in their lives, given the permanence of digital records."

Professor Lupton is the author/co-author of 13 books and more than 120 academic books, chapters and journal articles as well as the editor of two collections. Currently, her research interests focus on new digital technologies, ranging from the analysis of digital health technologies and the phenomenon of self-tracking to the use of digital media for academics and the cultures of big data.

"I'm not a digital native, but I find the whole social media thing quite fascinating," she says.

As part of her role as a Centenary Professor, she looks forward to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of researchers at the University. "I am really excited about the idea of mentoring up-and-coming researchers. I hope my enthusiasm for the work will rub off on them."

Find out more about Professor Lupton on her staff profile page.

Learn more at the News and Media Research Centre webpage.

Centenary Research Professor Ralph Mac NallyRalph Mac Nally is a curious ecologist who one day is looking at dwarf birch forests in Iceland and the next is involved in the Amazonia. Like most ecologists, he is deeply worried that the planet's biodiversity is in free-fall, which he says is mainly due to human actions.

"Humans change things very quickly; land clearing, the exploitation of natural resources, the introduction of pests and pathogens and induced climate change, but the capacity of ecosystems to absorb these changes is limited and signs of ecological wear-and-tear are everywhere," Professor Mac Nally says. "If not carefully managed, we will be left with very little of the great variety we inherited in the world."

In a recent paper published by the prestigious Cambridge journal Biological Reviews, Professor Mac Nally and colleagues showed that the impacts of climate change rival the well-known adverse effects of land-use change on biodiversity.

"Almost all global indicators are showing that there are fewer populations of plants and animals and declining numbers of most native species in all ecosystems due to direct human pressures such as habitat loss or hunting, or from indirect pressures such as climate change arising from human activities.

"Up until now, the magnitude of the effects of climate change on biodiversity has been poorly understood, but now we can say that these will be as severe as the extensively documented effects of land-use change," he says.

Over his career, Professor Mac Nally shifted his interests from community ecology to conservation ecology and landscape ecology, with his current work mainly focusing on change ecology and ecological futures.

The world-renowned ecologist, who joined the University's Institute for Applied Ecology early in 2014, is currently working on the development of models that couple the lessons of the past with possible future scenarios to evaluate how we can best sustain biodiversity under ever-increasing human pressures.

The keen cyclist and one-eyed AFL Carlton supporter is an ARC Discovery Outstanding Researcher and previously held two ARC Senior Research Fellowships.

Discover more about Professor Mac Nally at his IAE staff profile page.

Professor Gerry StokerGerry Stoker, a leading authority in the area of urban politics and local government, was the first Centenary Professor to be recruited by the University of Canberra.

The British political scientist is convinced that public policy requires more evidence-based experiments, like in science, before spending large amounts of money in the implementation of policy.

"Governments certainly shouldn't be spending taxpayers' money on policies until they have been tested in this way. By using randomised controlled trials we can know, within a short period of time, whether the policy works – instead of designing it, implementing it and waiting for five years before we know it works."

Co-author of the popular book on the topic, Nudge nudge, think think, Professor Stoker and colleagues assessed the impact of 'nudge interventions', or the encouragement of certain civic behaviour among citizens.

This strategy was used in the UK, for example, to encourage tax payment through simpler forms and targeted messages.

"The tax office sent a letter to UK citizens saying 'don't forget to send your tax return; 77 per cent of businessmen in your area have already sent theirs in', so most people thought 'I'd better do it too'," Professor Stoker says.

"These nudges don't take away choice but rather encourage individuals to make the right choice for their own good and that of their community."

Professor Stoker says he is very interested in sharing this methodology in Australia towards new comparative research and to see if the same interventions work inter-culturally or not.

He will divide his time between his role as convenor of the citizen-centric governance research program at the University's IGPA and as professor of politics and governance at the University of Southampton, UK.

Professor Stoker has provided advice to various parts of UK government and has been an expert advisor to the Council of Europe on local government and participation issues. He has published more than 25 books and over 100 articles in journals and book chapters.

A keen bird watcher, Professor Stoker says he loves Australia and can't wait to do some local avian spotting.

Learn more about Professor Stoker at his IGPA profile page.

Centenary Research Professor Richard DuncanProfessor Richard Duncan was appointed as one of the University of Canberra's Centenary Research Professors in 2015.

A conservation biologist with the University's Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), Professor Duncan's research currently includes a focus on biological invasions and extinctions.

His recent work examines the ways in which invasive species arrive, establish, spread and impact natural ecosystems.

In 2014, Professor Duncan was awarded $503,000 to learn more about the threat of invasive plants to native species.

'I'm delighted to receive funding for this project as it provides an exciting opportunity to better understand how we should manage native plant communities that are threatened by invasive weeds,' Professor Duncan said.

'Weeds are one of the most costly and significant environmental threats in Australia so we aim to determine how weed species are able to invade into and dominate native plant communities. Understanding this process will provide the knowledge needed to better manage native vegetation in order to minimise the impact of current and future weeds,' he said.

For more information visit Professor Duncan's IAE profile page.