100 – A jolly good Fellow

I have been awarded a Federation Fellowship. What does it all mean?

I had a very enjoyable visit to Canberra last week. Finally, eight months after applications closed, the Minister for Science announced this year’s crop of 20 Federation Fellowships, and I was lucky enough to make the grade.

The Fellowships are provided by the Australian Research Council, the Australian Government’s main funding body for University research. They are well rewarded for five years, and are across all research disciplines, so it’s very competitive to win one.

Of the new Fellows, three quarters are from from high-tech science fields, with topics like quantum nanoscience, astrophotonics, quantum computers, polymer nanomaterials, photonic integrated circuits, nanophotonics, and so on. (“Nano” is obviously the big buzz word.) By comparison, my research field felt rather homely. There were a few other Fellows who also deal with the human dimension, notably my colleague in economics, John Quiggin, whose stellar research performance was justly rewarded with his second Federation Fellowship. Congratulations John.

On the personal front, it means that we’ll be moving back to the Perth campus of the University of Western Australia at the end of 2007. It really is a wrench to leave beautiful Albany, especially for my family, but there is plenty of bright side to look on.

On the work front, I will be establishing a Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UWA, with the aim of improving environmental policy programs for land, water and biodiversity conservation. Using the resources of the Fellowship, and hopefully other proposals we have in the pipeline, we’ll tackle a range of issues that should contribute to this end, including:

  • consolidating the work on SIF3 the Salinity Investment Framework III.
  • analysing the balance of investment between on-ground works that produce changes in the short term, versus technology development that takes longer to pay off but does so on a larger scale.
  • analysing the relative importance of (a) choosing which environmental assets to protect, (b) choosing which policy mechanisms to use to protect them, and (c) the detailed operation of the policy mechanism that is used. In practice, (b) gets little attention, but I have a hunch that it’s as important as the others.
  • understand more about the way that policies influence landholder behaviour.
  • understand more about the ways that policy program design influences the behaviour of environmental management organisations.
  • adapting the SIF3 approach beyond salinity to address new environment issues.
  • new bioeconomic models for those issues.

We’ll also bring other environmental economics research in the School of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UWA (e.g. experimental economics, non-market valuation) under the umbrella of the new Centre, linking strongly to policy processes, and providing new opportunities for post-graduate students.

With this new Centre, together with John Quiggin’s team at the University of Queensland, and the newly announced CERF “Hub” in environmental economics at the Australian National University, environmental economics in Australian universities looks to be in robust good health.

David Pannell, The University of Western Australia