Rebecca joined the Institute for Sustainable Futures as a social scientist with broad research interests including art, big data analytics and visualization, cascades of cooperation, climate change including adaptation implementation, extended reality, natural resource governance, network science, public uptake of policy, science communication and trust.
Prior to working at UTS, Cunningham worked at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) focused in the climate adaptation space (in Australian contexts as well as working in countries within the Indian Ocean Rim). Cunningham also undertook an 12 month post-doc at the University of Manchester, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research wherein the primary piece was an interdisciplinary project exploring public perceptions of carbon capture and storage (CCS). This was followed by six months focus on science communication program called "Manchester Climate Leaders" As Manchester aims for zero carbon in 2050 this project explored how art and culture could inspire a city to act on climate change. This involved collaborating with project partners Manchester Museum and Manchester Climate Change Agency and event partners Manchester Marketing, European City of Science Festival, Bluedot Festival.
At UTS:ISF has been working with the Climate Change Adaptation Team on a range of projects primarily in the Landscapes, Ecosystems, Climate Change Adaptation and Food Systems. Examples include developing decision frameworks, undertaking vulnerability assessments and climate change adaptation plans, exploring the update of adaptation policy and knowledge flows using social network analysis, exploring heuristics for decision making in Australian agriculture, and using various extended reality tools (such as virtual reality, augmented reality and gamification) to communicate climate change messages to policy makers, industry (including utility and infrastructure managers) and the general public.
International Network of Social Network Analysis
Australian Education eXtended Reality XR hub,
Can supervise: YES
art, big data analytics and visualization, cascades of cooperation, climate adaptation implementation, climate change communication, natural resource governance, network science, phenomenology, public uptake of policy, soical network analysis and trust
Gough, C, Cunningham, R & Mander, S 2018, 'Understanding key elements in establishing a social license for CCS: An empirical approach', International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, vol. 68, no. January 2018, pp. 16-25.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper presents results of empirical research with the broad aim of exploring societal responses to CO2 storage, framed around the concept of social license to operate (SLO). We describe a mixed method approach incorporating stakeholder interviews and focus groups deployed in two case study locations in the UK. The approach helps us to build up an understanding of the social context in which Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) will be introduced, in terms of the specific local conditions and with reference to the influence of local experiences of other technologies (such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking), for example). This understanding is then used to guide further empirical research, from which we assess the extent to which an SLO for CCS is emerging. Results show that perceptions of trust and confidence in key institutions to safely manage projects are highly dependent not just on the track record of the organisations but are strongly influenced by past experiences with different technologies. While the indications for achieving an SLO for CCS are currently positive, consolidating and maintaining that support depends on the evolving social, industrial and political landscape.
Cvitanovic, C, Cunningham, R, Dowd, A-M, Howden, SM & van Putten, EI 2017, 'Using Social Network Analysis to Monitor and Assess the Effectiveness of Knowledge Brokers at Connecting Scientists and Decision-Makers: An Australian case study', Environmental Policy and Governance, vol. 27, pp. 256-269.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Despite growing rhetoric regarding the potential benefits of using knowledge brokers in relation to environmental challenges and decision-making processes, the evidence in support of such claims is mostly anecdotal. This is, in part, due to the lack of established methods to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of knowledge brokers. To address this gap we assess the utility of social network analysis (SNA) to evaluate the effectiveness of knowledge brokers in connecting scientists and decision-makers. Specifically, using a case-study approach, we undertake longitudinal SNA over a 12-month period to evaluate the extent to which the knowledge broker developed networks between producers and users of knowledge across different organizations. We also undertook a qualitative survey of scientists (n = 29) who worked in the same organization as the knowledge broker to understand the extent to which the knowledge broker increased the impact of scientific research for decision-making purposes. Results show that the knowledge broker developed an extensive stakeholder network of 192 individuals spanning over 30 organizations. The results of the SNA found that over time this network increased in density and became more cohesive, both key elements underpinning successful knowledge exchange. Furthermore, the qualitative survey found that the knowledge broker also had a positive impact in other ways, including helping researchers understand the operating environments within decision-making agencies and the best approaches for engaging with specific decision-makers. Thus, this study demonstrates the value of SNA for evaluating knowledge brokers and provides empirical support for the use of knowledge brokers in the environmental sector.
Gough, C, Cunningham, R & Mander, S 2017, 'Societal responses to CO2 storage in the UK: media, stakeholder and public perspectives', Energy Procedia, vol. 114, pp. 7310-7316.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Mander, S, Cunningham, R, Lever, L & Cough, C 2017, 'Comparing online and offline knowledge networks of Carbon Capture and Storage', Energy Procedia, vol. 114, pp. 7326-7332.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
This paper examines the complex ecosystem of organisations involved in the proposed role out of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the UK. Through analysis of interview and twitter data, it focuses on the flow of knowledge flows within online and offline networks, highlighting how in this case, CCS retains a niche audience, with communication and information flows concentrated with industry and stakeholder networks at a local and regional scale, as opposed to reaching broader national policy makers, and the wider publics. This brings a unique insight into the construction of networks across intersecting sectors of this critical technology and highlights how for successful implementation CCS, actors may need to reach out beyond their existing network.
Cunningham, R, Cvitanovic, C, Measham, T, Jacobs, B, Dowd, A & Harman, B 2016, 'Engaging communities in climate adaptation: the potential of social networks', Climate Policy, vol. 16, no. 7, pp. 894-906.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
There has been a growing recognition regarding the use of social networks to engage communities in government actions. However, despite increasing awareness of social networks, there is very limited evidence for their application in relation to climate policy. This study fills this gap by assessing the potential of social networks for engaging local communities in climate adaptation policy, drawing on a case study of the Shoalhaven region in Australia. Participants from key representative groups were recruited using a purposive snowball sampling technique (N . 24). By mapping knowledge acquisition and diffusion networks in relation to climate adaption at the local scale, this study identified key nodes within the networks. Findings demonstrate that although climate adaptation information was acquired from a diverse range of sources, the sharing knowledge networks were far more dispersed. Furthermore, although 165 knowledge sources were identified, three nodes had coverage cross the entire network, and as such acted as boundary spanners within the sharing network. This research demonstrates the utility of social network analysis to reveal the underlying knowledge networks and structures that influence community engagement pathways and in doing so outlines key implications in relation to engaging local communities in climate policy and action.
Cvitanovic, C, Crimp, S, Fleming, A, Bell, J, Howden, M, Hobday, AJ, Taylor, M & Cunningham, R 2016, 'Linking adaptation science to action to build food secure Pacific Island communities', Climate Risk Management, vol. 11, pp. 53-62.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
© 2016 The Authors. Climate change is a major threat to food security in Pacific Island countries, with declines in food production and increasing variability in food supplies already evident across the region. Such impacts have already led to observed consequences for human health, safety and economic prosperity. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of Pacific Island communities is one way to reduce vulnerability and is underpinned by the extent to which people can access, understand and use new knowledge to inform their decision-making processes. However, effective engagement of Pacific Island communities in climate adaption remains variable and is an ongoing and significant challenge. Here, we use a qualitative research approach to identify the impediments to engaging Pacific Island communities in the adaptations needed to safeguard food security. The main barriers include cultural differences between western science and cultural knowledge, a lack of trust among local communities and external scientists, inappropriate governance structures, and a lack of political and technical support. We identify the importance of adaptation science, local social networks, key actors (i.e., influential and trusted individuals), and relevant forms of knowledge exchange as being critical to overcoming these barriers. We also identify the importance of co-ordination with existing on-ground activities to effectively leverage, as opposed to duplicating, capacity.
Austin, M.P., Cunningham, R.B. & Fleming, P.M. 1984, 'New approaches to direct gradient analysis using environmental scalars and statistical curve-fitting procedures', Vegetatio, vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 11-27.View/Download from: Publisher's site
The conceptual framework of direct gradient analysis (DGA) is discussed in relation to the functional, factorial approach to vegetation. Both approaches use abstract simplified environment gradients with which to correlate vegetation response. Environmental scalars based on physical process models of environment and/or known biological growth processes can be incorporated to make analyses less location specific. An example of an environmental scalar (radiation index) for converting aspect and slope measurements to the more biologically relevant radiation input at a site is given. The problem of the shape of species response curves to environmental gradients is examined using a sample of 1 286 plots from eucalypt forest in southern New South Wales. An important conclusion is that skewed or bimodal response curves may be due to unsatisfactory distribution of observations and/or unrecognized environmental factors. The use of Generalized Linear Modelling (GLM) as a method for providing a statistical basis for DGA is presented. Analyses using GLM, and presence/absence data are presented for a range of eucalypt species (Eucalyptus rossii, E. dalrympleana, E. fastigata etc.). Successful prediction of species distributions (realized niches) can be achieved with mean annual temperature, mean annual rainfall, radiation index and geology. Quadratic terms are required in many cases, indicating bell-shaped response curves. The major variability associated with species niches is shown to be related to a limited number (4) of environmental factors. DGA with biologically relevant scalars and appropriate statistical methods is suitable for studying many problems of species' realized niches and plant community composition. © 1984 Dr W. Junk Publishers.
AUSTIN, M.P., CUNNINGHAM, R.B. & GOOD, R.B. 1983, 'Altitudinal distribution of several eucalypt species in relation to other environmental factors in southern New South Wales', Australian Journal of Ecology, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 169-180.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Four problems associated with studying the altitudinal distribution of eucalypt species are examined: the lack of specific physiological relationship between altitude and plant growth, the influence of other environmental factors, the availability of suitable data and the need for statistical analysis. Presence/absence data for eucalypt species were obtained from several sources. Probability of occurrence in 100 m zones is determined for E. maculata, E. muellerana, E. fastigata, E. sieberi, E. dalrympleana and E. pauciflora. The influence of other factors is demonstrated for several species using direct gradient analysis. Aspect is important for E. fastigata and E. rossii in addition to altitude and rainfall. The statisical model used was the logitlinear model: log (p/I– p) = linear function of environmental variables where p is the expected probability of being present for a given combination of environmental variables. Two examples are presented. E. dalrympleana can be predicted from altitude, rainfall, radiation index (measure of aspect) and an interaction term between altitude and aspect. E. rossii presence is predicted by altitude, rainfall, radiation index and geology. Altitude is transformed into an estimate of mean annual temperature which is shown to clarify some overlaps of species distribution. It is concluded that use of data collected for other purposes can be used in a generalized linear model for presence data to show the complex correlations which exist between the altitudinal distribution of some eucalypts and other environmental factors. Copyright © 1983, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved
Austin, M.P., Cunningham, R.B. & Wood, J.T. 1983, 'The subgeneric composition of eucalypt forest stands in a region of South-Eastern Australia', Australian Journal of Botany, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 63-71.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Pryor's rule that mixed stands of eucalypt forest consist of species from different subgeneric groups was tested statistically using data from a vegetation survey of part of the South Coast of New South Wales. The plot data were stratified by environmental regions, and expressed in terms of the subgeneric combinations of the two most abundant tree species. The categories recognized were the eucalypt subgenera Monocalyptus, Symphyomyrtus and Corymbia, plus Angophora and others. The results suggest that: (a) subgenera are characteristic of certain environmental regions; (b) combinations of subgenera are not random; (c) a modification of Pryor's rule is applicable to three of the four regions studied; and (d) in addition, certain combinations of subgenera occur more frequently than expected by chance, e.g. Monocalyptus occurs as the most abundant species, with Symphomyrtus as subordinate, more frequently than the reverse situation. The results accord with recent reviews of eucalypt forest ecology but there are many plots with a composition of three species from the same subgenus. Biological explanations for Pryor's rule must also take account of these exceptions and the tendency for Symphyomyrtus species to be subdominant to Monocalyptus in the coastal region. © 1983 CSIRO. All rights resereved.
Shepherd, C.J. & Cunningham, R.B. 1978, 'Mating behaviour of Australian isolates of Phytophthora Species. II* Phytophthora cinnamomi', Australian Journal of Botany, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 139-151.View/Download from: Publisher's site
Determinations were made of the patterns of oogonial occurrence in the culture medium, the numbers of oogonia produced and of aborted oogonia formed in matings between 18 A1 and 116 A2 compatability type isolates of Phytophthora cinnamomi from south-eastern and Western Australia. The majority of the A2 isolates mated freely with their A1 counterparts, but three A2 isolates mated with only some of the A1 testers and five others were sterile. Patterns of occurrence of oogonia, their quantitative production and the percentage of aborted oogonia produced were affected by the particular isolates used. Statistical analysis of the data showed that the nine populations of A2 isolates were significantly different from each other in all three parameters studied. Populations from Eden and Bemm River were markedly less fertile than those from other regions. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that P. cinnamomi is an allochthonous organism in Australia. Oogonial size was found to vary according to position within the mating plate and according to the particular isolates used, although different geographical groups of isolates could not be dis-tinguished. Abnormally small oogonia were produced in matings involving three of the A2 isolates. The taxonomic significance of these findings is discussed. © 1978 CSIRO. All rights reserved.
Cunningham, R, Jacobs, B, Cvitanovic, C, Measham, T & Brown, P 2018, 'Networks Shaping Climate Adaptation Policy and Governance', Climate Leaders 2018, Dockside Conference Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Mukheibir, P, Boronyak, L & Cunningham, R 2018, 'Improving climate adaptation communication and decision-making between government and communities', WASH Futures 2018, Brisbane.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Goggin, L, Cunningham, R, Summerell, G & Littleboy, M 2015, 'Exploring the networks of government scientists using Social Network Analysis: a scoping study', 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, MODELLING & SIMULATION SOC AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND INC, Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Scientists working for the New South Wales (NSW) Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH)
provide rigorous evidence and advice to support government priorities which include protecting the natural
environment. They also collaborate with and attract non-government researchers to work on government
In this scoping study, we used Social Network Analysis (SNA) to visualise the ego networks of six government
scientists from OEH who work on biodiversity conservation and landscape management. This allowed us to
explore the potential reach of their advice and information within OEH and beyond; and examine gaps and
redundancy in the stacked ego networks.
Cunningham, R. & Goggin, L. 2014, 'Exploring the networks of government scientists using Social Network Analysis: a scoping study', 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation,, Gold Coast.
The Adaptive Communities Node (ACN) evolved over the life of the NSW Adaptation Research Hub 2013 – 2018. This report assembles outputs from ACN projects and from research conducted to support the work program of OEH's Impacts and Adaptation Team into a cohesive set of insights on the process of adaptation research that is demand-driven and situated at the interface of government policy and operations.
The Hort Innovation Green Cities project 'Measuring Australia's Green Space Asset' (MUGS) undertook a global review of urban green space (UGS) measurement research and engaged with Australian stakeholders to gauge current practice. The overall aim of the project was to foster best-practice UGS planning and management by juxtaposing the scientific state of the art with the contextualised needs expressed by potential Australian end users. The synthesis of findings informed a 'blueprint' which sketches the contours of a possible nationally consistent UGS decision-support framework. The framework is illustrated with a worked example from Australia (rapid assessment of urban green space assets using satellite imagery).
Cunningham, R, Jacobs, B, Measham, T, Harman, MP & Cvitanovic, C Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2017, Social network analysis: a primer on engaging communities on climate adaptation in New South Wales, Australia, pp. 1-18, Sydney, Australia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
A network is a group or system of interconnected people or things. Social networks connect people. Those connections provide advantages to members of the network through access to private information, diverse skills and power, which makes the understanding of networks important for the formulation and communication of policy. The Adaptive Communities Node used a network analysis methodology to understand the formal and informal knowledge channels that communicate climate change adaptation policy throughout regional communities (Harman et al, 2016; Harman et al 2015a; Harman et al 2015b). The results of case studies in these communities (centred on Shoalhaven, Bega and Orange) have been published through the UTS:ISF NSW Adaptation Research Hub (https://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/our-research/institute-sus…). This primer serves as a companion document to those reports.