Dr Elizabeth Clarke

B Agr Sc, GradDipComn
Honorary Lecturer

Liz Clarke is a transdisciplinary researcher and practitioner with interests spanning complex integrated systems, sustainability science, research-policy engagement in development, and knowledge management, as well as a background in natural resource and rural systems research and development.

She recently completed her PhD on transdisciplinary research methodology, and is currently an independent consultant and lecturer at the Fenner School for Environment and Society at the Australian National University in society and environmental change, sustainable rural systems, and research methods, design and practice.

She has extensive experience in international research for development and a substantial international network. She has worked in senior roles with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) including the Consortium of the International Agricultural Research Centers, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and WorldFish. Prior to that, she worked with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in knowledge management, communications, research management, government liaison and governance.

She has more than 25 years experience in international development assistance and research for development (including senior management and leadership roles), in the public sector (internationally and nationally – including aid and donor organisations), industry organisations and business, and six years as the director of a research management support, communications and strategy consultancy.  

She has worked in a wide range of countries including in South East Asia, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). She is currently actively involved with a number of networks and committees internationally. She also has many years of experience in the Australian Public Service in a number of agencies and senior roles.

From 2 January 2017 Liz will take up a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Institute for Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University, Lueneberg, Germany

Project: Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation: Institutions, People and Knowledge

She also holds a Research fellowship at Western Sydney University, Institute for Culture and Society; Project: Scientific Diversity, Scientific Uncertainty and Risk Mitigation Policy and Planning (BNHCRC), (Start date: 8 August 2016)

Research interests

Through the study of the lived experience of transdisciplinary researchers combined with theory synthesis, Liz’s thesis contributes to further understanding of complex systems and wicked problems, transdisciplinary research practice and transformational learning and knowledge creation. The primary aim of the thesis is to improve understanding of transdisciplinary research practice and to bring together, synthesise and test a range of frameworks that can inform and guide this practice. The guiding aspiration for this research is to access the untapped potential of transdisciplinary research practice (the practice of the researchers) to investigate wicked problems in complex systems. While the context of the thesis is research for rural development, the application of the resulting methodology is far wider, including transdisciplinary research, sustainability science and other inquiry endeavours that tackle wicked problems.

The thesis outlines a relational and overarching transdisciplinary methodology in this thesis based on the following five principles:

Principle number 1: A collective, inclusive approach to appreciative, context-based problem framing is needed to embrace the richness of complexity.

Principle number 2: Co-production of knowledge across the boundaries of knowledge cultures and worldviews requires an inclusive, shared language for human and social inquiry.

Principle number 3: Working constructively with tension is a catalyst and foundation for transformational learning and change.

Principle number 4: An iterative or recursive research inquiry process is essential for transformational learning, and for theory and practice to constructively inform each other.

Principle number 5: Reflection and reflexivity (both habitual and systemic) are essential to enable the researcher to constructively capture transformational knowledge co-production.

These principles guide strategies to bring together vastly different worldviews, modes of inquiry and knowledge systems to create, not empty consensus, but a rich and innovative synergy for more constructive, engaged and effective problem solving. It is relational because the research practice focuses on relationships and networks and is dynamic. The empirical research in this thesis is based on a study of three case study research for rural development projects and the transdisciplinary researchers and participants in these project teams.

Liz’s skills

  • research and research program management;
  • sustainable systems, human ecology, social anthropology, rural livelihoods (including social/institutional focus), and natural resource management;
  • gender and equity analysis
  • co-production and knowledge exchange in transdisciplinary, complex systems research
  • research facilitation and participatory process
  • policy and research-policy engagement;
  • international development assistance;
  • evaluation and learning; research uptake; participatory and action research;
  • stakeholder management and partnership brokering;
  • strategic planning; policy development and government relations.

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

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.