Funded Research Projects

Staff members of the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations are involved in a number of leading-edge political science research projects. Here is a sampling of recent research grants awarded to staff members from organisations in Australia and overseas.

International Relations

China’s Economic Statecraft: Turning Wealth into Power

Chief Investigator: Dr James Reilly

Date: 2015-2017

Funding Source: Australian Research Council - Discovery Projects

Amount awarded: $165,300

Project Summary:

Chinese leaders increasingly deploy economic resources such as foreign aid and overseas investments to influence policy decisions in other countries. To implement economic statecraft, China's leaders rely upon their state-owned companies, bureaucratic agencies, and local officials, even though they are often unreliable representatives of the central government. Applying an innovative economic theory, this project examines how central leaders' delegation of authority shapes the effectiveness of China's economic statecraft across mainland Asia. The results aim to specify the conditions under which China is able to translate wealth into power—to utilize economic resources to exert political influence abroad.

Waves of Democracy and Secessionist Conflict

Chief Investigator: Dr Ryan Griffiths

Date: 2015-2017

Funding Source: [[|Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA)]]

Amount awarded: $331,000

Project Summary:

What is the relationship between democracy and secessionism? This project aims to investigate the theory that democratisation unleashes secessionist forces that are likely to turn violent in the absence of mature democratic institutions. Thus, waves of democracy yield waves of secessionist conflict. Through a statistical analysis of secessionism combined with case studies in three countries with dissimilar regime types - Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, and Spain - the project aims to study the relationship between democratic institutions and secessionist outcomes. The project aims to contribute to our understanding of the unintended consequences of democratisation and inform policy choices regarding the introduction and sequencing of democratic institutions.

The Geography of Power in China: Urban Expansion and Administrative Empire

Chief Investigator: Dr Minglu Chen, Prof Carolyn Cartier (UTS), Prof George C Lin, and Prof Junde Liu

Date: 2012-2014

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Amount awarded: $183,000

Reinterpreting the Sino-Japanese war: north China base areas 1939-1940

Chief Investigator: Professor of Chinese Politics David Goodman                                     

Date: 2012-2014

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Amount awarded: $772,000

Spirited Voices from the Muslim World: Islam, Democracy and Gender Rights

Chief Investigator: Assoc Prof Lily Zubaidah Rahim

Date: July 2010 - July 2011

Funding Source: Australia-Malaysia Institute (AMI), Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

Amount awarded: $21,637

Scheme: AMI-DFAT Grant


The project focused on progressive Muslim interpretations of Islam, sharia, secular democracy and gender rights in Muslim majority countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and the larger Muslim World.  


An edited book proposal will be sent to OUP (New York) and Princeton Uni. Press for review in early November 2011.


Public Policy

Governing vs. Opposition Parties and the Global Financial Crisis: Comparing the United Kingdom and Australia

Chief Investigator: Professor Allan McConnell (Sydney) and Associate Professor Andrew Hindmoor (University of Queensland)                                     

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Innovative democracy? Changing approaches to citizen engagement in Australia, the UK and Denmark

Chief Investigator: Assoc Prof Ariadne Vromen, Prof. David Marsh (ANU), and Prof. Henrik P Bang.

Date: 2012-2014

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Amount awarded: $286,000

Political Theory

Rethinking climate justice in an age of adaption: capabilities, local variation, and public deliberation

Chief Investigator: Professor David Schlosberg with Dr Simon J. Niemeyer (ANU)

Date: 2012-2014

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Amount awarded: $250,000

Comparative Politics

Bridling Autocrats: Limiting Executive Power in Authoritarian Polities

Chief Investigator: Professor Graeme Gill

Date: 2015-2017

Funding Source: Australian Research Council - Discovery Projects

Amount awarded: $131,100

Project Summary:

This project will analyse the dynamics of elite politics in authoritarian polities, focusing in particular upon how members of the elite try to constrain would-be dictators. By showing the different patterns of elite politics in different types of authoritarian systems, the project will interrogate one of the most curious aspects of contemporary international politics, why so many authoritarian regimes have been able to stabilise themselves in an era commonly seen as being one of democratic advance. Understanding authoritarian elite politics and their implications for regime survival is of significant policy interest.

2011 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship

Chief Investigator: Prof Pippa Norris

Date: 2011

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Scheme: Australian Laureate Fellowship


For the Laureate project, Prof Norris aims to deepen and advance understanding of the impact of democratic governance upon prosperity, welfare and peace in countries around the world since the late twentieth century. The third wave of democratization has transformed regimes around the globe and the research will seek to establish whether this process has in turn generated concrete benefits in human development.  
As part of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick fellowship, she also plans to run workshops and networking events aimed at encouraging early-career women researchers to stay in academia, and also encourage research on gender equality in elected office.

Innovative democracy? Changing approaches to citizen engagement in Australia, the UK and Denmark

Chief Investigator: Assoc Prof Ariadne Vromen,, Prof. David Marsh (ANU), and Prof. Henrik P Bang.

Date: 2012-2014

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Amount awarded: $286,000

Understanding and Forecasting Political Instability, Mass Atrocities, and Genocide: Combining Social Science and Machine Learning Approaches

Chief Investigator: Assoc Prof Benjamin Goldsmith

Date: 2009

Funding Source: Australian Responsibility to Protect Fund

Amount awarded: $186,371


“Political Instability and Mass Killing: Comparing Causes in Asia and the Pacific and Globally”

(with Dimitri Semenovich and Arcot Sowmya), under review.


“Political Instability and Large-Scale Violence in the Economic North and South: Comparing Causes”

(with Dimitri Semenovich & Arcot Sowmya), paper presented at the International Political Science Association – European Council for Political Research joint conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 16-19 February 2011.


Political institutions, war, and peace: Global and regional dynamics

Chief Investigator: Assoc Prof Benjamin Goldsmith

Date: 2010 - 2012

Funding Source: Australian Research Council

Amount awarded: $143,000 (2010), $83,000 (2011), $30,000 (2012)


Ideas about democratic peace have been seized upon by some political leaders, and resonate with the public imagination. Australia has important relationships with countries of a wide range of regime types beyond stable democracy, such as Afghanistan, China, Fiji, Indonesia, and Iraq. This project gives systematic understanding of the real-world foreign policy implications of the range of political regimes. It allows scholars, citizens, and policy makers to move beyond generalisations like democratic peace, the universality of which is belied in recent research. It contributes to safeguarding Australia, develops multidisciplinary social science capacity in cutting edge quantitative methods, and mentors a PhD student.


“International Trade and the Onset and Escalation of Military Conflict: Different in East Asia?” Under review.


“Political Competition, Political Participation, and Democratic Peace in Asia and Africa”

(with Dimitri Semenovich, Arcot Sowmya, and Gorana Grgić), paper presented at the American Political Science Association annual meeting, September 1-4 2012, Seattle, Washington.

“Economic or Political Peace in East Asia?: Testing ‘Capitalist’ and ‘Democratic’ Peace Explanations,”

Paper presented at special joint conference of the Association for Asian Studies and the International Convention of Asia Scholars, Honolulu, Hawai'i, March 31–April 3, 2011.


“Polyarchy in Anarchy: Institutions of political competition and participation, and the initiation and escalation of international conflict"

(with Dimitri Semenovich & Arcot Sowmya), paper presented at the SGIR 7th Pan-European International Relations Conference,

Stockholm, 9-11 September 2010.


The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) database

Chief Investigator: Dr Anna Boucher

Date: 2012 - 2014

Amount awarded: $150,000

Funding for Australia:

The University of Sydney Faculty of Law and the Institute for Social Sciences has previously provided seed funding for the project. The University of Sydney IT section has provided funding to set up a cloud-based platform to manage the database.

Harvard University, the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, the Academy of Social Sciences Australia and the School of Social and Political Science funded a one day conference on the database “Fault-lines of Immigration Policy: The Harvard Sydney Immigration Summit” in July 2012.

Description: Read full description here.

The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) Database will address this problem directly by providing a new set of data on immigration policies that should be of immense value to researchers in a wide variety of academic disciplines. The IMPALA Database is a collaborative project, bringing together social science and legal researchers from Harvard University, the University of Luxembourg, the University of Amsterdam, the London School of Economics, the University of Sydney and the Social Science Research Centre Berlin.

Publications/Outputs: See complete list here.

Crock, M & Ghezelbash, D, 'Do Loose Lips Bring Ships? The Role of Policy, Politics and Human Rights in Managing Unauthorised Boat Arrivals' (2010) 19(2) Griffith Law Review 238-287.

Comparing migration, naturalisation and asylum policies: The International Migration Law and Policy Analysis Database (IMPALA). IMPALA launch article, presented at the European Consortium of Political Research conference in August 2011.  Currently being revised by Boucher, Gest and Helbling for submission.

Immigration policy and its Impact: A comparative study with a focus on Spain, LSE Migration Studies Unit and ICCS, Madrid, 2010 [Thielemann, E., Boucher, A. Mahía, R., Armstrong, C.,  Bovens, L., Gest, J.,  Arce, R., Lorca, A., Lores, N. and McGovern, P. Summary of preliminary Spanish coding].