Dr Elizabeth Clarke

B Agr Sc, GradDipComn
Honorary Senior Lecturer

I am a transdisciplinary researcher and practitioner, focusing on coproduction of knowledge and codesign for positive change. My background is in food systems, rural development, sustainability, natural resource management, livelihoods, social innovation and change, and learning and capacity building.

My work focuses on complex systems, particularly tackling wicked problems. This includes exploring problem, context and scale; and designing, implementing and evaluating action research. I help people from diverse backgrounds: spanning research, policy and practice; cultures, backgrounds and contexts; and disciplinary, expert and experiential knowledge bases; to explore and share their unique knowledge and perspectives through a range of techniques and methods.

Through a range of complexity-based tools and by fostering generative dialogue, I enable coproduction between this diversity of people and perspectives to create synergies and collaborative approaches to addressing these problems, as well as creating dynamic networks for ongoing collaboration (given that wicked problems have a no stopping rule).

Wicked problems infer more than complexity – I describe wicked problems as complex issues that defy complete definition, for which there can be no final solution, since any resolution creates further issues, and where solutions are not true or false or good or bad, but the best that can be done at the time (Brown, 2010, p. 4; Rittel & Weber, 1973). Irreducible uncertainty is a core feature of wicked problems (Head 2008).

My experience is broadly based, encompassing research, international development, policy, governance, community development, and business and communication. Through my research experience (particularly facilitating and coordinating collaboration and coproduction) I provide important insights into research and academic cultures and the constraints and challenges researchers face in engaging in complex problems in partnership with practitioners, policy-makers, and communities, and in dealing with the complexities and contradictions and conflicts that this generates.

Research interests

Areas of expertise

  • Environmental Science And Management
  • Human Geography
  • Social And Cultural Anthropology
  • Sustainable Agricultural Development
  • Agricultural Land Management
  • Other Studies In Human Society

Research interests

  • Rural research for development and rural livelihoods
  • Social innovation and innovation systems;
  • Sustainability adaptation and transformation (including climate change)
  • Local and indigenous knowledge;
  • Knowledge management and co-production;
  • Disaster and risk management
  • Capacity development and pedagogy;
  • Food systems, dynamics and governance;
  • Research-policy engagement and governance;
  • Participatory evaluation and learning;
  • Facilitation, participatory process and action research;
  • Trans- and interdisciplinary research design, facilitation and implementation
  • Complex systems thinking and research;

Researcher's projects

  • Developing academic capabilities and communities of practice in the Mekong region (including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar)
  • Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation, Leuphana University Lueneburg
  • Facilitating social innovation in rice-based systems in Southern Laos drawing on a participatory evaluation approach
  • Innovation systems approach for enhancing livelihoods in Southern Laos rice-based farming systems: study of the factors that enable and constrain innovation and change.
  • Disaster risk management: Transdisciplinary action research to explore and facilitate research-policy-practice engagement in the process of generating flood mitigation and management options and solutions in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, in Western Sydney.
  • “Making it visible”: A series of workshops examining underlying motivations, beliefs, assumptions of sustainability change agents and social innovators (workshops in Romania and Germany) to strengthen their work and partnerships to enable collaboration, coproduction and transformational change through scenario planning and foresighting.

In preparation

Clarke EA, Ashhurst, CA, and Roth CH. (in progress) Mapping complex problems in rural research for development using a wicked problems dimensions framework. Target journal: Ecology and society

Clarke EA, Brown VA, Van Kerkhoff L, and Roth CH. (in progress) Moving beyond transdisciplinarity: A collective thinking approach for research practice. (Target journal: Futures)

Grunbuhel, C, Clarke EA. (in progress) Research-policy engagement, capacity and processes in Lao PDR: a case study. (Target journal: Evidence and Policy)

Journal papers

Clarke, E, Jackson, T, Keoka, K et al 2018, 'Insights into adoption of farming practices through multiple lenses: an innovation systems approach', Development in Practice, vol. 28, no. 8, pp. 983-998pp.

Clarke, E & Ashhurst, C 2018, 'Making Collective Learning Coherent: An Adaptive Approach to the Practice of Transdisciplinary Pedagogy', in Dena Fam, Linda Neuhauser and Paul Gibbs (ed.), Transdisciplinary Theory, Practice and Education, Springer, Cham, pp. 151-165pp.

Sengxua, P, Jackson, T, Simali, P et al 2018, 'Integrated Nutrient–Weed Management Under Mechanised Dry Direct Seeding (Dds) Is Essential For Sustained Smallholder Adoption In Rainfed Lowland Rice (Oryza Sativa L.)', Experimental Agriculture, vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 509-525.

Bagnol B, Clarke EA, Li M, Maulage W, Lumbwe H, McConchie R, de Bruyn J, Alders R. (2016) Transdisciplinary project communication and dissemination experiences in Tanzania and Zambia through a One Health lens. Frontiers in Public Health, 4:2-7.

Books, monographs and reports

Clarke EA, Jackson T, Keoka K, Phimphachanvongsod V (2016) Study of farmer experiences and approaches with dry direct seeding in Savannakhet Research report, ACIAR.

Clarke EA, Grunbuhel C, Souvannachek C, Keoka K, Phakdisoth L, (2015) Research capacity and science to policy processes among Government research agencies in Lao PDR, Final report, Laos Australia Development Learning Facility (DFAT).

Clarke EA, Dennison WC, Bunn SE, Abal EG, Collier C, Ball B, Lloyd T, Greenfield PF (2001) Discover the waterways of south-east Queensland: waterways health and catchment management of south-east Queensland, Australia. South East Queensland Regional Water Quality Management Strategy, Brisbane, 155 pp

(article on the preparation and authorship of this book at http://ian.umces.edu/blog/2011/04/04/discovering-southeast-queensland-waterways-and-rediscovering-liz-clarke/  )

Clarke EA (1998) A guide to communication planning. Education and Information Unit, Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage, Brisbane.

Clarke EA, Edwards S, Rinehart C, Truor B, McKenna J (1996) Weedbuster Activity Kit. Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Brisbane.

Kelly K, Clarke EA, Hobson M, Carey B, Stephens B, Hepworth L, Lennon P, Fraser S (1992) Catchment Care Education Kit. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, 80 pp

Conference papaers and proceedings

Williams R, Clarke EA, Operationalising adaptation pathways concepts: Translation between science, practice and local context, (accepted for concurrent session), NCCARF Climate Adaptation 2016, 5-7 July 2016.

Clarke EA, Grunbuhel C, Souvannachak C, Keoka K, Science-policy as a complex adaptive system: the governance of knowledge production in Lao PDR, International Earth Systems Governance Conference, 14-16 December, 2015, Canberra, Australia

Clarke EA, Roth CH, Meinke H, Food security, rice systems and complex interdisciplinary research – matching the solutions to the problems, First International Conference on Global Food Security, 29 Sept-2 October 2013, Norwijkerhout, The Netherlands.

Bagnol B, Alders RG, Mu Li, Farrell P, Clarke EA and Young M. (2013) Research for new policy options: the case of adding gender perspective to a One Health framework to tackle food insecurity. Conference on Women in Science – Promoting excellence and innovation for future development, March 21-23, 2013, Kiel, Germany

Clarke EA (1997) Funding assistance available to local government, in Proceedings of Weed and Pest Management: Getting the job done. Local Government Association of Queensland Inc., Brisbane.

Honours thesis

Clarke EA (1983) Oversowing siratro into pangola grass pastures, 4th year (honours) thesis, University of Queensland, Brisbane.


Clarke EA, (ed) (1996) Environment Industry Review Journal, Issue Number 1 & 2, Environment Management Industry Association of Australia, Brisbane.

Clarke EA (2002) Taking stock, First edition March 2002, CSIRO Livestock Industries (writer and editor)

Clarke EA (1997) The Edge: for people pioneering new paradigms, 2nd Edition, June 1997, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane.

Clarke EA (ed) (1998-1999) Corporation News, Queensland Sugar Corporation, Brisbane. (six editions)

Clarke EA (ed) (1992-1994) Landcare News, Number 9, April 1992, Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. (eight editions)

Writer and editor of “The Regenerator” from 1996-2001, the newsletter of the Brisbane City Council Bushland Care Program

Note: The publications listed here have arisen through my work as a consultant as well as through my roles in a range of public service and not-for-profit organisations.