2021 Australia-France Social Science Collaborative Research Program winners announced

Four teams of social scientists from Australia, France and the Pacific will receive a boost towards interdisciplinary research projects tackling major societal issues, thanks to $20,000 in funding from the Embassy of France and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

The Australia-France Social Science Collaborative Research Program, now in its second year, aims to foster and reinforce social science collaboration between Australia and France. Through the program, both organisations are particularly interested in supporting research activities in the Pacific Islands, including French overseas territories. This year’s award recipients were drawn from a competitive selection process of more than 20 applications for the four grants. Winners will explore social issues ranging from the socio-economic impacts of obesity in the Pacific, to a Pacific-Island based citizen science mosquito surveillance project.  All are excellent examples of the breadth and depth of social sciences links between a wide range of institutions in France and Australia.

The Academy and the Embassy congratulate all of the successful recipients of the program.

The four successful projects are:

Across the Coral Sea: Australia and New Caledonia before 1940

School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University; The University of New Caledonia; and various local historians, museums, and archives.

Project Leader: Dr Alexis Bergantz, RMIT University

This project will study the transcolonial history between Australia and New Caledonia from the 1850s to 1940. It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that New Caledonia gradually took on a more decidedly French hue. But the complexity of the relationships between the French colony, the Australian colonies, and the French and British empires is obscured by traditional national histories. This project will start to address blind spots in the scholarship before the opening of an official Australian diplomatic representation in New Caledonia.

Archaeology of communities and communities in archaeology: investigating pre-colonial Kanak settlement while researching past indigenous fieldwork contribution in New Caledonia

School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia; Institut d’Archéologie de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et du Pacifique; Direction de la Culture, de la Condition Féminine et de la Citoyenneté de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

Project Leader: Dr Emilie Dotte-Sarout, University of Western Australia

In 1952, a team of archaeologists identified and named the Lapita Cultural Complex as the signature site of human settlement of the Western Pacific 3000 years ago. Dr Dotte-Sarout’s current research examines the hidden contribution of women during this expedition. Her research has highlighted the important role played by indigenous ‘guides’ or ‘workers’ but details about their identity, activities, local context or motivation for their participation have previously been lacking. The purpose of this project is to deliver answers to New Caledonian communities about precolonial modes of occupation, as well as providing data and analyses on the archaeology of New Caledonia and the history of Pacific archaeology.

Exploring the socio-economic dimensions of the obesity epidemic in the Pacific Islands. Evidence from Tuvalu.

INRAE (French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment); Department of Political Economy, the University of Sydney

Project Leader: Dr Pierre Levasseur, INRAE

The Pacific Islands face structural food security challenges and an increased availability of nutrient-poor foods has increased the prevalence of obesity, related chronic comorbidities, and mortality, which constitute the main public health concerns in the region. In some Pacific Islands such as Tuvalu, half of the population is classified as being obese and over two-thirds overweight. This project aims to explore why some groups are able to maintain a normal weight while others face overweight and obesity in the Pacific Island of Tuvalu. More specifically, the project will explore the sociodemographic, economic and cultural factors that lead to specific food behaviours and protect a minority of individuals against hazardous weight gain.

Citizen science for enhanced arboviral-carrying mosquito surveillance in low resource Pacific island settings

School of Population Health, UNSW Sydney; Department of Entomology and Research, Solomon Islands National University; Clinical and Health Sciences, University of South Australia; Dengue and Arbovirus Unit and Medical Entomology Unit, Institut Pasteur de Nouvelle-Calédonie

Project Leader: Dr Adam Craig, UNSW Sydney

The Pacific region has been affected by several explosive arboviral outbreaks in recent years. The mosquito responsible, the Aedes mosquito is endemic in many of the Pacific islands and the risk of future outbreaks is high. Mosquito surveillance is important to identify, assess and respond to arboviral outbreak risks, however, capacity to conduct surveillance in many Pacific islands is hampered by logistical, operational and resource constraints.

This project will explore the feasibility of a community participation/citizen science-based model of mosquito surveillance in one Pacific island setting, the Solomon Islands. The study will recruit, train and equip citizens to trap, identify and report mosquito catch data to a central authority.  Results will provide insights into the risk of disease transmission and allow pin-pointed response activities.