Humans of IFE - Rising stars: Paula Dootson

15th July 2019

Field of expertise: Deviant consumer behaviour, Deviance-led innovation, Ethics, Automation and law

Position: Senior Lecturer in Digital Economy

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on a research innovation program with Suncorp to explore new ways to proactively address the growing social issue of scams. We are collaboratively exploring how to reduce scam victimisation through innovation sprints and research, with a specific focus on system and process changes, psychological interventions, new business models, and recommendations for government and policy changes.

Some of the lessons I am applying in the scams work are drawn from my ongoing research with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre on effective emergency communication. In that project, we are exploring novel ways to encourage the community to take protective action during a natural hazard, like a fire or flood.

Why is your work important?

All of the work I do revolves around exploring how to either design-out-deviance, because it has negative consequences like theft, fraud, tax evasion, or encourage deviance-led innovation, which promotes people deviating from how they have always done things for greater social or economic benefit. 

I receive a lot of feedback on the various projects I work on that highlight the urgency and scale of the problem being addressed. For instance, getting public servants to engage in good record keeping practices seems unexciting at the surface level, but actually, designing-out the high levels of non-compliant record keeping in the public sector enhances the trust and transparency of our democratic system in our society. The Chief Archivist of the UN Hague reached out after hearing about this work with Queensland State Archives, to understand what they could be doing better.

The transferability and global reach of my research is what I use to gauge how important the work is.  

What excites or inspires you about your field?

Despite a grounding in consumer behaviour, I am not bound to that one field. My research is agnostic, which means I get to work with specialists in a variety of fields and translate knowledge in different ways. Due to my inherent curiosity for finding the right theories, frameworks, or principles for the topic I am investigating, I am able to draw on a wealth of knowledge from psychology, criminology, marketing, risk communication, behavioural economics, and sociology. My ongoing work with government and industry also means I learn the practical frameworks they use.

This approach to research is similar to knowing several languages and being able to translate the conversation between academics of different disciplines and also translate between academics and industry or government.

What are your hopes for the future?

There is a significant opportunity for more strategic collaborations between disciplines around wicked problems industry, government, and society face. I hope to continue showcasing the impactful work I have been doing as use cases for how these collaborations have been successful and what lessons we can all learn, to ensure we keep improving.

I hope the traditional academic steps outside their office and takes a good hard look at what industry, government, and society are calling for, and uses those insights to fuel their appetite for rigorous and relevant research. There will always be a place for grounded, theoretical research, but that needs to be paired with a pathway to application, which sometimes lies in an unrelated field they have previously never considered.

Overall, I am optimistic about the future of research and look forward to being challenged on these statements.

Find out more about Paula Dootson

Follow Paula on Twitter: @DrPaulaDootson ‏

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