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Socio-cultural context of coastal science and policy

Principal Investigators: Harvey and Clarke

canal estate

Canal Estate Pt Mandurah
(source Google Earth)

This research project represents Theme 2 of the CSIRO Flagship Cluster project between CSIRO and 7 universities examining science uptake in the coastal zone. Theme 2, which has $517,203 of external funding over 3 years, specifically investigates the informal and formal connections between community, industry and government in relation to knowledge formation and its use in decision-making, and identifies barriers to adaptive coastal management. Theme 2 examines the influence on decision-making in the coastal zone of:

  • The divergent socio-cultural perspectives
  • The understandings, concerns and behaviours of actors
  • The relationship among others
wind farm

Lake Bonney Wind Farm
(source Romana Dew)

It examines critical challenges to the further development of Australia’s regions including the regional impacts of climate change and environmental management. Theme 2 is also investigating the role and influence of coastal champions in science uptake in coastal policy and the extent to which scientific knowledge has been incorporated into canal estate and coastal wind-farm policies.  The programme is working with governments, industry and regional development agencies to undertake innovative research projects and expand research training in this field.


Information on the Socio-cultural Context Theme is listed in the recently (June 2014) launched coastal cluster website. In addition, progress on four projects under this programme is listed below, including many publications such as Clarke et al. (2013) examining the knowledge-governance interface.


  • Social Network Analysis

    Principal Investigators: Clarke and Scott

    Data has been collected and analysed for four case studies: the Minda Dunes retirement development, the Henley Surf Life Saving Club re-development, the Point Boston 'eco' residential development, and the Buckland Park development.


    Based on this research, Clarke and Scott submitted a report to the CSIRO entitled: ‘Social Networks and their functions in shaping coastal decision‐making in South Australia'. Clarke and Scott have also developed a SNA (social network analysis) 'toolkit' for use by coastal managers as part of this CSIRO project. More information on Social Network Analysis in Coastal Contexts is listed in the coastal cluster website.

  • Influence of coastal champions on science uptake in coastal policy

    Principal Investigators: Mumford and Harvey

    Recent government reports and academic studies have highlighted that improved science uptake into policy is needed to ensure coastal communities are protected from the impacts of climate change. Academics suggest that certain individuals, coined ‘champions’, can play an important role in influencing the use of science by policy-makers. However, a paucity of research exists in relation to the role of these individuals. This research explored the role of champions in enabling science uptake into policy in the Australian coastal zone. In particular, the characteristics and strategies used by these champions in influencing policy-makers were investigated. Comparisons were then made against findings in the literature from within different disciplines. A mixed-methods approach to the research was undertaken, which integrated a paper and online survey of people involved in Australian coastal management and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with champions nominated by their peers from the survey.

    Fourteen key coastal champion characteristics were identified from the survey, which were largely similar to the characteristics of champions within the disciplines of innovation management and sustainable urban water management. Furthermore, the champion interviews identified strategies for influencing science use by policy-makers, which align with strategies for improving relationships between scientists and policy makers in Australian natural resource management, giving further validation to the importance of the role of champions in enabling science uptake into policy. From these findings, recommendations were provided for areas of further study, including further investigation into fostering coastal champions, as well as the application of different research approaches, such as the application of leadership and network theories.


    Guidelines for Facilitating the Use of Coastal Champions in Social Networks is included in the coastal cluster website.  In addition, Mumford and Harvey have a paper  in the peer-reviewed journal Coastal Management entitled Champions as Influencers of Science Uptake into Australian Coastal Zone Policy.

  • Canal Estates, Policy and Science Uptake 

    Principal Investigators: Harvey and Stocker

    Oceania has almost 400 km of canal estates, second only to the United States. First constructed in Australia in the 1950s, canal estates are associated with many environmental, social and economic issues. This paper presents an overview of Australian canal estate development and the different state policies relating to their management. Recently, the issue of climate change impacts on canal estate development, particularly sea-level rise, has been raised as a concern. The 2009 national inquiry into coastal management in relation to potential climate change impacts on the Australian coast, and the first national coastal vulnerability assessment Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coast have highlighted the vulnerability of low-lying development, particularly canal estates. This research is part of a CSIRO Coastal Collaboration Cluster investigating uptake of science into coastal policy. The research examines the lack of consistency between states on the extent to which recent scientific predictions have been incorporated into the various state approaches to canal estate development.


    A manuscript based on this research authored by Harvey and Stocker was an invited featured article in volume 155 of the peer-reviewed Journal of Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. In addition, Stocker and Harvey are preparing a second paper based on a comparative study between canal estates in South Australia and Western Australia.

  • Science and Policy on Coastal Wind Farms: An Australian Case Study 

    Principal Investigators: Harvey, Dew and Hender

    Wind power in Australia has experienced a rapid increase over the last decade with a twenty-fold increase in the number of wind turbines installed. Most of these are in land-based coastal locations in the southern states of South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria. Development of many coastal wind power projects has caused controversy and criticism related to planning and coastal management issues such as aesthetics, impact on avifauna, health issues and local community issues. This research examines the extent to which the wind farms are impacting on the coast, the extent to which scientific issues are incorporated into coastal wind-farm policy and the adequacy of coastal management strategies for dealing with the impacts.


    A draft manuscript has been prepared by Harvey, Dew and Hender on this topic and will be submitted to Land Use PolicyHarvey also plans to present a paper on the topic to the 2016 International Coastal Symposium.

Centre for Coastal Research

The Centre for Coastal Research is no longer active. For all coastal research matters, please contact Professor Nick Harvey.