Thesis Proposal Day: RegNet PhD scholars present


Event details


Date & time

Tuesday 11 October 2016


Coombs Extension 1.04
ANU Canberra


Gary Lea, Sora Lee, Daniel Reeders, Chacko Thomas, Timothy Vines, Ryan Wong



RegNet PhD scholars present their thesis proposals to their supervisors, peers and other RegNet scholars.

For catering purposes please RSVP with any dietary requirements by 4 October 2016 to RegNet.


Gary Lea: The risk machine – what might be the implications of AI technology for risk governance?

Russell and others have argued that developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology may pose significant risks, up to and including existential risk for humankind itself. Although there is now significant scholarship on AI risk, there is comparatively little on risk governance around AI. Accordingly, the project aim is to contribute to regulation and governance literature in relation to AI technology and, potentially, other emerging or future technologies. This project will principally explore (1) risk characteristics of AI technology, (2) implications of those characteristics for risk governance and, as a subsidiary comparison and contrast exercise, (3) what (if anything) can be learned relevant to (1) and (2) from the risk characteristics and governance of other ‘high-risk’ technologies (i.e. nuclear technology and biotechnology). For (1) and (2), the proposed research framework comprises: (A) the examination of AI as applied philosophy of mind and (B) the utilisation of nodal governance theory proposed by Burris, Drahos and Shearing. Noting that nodal governance theory is underpinned by Hayek’s Use of Knowledge in Society, the link between (A) and (B) is located in the work of scholars like Hayek, Becker, Simon and Kahneman spanning across human models (e.g. H. Economicus), AI and risk. During exploration, five underlying and interrelated concepts will be considered: agency (including its relationship to environment, structure, constraints, intelligence and rationality); uncertainty (including its relationship to complexity, ambiguity and ignorance); expertise (including its role in technological development, combatting risk and generating risk); globalisation of AI technology and expertise and generalisation in AI development.

Sora Lee: Smart governance for inter-sectoral action for health of the elderly

Social security policies for the elderly, such as the Basic Old-Age Pension (BOAP) and Long-term Insurance Care (LTCI) are products of the Korean Inter-Sectoral Committee for Ageing Society which aim to ease the burden on the elderly population. On one hand, the two interventions subsidise the living expenses and ease financial burdens and on the other hand, they attempt to rectify the persisting social norm of the gendered division of care labour. Although these are the two most pressing and challenging tasks for welfare regimes in East Asian countries, they have not yet been evaluated in terms of their impact on health. This research will evaluate the impact of these measures, particularly on on depression in the elderly and aims to assess the policy process of the Inter-Sectoral Committee and their governance structure. It will also examine how the committee deals with boundary issues and shared framing along with the possibility of implementing ‘smart governance’ in inter-sectoral action for health.

Daniel Reeders: Thinking the social in public health practice

Australian campaigns for HIV prevention almost never deliberately use stigma, yet campaigns for other health issues such as smoking and obesity often do. This may reflect variations in what Mitchell Dean (2010) calls the ‘social governance’ of health. In HIV, there is a strong community-based movement sustaining cultures of safe sex and safe injecting of drugs (Kippax & Race, 2003). But despite clear demographic differences in smoking and obesity prevalence, prevention campaigns and initiatives primarily target individual behaviours and choices (see Rose, 1999). The difference may be explained by limitations in how public health policy-makers, funders and practitioners think about ‘the social’ – not just the complexity of social systems, such as networks and communities, but their constitution by myriad acts of association, shaped dynamically by cultures, and their capacity to re-assemble in response to internal and external challenges (see Latour, 2007). On this view, campaigns that seek to shape the social governance of HIV can be understood as attempts to ‘manage the course of events in a social system’ (Burris, Drahos & Shearing, 2005). But people who make campaigns are situated within an authorising environment (Moore, 1995) with little tolerance for complexity and uncertainty – it demands evidence-based intervention and explicit program logic, yet social governance engages with entities such as cultures that cannot be directly intervened upon. My project aims to study how this is done –what kinds of thinking and talking enable the management of the dilemmas that arise at the interface between administrative government and the social governance of health issues. This will be undertaken via multi-sited ethnography of practice in the development of two campaigns, one in HIV and another in obesity, in countries comparable to Australia (Canada, the UK and US).

Chacko Thomas: Can the collective be used to solve the tragedy of the commons?

Traditionally, in situ environmental data has generally been produced to meet the requirements for environmental approvals, statutory reporting and/or license conditions, and to monitor environmental incidents and breaches. The intermittency (temporal scale –e.g. monitoring may be conducted in real time for a defined period, but aggregated when reporting) and in cases inadequacy of the information collection and analysis process, highlights the information asymmetry and vacuum used to inform the design of environmental regulation and policy. As the technological landscape rapidly changes, open data and citizen science (e.g. participatory sensing) offers an innovative paradigm for environmental monitoring. In this paradigm, the diversity of data and data sources increases exponentially as more devices (and equipment) become ‘smart’ and come online - creating electronic skins that uses the Internet as a scaffold to support and transmit sensations (Garcia-Castro, et al 2012). Thus, in the emerging reality, the application of the Internet of Things (IoT) for environmental monitoring not only becomes a tool for understanding complexity but also a means of responding to it swiftly (e.g. real time verification of the effectiveness of a given environmental regulation). However, as human activity migrates from the physical to the digital environment, tensions between legacy institutions (centralised, hierarchical, control-based) and emergent social practices on open networks (distributed, participatory, emergent) are intensifying (Clippinger and Bollier, 2012). Therefore, there is an urgent need to bridge the growing mismatch between conventional governance and digital opportunities (Clippinger and Bollier, 2012). The aim of the research is to understand how environmental monitoring and regulation can be adapted to meet the needs and challenges in the era of the IoT. It aims to develop and recommend implementable governance frameworks and data sharing principles to facilitate effective environmental regulation.

Tim Vines: Securitisation as a mechanism in the design of Australia’s pandemic preparedness and response regulation

Public health emergencies, including natural and man-made pandemics, represent a significant threat to human prosperity and wellbeing. Aware of this risk, law-makers, involved in the development of public health measures, have adopted regulatory measures designed to prepare for and, if possible, mitigate the risk of global pandemics.
This thesis seeks to identify the extent to which an orientation towards ‘securitisation’ features as a mechanism in the design and justification of Australia’s regulatory regime for the prevention and response to pandemics. In doing so it will analyse the extent to which security ‘speech-acts’ operate to shape Australia’s health law and assess whether this language has resulted - or could be used to justify – the occlusion of individual and community rights and traditional medical ethics from public health law. Drawing upon the work of Braithwaite and Drahos (2000) in relation to the mechanisms for the globalisation of rules and principles, and the work of the Copenhagen School on ‘securitisation theory’ (Buzan et al 1998), this study will examine the use of security language in shaping Australia’s health laws, focusing on the development of Australia’s new ‘biosecurity’ laws from 2001-2015, the consequences of ‘securitising moves’ in during the 2013-14 West Africa Ebola outbreak and the extension of securitisation to public health researchers via the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012.

Ryan Wong: Broken silos and quiet achievers: inertia against integration in the age of sustainable development

Siloism is at least as old as bureaucracy. However, in tackling sustainable development issues, the siloed bureaucracy struggles to manage synergies and trade-offs across the social, economic and environmental dimensions. This will require processes of horizontal integration, which is highly featured on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agenda and has been crowned as the ‘holy grail’ of public administration in the research literature. After more than a decade of trying, case studies from the European Union have proclaimed horizontal integration to be deadwood. Horizontal integration that promotes policy coherence has been held back by institutional inertia. This study aims to examine three drivers of the inertia: utility, norm and habit. The interactions between utility and norm can be analysed through Ostrom’s framework; the cognitive habits of actors through Kahneman’s theory; and collectively the Stigliz’s model proposes an understanding of the behaviours among ‘enculturated’ actors situated within a social context. Exploratory interviews provide the context and overview of horizontal integration in the German public administration system. The elite interviewees will help select three cases of reforming institutional statements (i.e. rules, norms and strategies) for facilitating horizontal integration. Purposive and snowball sampling will reach a combination of elites, non-elites and street-level policy entrepreneurs. The last group consists of technocrats who, as quiet acheivers, have the intellectual, social and political capitals to generate self-organised integration (as opposed to integration through authoritative control). Their interviews will form the basis for understanding the structure-agency relations (i.e. utility and norm) through identifying institutional statements and trace self-organisation processes. Some 240 bureaucrats will participate in the survey experiment that aims to establish the relationship between cognitive habits and integration behaviours. A collective map will be drawn to represent the interactions among key concepts unveiled in the interviews and surveys. In a focus group, bureaucrats will validate the map and provide meta-level interpretation of the findings. Finally, all insights will be written up in a format conducive to building an agent-based model for testing various institutional scenarios and explaining emergence in the integration behaviour of actors. This interdisciplinary study may break new ground in the field of behavioural political economy; more importantly, it contributes to answering the long-standing question of whether horizontal integration is achievable and if so under what conditions.


Start End
9:30 AM 9:40 AM Introduction
9:40 AM 10:30 AM Sora Lee: Smart governance for inter-sectoral action for health of the elderly
10:30 AM 11:20 AM Daniel Reeders: Thinking the social in public health practice
11:20 AM 11:30 AM Coffee break
11:30 AM 12:20 PM Tim Vines: Securitisation as a mechanism in the design of Australia’s pandemic preparedness and response regulation
12:20 PM 1:00 PM Lunch break
1:00 PM 1:50 PM Ryan Wong: Broken silos and quiet achievers: inertia against integration in the age of sustainable development
1:50 PM 2:40 PM Chacko Thomas: Can the collective be used to solve the tragedy of the commons?
2:40 PM 2:50 PM Afternoon tea
2:50 PM 3:40 PM Gary Lea: The Risk Machine – What Might Be The Implications Of AI Technology for Risk Governance?
3:40 PM 3:45 PM Wrap Up

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet