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 in Australia and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. 

‘We are proud to be partnering with the Embassy of France in Australia to provide this valuable opportunity for early- and mid-career researchers focused on international issues’, said Academy CEO Dr Chris Hatherly.  

‘This landmark partnership illustrates the positive trend in Australian-French scientific collaborations. It offers co-financing to simplify the creation of projects in the field of social sciences, and a joint evaluation to share the strategic priorities of our two countries. Since its creation, it has been very successful and is still gaining momentum’, said Mr Boris Toucas, Head of Culture, Education, Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in Australia. 

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 will explore issues ranging from climate change to historic pottery practices and all are exemplars 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 the successful recipients of the program. 

The four successful projects are: 

3,000-year-old cooking recipes: Lapita pottery and biomolecular archaeology in New Caledonia  

Project lead: Dr Mathieu Leclerc, The Australian National University 

Collaboration between The Australian National University and the Institute of Archaeology of New Caledonia and the Pacific 

The objective of this project is to undertake organic residue analysis of Lapita and more recent pottery from archaeological sites in New Caledonia. The recurrent presence of food crusts in decorated Lapita vessels in New Caledonia provides a unique opportunity to better understand how these pots were used. While carbonated deposits are relatively common in New Caledonia, they are extremely rare in Lapita assemblages elsewhere in the Pacific. The lipid residues extracted from food crusts will help to reveal the foodstuffs that were placed in these vessels. This will allow the research team to determine their use(s) and test the current model according to which Lapita pottery was involved in special symbolic/ceremonial activities rather than prosaic domestic cooking. By targeting pottery collections from sites occupied at slightly different times, the team will also be able to investigate how the practices related to pottery use changed through time. This project will lay the groundwork for more informed theories on the use of pottery throughout history in New Caledonia and across the Pacific.  

Creating spaces and dialogue for participation and social equity in healthcare 

Project lead: Dr Olaf Werder, University of Sydney 

Collaboration between the University of Sydney, University of Lorraine and Sorbonne University 

With increasing numbers of citizens reaching old age and an overburdened healthcare system, citizens are required to become more self-reliant regarding health issues. Whereas most health services in Australia and France have remained largely unchanged in design and delivery since the 1960s, societal needs have evolved. The pandemic has accelerated these challenges by disrupting essential health/social services and widening inequities in access to supports between countries and people.  

The overarching aim of this project, connected to the already existing strategic partnership between Sorbonne Université and the University of Sydney, is to analyse the public communication environment related to equity and patient participation in healthcare. Using case study methodology, the research team aims to understand narrative structures (media, health ecosystems, political, sociological, and philosophical discourses) related to health care delivery and disease prevention assistance to arrive at suggestions for improvement.  

Developing Partnerships Toward Quantifying the Impacts of Climate Change on the Ocean Ecosystem Economy of the Pacific 

Project lead: Dr Reniel Cabral, James Cook University 

Collaboration between James Cook University and the French Research Institute for Development in New Caledonia 

The long-term goal of this project is to quantify the impacts of climate change on the ocean ecosystem economy of the Pacific Island Nations and inform in-country and regional investments and adaptation strategies. The team hypothesises that the direction and magnitude of the impacts of climate change will be variable per ocean ecosystem economy and Pacific Island Nation, and there will be opportunities for adaptation and investments to prepare for the impacts of climate change.  

This proposed project will support the initial work of building partnerships with Pacific Island stakeholders and identifying opportunities for co-designing research based on climate-related priorities and needs of the Pacific Island Nations. 

Mapping the Soft Power Influence Strategies of France, Australia, and China in the Indo-Pacific  

Project lead: Dr Mitchell Hobbs, University of Sydney  

Collaboration between the University of Sydney and the University of Gustave Eiffel 

This study will examine the competing soft power strategies of France, Australia, and China in the Indo-Pacific. Specifically, it will explore how persuasion and positive coercion are used as modalities of ‘relational public diplomacy’ to cultivate allies amongst Pacific Island nations. As allies, France and Australia share geo-strategic interests in the region, but these powers are being challenged by a more assertive China that is using ‘wolf warrior public diplomacy’ and its Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) to shift alignments.  

This study will identify the soft power influence operations in New Caledonia, Papa New Guinea, and Indonesia. New Caledonia and Papa New Guinea are important contexts in which to map shifting sentiments regarding China, Australia, and France, as these two nations have been both allies and colonies of France and Australia respectively. Likewise, public diplomacy influence strategies targeting Indonesia will also be examined, as it is a major strategic partner of both France and Australia but has recently joined China in criticising the new security partnership ‘AUKUS’, between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as Australia’s attempts to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.  

To read more about the Academy’s International Grants program, click here.