Professor Tim Smith

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Professor Tim Smith


Research areas

  • Sustainability
  • Coastal management
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Water governance
  • Geography


Professor Tim Smith was seconded to the position of Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts, Business and Law at USC in January 2018 after being appointed as the Deputy Executive Dean in August 2017. He is also currently an Adjunct Professor with Brock University, Canada, and a Senior Research Associate with Uppsala University, Sweden.

He joined USC in February 2007 and was the inaugural Director of the Sustainability Research Centre (SRC) until mid-2017. Professor Smith has also been the research coordinator (equivalent to associate dean research) for the Faculty of Science, Health, Education, and Engineering (2008-2009).

Under Professor Smith's leadership, the SRC generated over $7m in external research income, over 500 publications, and 26 PhD completions, and contributed to positive social and environmental impacts through projects in over 25 countries.

In the 2015 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) assessment, the SRC contributed the majority of the outputs towards USC's equal highest rating nationally in the field of environmental science and management. The SRC also contributed significant outputs towards the 2017 Times Higher Education ranking of USC within the top 250-300 universities in the world in the social sciences and within the top 13 universities nationally.

During his time with USC, Professor Smith has established formal international partnerships with the Stockholm Environment Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Brock University and Uppsala University. These partnerships have resulted in several high impact projects influencing international approaches to sustainability, including his research with partners from Brock and Uppsala being showcased at the Royal Society in London in 2015.

Prior to joining USC, Professor Smith was a senior research scientist with the CSIRO. He has also led the social sciences and education portfolios of 2 national research centers (Coastal and Catchment Hydrology CRCs). Professor Smith has also worked at Griffith University and UNSW, for local and state government, and in the private sector.

Selected Awards

2010: Vice Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Research and Research Training

2009: Australian Museum Eureka Prize (Innovative Solutions to Climate Change)

2009: NSW Coastal Innovation Award

Selected Board and Committee Appointments

2015-present: International Scientific Steering Committee, Future Earth Coasts

2015-present: Executive Scientific Advisory Committee, Healthy Land and Water

2016-present: QCoast2100 Expert Panel, Local Government Association of Queensland

2015-2016: Director, UNESCO Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation

2003-2016: Funds Committee, Surfrider Australia

Research Overview 

Professor Smith has been a lead or co-investigator on over 30 research projects relating to sustainability (valued at over $14m of competitive research grants) and has authored over 200 publications in this area. He has supervised 20 PhD students and 16 post-doctoral fellows. He also been an invited examiner of 18 PhD students from 11 universities. He has undertaken numerous projects for national and international organisations such as the Australian Research Council, CSIRO, Land and Water Australia, five Cooperative Research Centres, AusAID, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Volkswagen Foundation, Compagnia di Sal Paolo, and UNDP.

Apart from assessing Australian research proposals and programs, he has been invited to assess applications to the Canadian Chairs program, Canadian Social Sciences Research Council grants, US Sea Grants, South African Research Council grants, and was part of the assessment panel of the International Opportunities Fund (€20m) for the Belmont Forum and G8 Research Councils Initiative on Multilateral Research Funding (2012-2013).

Professor Smith has given keynote addresses or invited seminars in Australia, Norway, Italy, China, Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Fiji and the United States on his sustainability research.

Professor Smith recently led the Institutions Work Package of the Global Challenges Project: Climate Change and Water Governance, the Socio-Economic Vulnerability Theme of the Climate Change Adaptation for Natural Resource Management in East Coast Australia project, and convened the Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Research Network (SEI Network) of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF). He was contributing author to the latest IPCC assessment, has led 3 international journal special issues, and is currently on the Editorial Board of the journal Geographical Research.

Examples of current research
Years Researchers Grant agency Funding amount Project name
2017-2018 Smith et al. (researchers from USC and Uppsala) Sunshine Coast Council $20,000 Improving disaster management: a comparative study between the Sunshine Coast, Australia and Gotland, Sweden
2017 Smith and Elrick-Barr NSW Office of Environment $32,500 Evidence review for the design of training and leadership engagement to build adaptive capacity for climate risk management in NSW agencies
2015-2017 Smith et al. (6 partner organisations) Australian Government and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility $395,000 Social, Economic and Institutional Dimensions Research Network (SEI Network)
2015-2016 Jacobson, Smith et al. (3 partner organisations in 3 countries) Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN) $60,000 Climate adaptation and community resilience
2013-2016 Lovelock, Smith, et al. (6 partner organisations) Australian Government: Natural Resource Management (NRM) Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Research Grants Program $939,012 Climate Change Adaptation for Natural Resource Management in East Coast Australia
2015 Smith, Leitch and Thomsen Australian Government and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility $15,000 Community Engagement Manual for Climate Change Adaptation
2015 E Smith and T Smith Northern Tablelands and Local Land Service $30,000 Measuring and Monitoring Farm Profitability
2012-2015 Powell, Smith, et al. (10 partners from 7 countries) Global Challenges Programme: Rikbankens Jubileumsfond, Volkswagen Foundation, and Compagnia di San Paolo $1.6m Climate Change and Water Governance (CADWAGO)
Recent selected publications
  1. Plummer R, Renzetti S, Bullock R, de Lourdes Melo Zurita M, Baird J, Dupont D, Smith TF & Thomsen DC, 2017, ‘The roles of capitals in building capacity to address urban flooding in the shift to a new water management approach, Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space. DOI: 10.1177/2399654417732576
  2. Freduah G, Fidelman P & Smith TF, 2017, ‘The impacts of environmental and socio-economic stressors on small scale fisheries and livelihoods of fishers in Ghana’, Applied Geography, 89, 1–11.
  3. Sharma B, Gadenne D, Smith TF & Kerr D, 2017, ‘Environmental beliefs, norms and behaviours: An investigation of their relationships using data from green consumers’, Journal of New Business Ideas & Trends, 15(1), 1-17.
  4. Howes M, Wortley L, Potts R, Dedekorkut-Howes A, Serrao-Neumann S, Davidson J, Smith TF, Nunn PD, 2017, ‘Environmental Sustainability: A case of policy implementation failure?’, Sustainability, 9(2), 165; doi:10.3390/su9020165
  5. Sousa Junior W, Baldwin C, Camkin J, Fidelman P, Silva O, Neto S & Smith TF, 2016, ‘Water: drought, crisis and governance in Australia and Brazil’, Sustainability, 8, 493. doi:10.3390/w8110493
  6. Elrick-Barr CE, Thomsen DC, Preston BL & Smith TF, 2016, ‘Perceptions matter: distinguishing between adaptive capacity and adaptive capability to inform household adaptation’, Regional Environmental Change., published online 27 June 2016. doi:10.1007/s10113-016-1016-1
  7. Elrick-Barr CE, Smith TF, Preston BL, Thomsen DC & Baum S, 2016, ‘How are coastal households responding to climate change?’, Environmental Science and Policy, vol. 63, pp. 177-186. DOI information: 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.05.013.
  8. Davidson JL, Lyth A, Baldwin CL, Dedekorkut-Howes A, Ellison JC, Holbrook NJ, Howes MJ, Jacobson C, Serrao-Neumann S, Singh-Peterson L & Smith TF, 2016, ‘Interrogating Resilience: Towards a Typology to Improve its Operationalization’, Ecology & Society, 21(2):27.
  9. Smith EF, Keys N, Lieske SN & Smith TF, 2016, ‘Rapid regional-scale assessments of socio-economic vulnerability to climate change’, Environmental Research Letters, 11. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/3/034016
  10. Nursey-Bray M, Harvey N & Smith TF 2016 ‘Learning and local government in coastal South Australia: towards a community of practice framework for adapting to global change’, Regional Environmental Change, 16, 733-746. DOI: 10.1007/s10113-015-0779-0

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