BEc (Hons) (Sydney); MA, PhD (British Columbia); FASSA
Human geography

My research brings urban geography and urban planning into conversation, developing deep scholarly knowledge of the contours of everyday life in cities with the intent of opening up new lines of inquiry in urban planning. My work on the social and cultural geographies of suburban homes and neighbourhoods is acknowledged for its identification of the complex intersections of valuations of property, desires for financial independence, and ideals of parenting in guiding housing decisions and experiences. This underpinned a robust geographical conception of home that is widely cited across the social sciences. Parallel research on urban governance that focused on the development of privatized residential neighbourhoods demonstrated that the co-existence of old and new modes of governing the Australian city set it apart from international trends. This long running research program, supported by a number of ARC Discovery Grants, also involved mentoring PhD and postdoctoral researchers, many of which have now become leaders in Australian geography.

Recent research extends the remit of urban planning by exploring the partnerships and complex relationships through which contemporary cities are governed. Rapid and proliferating urbanization is presenting new challenges and opportunities for urban governance in Australia: challenges in the sense that new capacities and knowledges are required to manage urban complexities and opportunities in the sense that potential for urban governments to become leaders in addressing these challenges are heightened. My current research, then, investigates urban policy responses to environmental challenges, again supported by a number of collaborative ARC Discovery projects. Work on Australian cities’ diverse and myriad responses to climate change identified newly formed partnerships across local, state and national governments, and innovative responses that networked public and private sectors. This was then extended to a focus on energy use in commercial office spaces, characterized by urban governance by non-state actors like alliances of building owners.

Current research focuses on urban governance in the face of technological disruptions, specifically smart cities and new smart-enabled forms of transport like car sharing and autonomous vehicles, and the ways in which smart city strategies are being implemented in locally-specific ways. In recognition of the complexity of these disruptions, this research is building multi-disciplinary partnerships with science and technology studies, data science and engineering. A critical element of this research is engaging with key government and non-government agencies implementing smart city and smart mobility policies, including Landcom NSW, the Federal Smart Cities and Suburbs Program, and the Committee for Sydney.

2015 – Co Editor, Transactions, Institute of British Geographers

2016 Associate Dean Research, School of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney

2015 Head, Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University

2010 Professor, Macquarie University

Fellow, Geographical Society of New South Wales

  1. Dowling R and JL Kent (2015) Practice and public-private partnership in sustainable transport governance: the case of car sharing in Sydney, Australia' Transport Policy, 40, 58-64
  2. Dowling, R. (2018) Smart Mobility: Disrupting Transport Governance?. In Governance of the Smart Mobility Transition, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 51-64
  3. McGuirk PM, Dowling R. and H.Bulkeley (2014) Repositioning urban governments? Energy efficiency and Australia’s changing climate and energy governance regimes Urban Studies; 51 2712-2734
  4. Dowling, R., McGuirk, P., & Maalsen, S. (2018) Multiscalar governance of urban energy transitions in Australia: The cases of Sydney and Melbourne. Energy Research & Social Science, 44, 260-267
  5. Dowling, R. and L. Mantai (2017) Placing researcher identifications: labs, offices and homes in the PhD. Area 49(2): 200-207