ACU researchers win ARC Discovery Grants

Two Australian Catholic University researchers have been awarded prestigious ARC Discovery Project grants to further their work.

Professor Chris Lonsdale, who leads the NHMRC-funded iPLAY project in the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, will study the effects of children’s exposure to electronic screens on their development.

Professor Bryan Turner, already recognised as one of the world’s leading sociologists of religion, will investigate male-dominated far-right groups in Australia, in a project looking at the relationship between intellectuals, masculinity and citizenship.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Wayne McKenna said that these awards were another endorsement of ACU’s research excellence.

“These projects are valuable contributions to ACU’s fast-growing research profile in our areas of strategic priority,” he said.

Professor Lonsdale was awarded $658,544 for a project entitled Square Eyes or All Lies? Understanding Children's Exposure to Screens.

The project will examine Australian parents’ number one concern about their children’s health and behaviour – their interactions with electronic screens. The project will use wearable cameras to measure what children are doing on screens, and where, when, and how long they are doing it. The project will also investigate how screen time impacts children’s development and how it is influenced by their environment.

The evidence will be used to improve screen time guidelines, which are currently based on minimal research findings, and to help parents understand the impact of screen time on their children’s development.

The project collaborates with partner investigators from the NSW Department of Education and NSW Ministry of Health as well as collaborators from the University of Southern Queensland, University of Helsinki, University of Oxford, University of Otago and Baylor College of Medicine.

Professor Turner received $327,521 for a project entitled Far Right in Australia: Intellectuals, Masculinity and Citizenship, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Newcastle, Victoria University and the University of Potsdam.

The project will explore why men are drawn in increasing numbers to far right groups. Moving beyond the simple stereotype of disenfranchisement, it will examine how tropes of masculinity are used to recruit and retain members and how bonds of citizenship have weakened amongst men who define themselves at the margins.

Professor Turner said these groups stand in contrast to longstanding Australian values of mutual respect and tolerance. “Any threat to that ideal poses a serious risk to our democracy and the rule of law. This project addresses that core concern, which is aired daily in the popular press and on social media. The findings will provide some answers to the question of why some men are strongly drawn to joining or supporting far right groups.”

The Discovery Projects, together with the recent success in Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards, bring the total ARC funding awarded to ACU in this round to almost 1.8 million dollars.

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