PhD Scholarship - Water Management


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CSIRO’s Postgraduate Top-Up Scholarship Program provides enhanced opportunities in science and engineering for outstanding graduates enrolling each year at Australian tertiary institutions as postgraduates for research leading to the award of a PhD.  CSIRO Land and Water is currently offering a PhD Top-up Scholarship for PhD students in the area of water management research.

The PhD Top-up Scholarship is available to postgraduate students who have gained (or expect to gain), first class honours or equivalent, in relevant research areas.  Students must also expect to receive a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship, or an equivalent primary scholarship, commencing in late 2020 or early 2021.  Joint supervision of students by a university and a CSIRO supervisor is required and such joint supervisory arrangements must be consistent with the Higher Degree by Research Regulations of the host university. 

The CSIRO Top Up Scholarships are supplementary awards, which add to the student’s support from a principal scholarship awarded by another body, e.g. Australian University RTP scholarship.  In all respects recipients of awards will be regarded as students of the University at which they are registered, and all rules relating to degree candidature and the primary award will apply. In particular, recipients will undertake research at CSIRO as a student of the university concerned and will not be employees of CSIRO.

Recipients of CSIRO Supplementary Postgraduate Awards are required to be Australian citizens or permanent residents. However, in fields in which there is a national skill shortage, awards may go to overseas candidates, provided that the international candidate is prepared to seek permanent residency as soon as possible within Australian Government policy guidelines

Project Title: Beyond the carrot and stick: how social norms and values influence water management. 

Project Details: The Groundwater Commons Game (GCG) is a methodological framework that couples an Agent-Based Model (ABM) with a groundwater model in order to evaluate the interaction between human and groundwater systems. The GCG uses information on cultural/social values in order to parametrise the way water users make decisions regarding complying (or not) with imposed regulations/restrictions. Water users base their decisions on performance metrics related to economic, institutional and social scores, and different management strategies or policy interventions can be devised through these performance metrics in the methodological framework.

Monitoring, fines and incentives have since long been used as strategies for water management. In previous research these tools have been evaluated in typical small-scale irrigation districts in Australia, India/Pakistan and USA, together with empirical information about cultural values/social norms. This research project will explore how cultural values and social norms can be used as leverage tools to achieve sustainable water management under contentious water use. The aim of this work is to expand current capabilities of the GCG in order to include diverse water users (e.g. mining/gas sector, water utilities, industries), deploy the GCG in a real-world case study and potentially advance methodological developments. A suitable case study will be considered for discussion with interested candidates. We anticipate numerous potential research avenues such as: a) methodological GCG improvements (alternative performance metrics, alternative human rationalities for decision-making, updated World Values Survey 7), b) exploration of alternative management tools (rule-followers, rule-breakers, information flow/frequency, crop management strategies), c) application to a real-world aquifer study. This research project encompasses a truly transdisciplinary approach from groundwater modelling and water management to complex systems and computational social sciences/theory.

Location: Dutton Park, Qld 
Scholarship: Top-up scholarship of $7,000 per annum, plus a generous operating budget of $10,000 per annum
Tenure: 3 years
Reference: 71104


To be eligible to apply you must have (or expect to gain):

  • first class honours or equivalent in a relevant research area;
  • admission to an Australian University as a PhD student;
  • a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or university equivalent; and
  • a university supervisor who is willing and able to supervise you.

The successful applicant will be required to obtain and provide a National Police Check or equivalent.

If you have already commenced your PhD studies, you must be less than 12 months into your PhD at 1 January 2021.

International applicants must have the appropriate immigration approvals to allow them to take up the scholarship.  The successful applicant must be residing in Australia in order to commence their PhD and take up the CSIRO Postgraduate Top-Up Scholarship by no later than 30 June 2021.

Applications will be assessed on:

  1. Quality and relevance of student project:  The primary assessment criterion for a CSIRO Postgraduate Scholarship is the quality and relevance of the project being proposed.  The research must be aligned with the advertised priority research area.
  2. Academic calibre of the student:  The quality of the student is also critical to the assessment of a scholarship and candidates must hold (or expect to gain) a relevant first-class honours (or equivalent) degree from a recognised university.
  3. Availability of appropriate university supervision:  The relevance of the university supervisor’s research background and their willingness to supervise the student in collaboration with the CSIRO supervisor should also be made clear. 

Contact:  For more information please contact Rodrigo Rojas on +61 7 3833 5600 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How to apply:

You will be required to:

  1. submit a Resume/CV and Cover Letter (as one document) in the ‘Resume/CV field which includes:
    • the reasons why the research project/s you have selected are of interest to you and how your skills/knowledge meet the project requirements;
    • the names and contact details of two academic referees; and
    • an outline of your longer-term career aspirations and how this program will help you achieve them.
  2. upload your academic results in the ‘Cover Letter’ field;
  3. in the ‘Job-Specific Information’ section, select ‘Not Applicable’ for both Preference 1 and Preference 2.  You are not required to provide your Grade Point Average (GPA).

If you experience difficulties applying online call 1300 984 220 and someone will be able to assist you.  Outside business hours please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Applications close:  Monday 8 March 2021 (11pm AEDT)

Click here to apply.