Call 2013 - Call 2014 (pilots)

Selected projects

Adaptation Aftereffects in the Perception of Asset Returns

Business and Economics
Psychology

Prolonged viewing of a stimulus results in a subsequent perceptual bias. Numerous classic examples illustrate the marked adaptability of perception and how changes in the states of adaptation profoundly alter the way the world looks. For examples, after viewing a red
square a gray square appears greenish; exposure to a tilted line causes a vertical line to appear tilted in the opposite direction; and after a few moments looking at the downward flow of a waterfall, the static rocks to the side appear to ooze upward.

Strikingly, it has been discovered recently that adaptation aftereffects occur not only for simple stimulus dimensions but also for highly complex and abstract image properties. Building on these discoveries, we conjecture that adaptation aftereffects also occur in the context of perceiving the risk/reward profiles of asset returns. The seed phase of the project will be a behavioral experiment to test this conjecture. If confirmed, we will then conduct a second phase to explore the neural underpinnings of the perceptual biases identified in the experiment.

The first stage of the project will consist in having participants complete a simple perceptual task in the lab. In each of 35 experimental trials, participants will face an adapting stimulus in a 60-150 sec adaptation phase, followed (after a 1 sec delay) by a test stimulus displayed during a 15 sec test phase. During that test phase, subjects will give their first percept of the test stimulus by means of a rating on a scale from 1 to 5. We will run three treatments. In the first treatment, the adapting stimulus will be a financial series with either high average returns (in half of the trials) or low average returns (in the other half), and the test stimulus will have neutral returns. If neuronal adaptation prevails, we should find that on average, in the test phase, the perceived returns will be markedly lower after prolonged exposure to high returns in the adapting phase, compared to the return levels perceived after prolonged exposure to low returns. In the second treatment, the adapting stimulus will be a financial series with either high volatility (in half of the trials) or low volatility (in the other half), and the test stimulus will have neutral volatility. In the third treatment, the adapting stimulus will be a financial series with either a good profile (high average returns coupled with low volatility), in half of the trials, or a bad profile (low returns and high volatility). The test stimulus will be neutral in both dimensions (average returns and volatility). If aftereffects occur for both dimensions simultaneously, we should find that after prolonged exposure to the good profile, subjects will perceive the financial series in the test phase as worse than they would otherwise.

In the second stage of the project, we will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI ) to measure brain activity of subjects while they are performing the foregoing task. Note that the realization of this second stage is contingent on the identification of strong and robust aftereffects in the first experiment. This step-by-step approach is advisable given the high costs of running an imaging study.

projects
Participants
Prof. Tony Berrada
University of Geneva
Prof. Bernard Balleine
University of Sydney

Developing Sustainable Teaching and Research Collaborations in the Geneva Global Studies Network

Political Science
International Relations

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) is partnering with the University of Geneva newly launched Global Studies Network at the undergraduate program level, via the Bachelor of International and Global Studies (with a preferred international study period carried out at Geneva), and aims to develop potential joint curricular modules and to deepen already existing individual academic research links under the broad parameters of the Global Studies Network.

The network was initiated from the Geneva side in 2013 with a small number of institutions around the world joining the program. In order for this network to evolve, it needs to move beyond the exchange of students portion which is already happening freely between our institutions, to include Sydney academics moving to Geneva for short periods of research and course delivery, for synergies between UG and PG courses, with specific strengths at each university node identified and greater mobility and accreditation options for students to gain maximum value from teaching and research strengths in each of the nodes.

Three members from Geneva Global Studies Network including Prof. Levrat to visit Sydney for four days, days one to three will focus on individual meetings with relevant Sydney staff not only in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences but also in the Law School and Business School. Meetings will be organised via Sydney in advance to ensure maximum time and relevance from the visit. At the end of the visit program, an exploratory workshop with key Arts stakeholders will be organised to delineate key areas for cooperation and responsible academic teams involved in the next phase.

projects
Participants
Prof. Nicolas Levrat Ph.D.
University of Geneva
Prof. Duncan Ivison
University of Sydney

Energy Futures Project: Horizon 2020, Australia-Switzerland Renewable Energy Outlook

Earth and Environment

The use of renewable, clean energy, whether as part of a suite of solutions to reduce carbon emissions in response to global warming or to take advantage of plentiful natural resources, has expanded over the last decade. From 2000 to 2011 the global solar, wind and biofuels market has grown from $US6.5bn to $US245bn, and is projected to grow to $US386bn by 2021 (Clean Edge 2012). The solar power market in particular has demonstrated considerable growth, expanding from $US2.5bn to $US91.6bn, with expected growth to $US130.5bn by 2021 (Clean Edge 2012).

This research project is a timely assessment of efforts made by the Australian and Swiss governments to pursue a greater share of renewable energy in their respective country’s overall energy use. The rationale for comparing data drawn from these two countries is that whilst they are both developed economies, their energy needs have interesting similarities yet important differences. In the case of Switzerland, the government has declared its intention to withdraw from the use of nuclear energy, step-by-step, in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster while at the same time decreasing its dependence on the import of fossil fuels from 40% to 16% by 2050 (thus saving an estimated CHF 7 billion). For Australia, whilst the country is a major energy producer, exporting some 80% of its total energy production (primarily coal and gas), the 2012 Energy White Paper stipulates that the country should pursue an energy security strategy underpinned by the supply of secure, reliable, competitively priced clean energy to consumers.

Based on the collected data, the project’s objective is to compare both countries’ renewable energy development trajectory and analyse local translation of the global trends of energy demand and supply.

projects
Participants
Dr Alexandre Hedjazi
University of Geneva
Prof. Leanne Piggott
University of Sydney

Environmental Policy Challenges in the Anthropocene

Earth and Environment

The objective of this joint proposal by the Sydney Environment Institute and the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva is to initiate collaboration based on the different yet complementary competences and achievements of staff at both institutions. This proposal presents activities to be completed in 2014 with the aim of establishing a framework for future collaboration in both teaching and research on complex environmental issues. This document drafted by Professor Roderick Lawrence (UNIGE) and Professor David Schlosberg (UNISYD) briefly presents the collaboration envisaged in 2014, objectives and goals of the grant period, a budget, and an overview of the engaged Institutes at both universities.

We propose two sets of activities in 2014, entailing the visit of two representatives of the University of Geneva to the University of Sydney in February, and of two Sydney academics to UNIGE in September. Each delegation will include one Professor and one early career researcher in environmental studies. At each institution, visitors will participate in both a large planned event and a specialized workshop.

In the first instance, the Sydney Environment Institute will host a conference on Environmental Humanities and the Anthropocene from 26 to 28 February 2014. The first day will be dedicated to the interface of the natural sciences and humanities and Professor Roderick Lawrence has agreed to speak on the added value of transdisciplinary approaches to deal with complex environmental issues. UNIGE visitors will participate in a range of events around the conference, with the aim of gaining a sense of the work of the Sydney Environment Institute and its interdisciplinary environmental humanities group. In addition to the conference, visitors from UNIGE will join a select set of Sydney academics for a one-day workshop focused on potential projects of mutual interest. The second set of events will take place in Geneva around the Global Environmental Policy Program’s Executive Summer School in August. Professor David Schlosberg will contribute to the Summer School, on the future of, and ethical grounding for, environmental management in the Anthropocene. After the Summer School, the Sydney visitors and Geneva faculty will participate in a workshop on potential future joint projects.

projects
Participants
Prof. Roderick Lawrence
University of Geneva
Prof. David Schlosberg
University of Sydney