Professor Mark Western

Director, The QLD Commitment & Prof

Centre for Policy Futures
Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
m.western@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 67415

Overview

Mark Western is Research Director, The Queensland Commitment, UQ, and Professor of Sociology in the Centre for Policy Futures in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the Queensland Academy of the Arts and Sciences. From 2009 to March 2022 he was Founding Director of the Institute for Social Science Research, UQ's university research institute for the social sciences. He has previously worked at the Australian National University and the University of Tasmania, and held visiting appointments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Manchester, and the Institute of Education, London.

Mark is an International Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Poverty and Inequality at Stanford University, and a former Chief Investigator on the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families Over the Life course and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security.

Mark is also a member of the Boards of the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research at the University of Manchester, the Leeds Social Sciences Institute, and the Stretton Institute at the University of Adelaide. In recent years Mark Western's external appointments include:

  • 2023-2024 Member, National Research Infrastructure Advisory Group, providing long term and strategic advice to the Federal Government on National Research Infrastructure
  • 2023- Chair, Group of Eight Equity Working Group, advising the Group of Eight on student equity in higher education.
  • 2022- Member, Steering Committee, Academy of Social Sciences in Australia Research Infrastructure Decadal Plan
  • 2021-2022 Chair, Expert Working Group reviewing the ERA Rating Scale and Benchmarking for the ARC
  • 2020-2021 Chair, Steering Committee for the State of the Social Sciences Report 2021 for the Academy of Social Sciences
  • 2019 Member, Advisory Group to the Academy of Humanities Project, Mapping International Research Infrastructures for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
  • 2014-2015 Deputy Chair, Review of the Australian Research Training System, Australian Council of Learned Academies.

Mark has also served as Chair and Deputy Chair of ARC ERA and Engagement and Impact Evaluation Committees, and on the ARC College of Experts and various ARC Selection Advisory Committees for other ARC Research Funding schemes.

He has edited and authored 7 books, and over 100 book chapters, journal articles and commissioned reports and held research grants and contracts worth approximately $120 million.

Research Interests

  • Social Science Research Methods
    My interests in research methods are both technical and more broadly methodological. I am interested in how to improve quantitative methods like social surveys and statistical analyses to generate more valid and reliable conclusions from these kinds of data. I am also interested in how to use new computational methods like machine learning on very large social science datasets, to identify patterns, classify observations, and make better predictions. At the more methodological level, I am interested in how to design research projects and analyse data to produce useful information in real settings where we need certain kinds of good answers - for instance, knowing if a social program works in a real community that is subject to many overlapping programs, where we have too much information, but too few observations for conventional methods to work well. I am also increasingly interested in how working closely with stakeholder communities can enrich social science research and help social scientists avoid making errors, including harmful errors, that come from being too theoretical and abstract, and not sufficiently grounded in the realities they are studying.
  • Solution-oriented social science
    This work focuses on how to strengthen connections between social science research and "real-world" problems in order to develop better solutions, enhance the relevance and public value of university research, and improve research quality. The key to better "solution-oriented" social science is to build strong partnerships between university researchers, government, industry, not-for-profits and civil society. I am interested in doing solution-oriented social science to address specific problems and also in researching how to do it better.
  • Social and economic inequality
    This work focuses on understanding the dimensions and causes of social and economic inequality in rich countries, and what to do about it.
  • Social and economic mobility
    This work focuses on understanding how people's opportunities for social and economic mobility are shaped by factors they don't control, such as the family they are born into and the associated advantages and disadvantages that flow from this, and factors that may be partly controllable, such as effort and motivation. I am also interested in how useful it is to talk about equal opportunities when individual success and lack of success come from a complex tangle of factors we can and cannot control, including factors we do not choose.
  • Class analysis
    Social class remains one powerful way of explaining inequalities in desired rewards, and differences in certain kinds of sociopolitical behaviour and attitudes. I am interested in understanding how class "works" in countries like Australia to shape inequality, attitudes and behaviour, and whether it is becoming more or less important over time.

Research Impacts

Mark has led or contributed to projects which have had direct impacts on policy and practice. In 2001 he led the team which produced one of the first national studies of General Practitioners' use of information technology for the Australian Department of Health. In 2005- 2006 he led a team which produced estimates of international students' non-tuition fee expenditure which were used in the Australian National Accounts to help quantify the export value of Australian education. He also led the first national study of the employment outcomes of graduates of Australian PhD training programs. More recently, he has also worked on major evaluations of government policies and programs, such as the national Paid Parental Leave Scheme, and developed evaluation frameworks for major policy initiatives such as the Health and Hospitals Fund, which supported national health infrastructure, and the Queensland Government's 10 year Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy. Mark also sits on a number of Advisory and Expert Reference Groups for non-government organisations, and State and Federal Government Departments. Mark particularly enjoys working with partners in government, industry and the not-for-profit sector on problems that matter to them and have real-world relevance and impact.

Qualifications

  • Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor (Honours) of Arts, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Publications

Book

Book Chapter

  • Western, Mark, Baxter, Janeen and Germov, John (2023). Class and inequality in Australia. Public Sociology. (pp. 232-256) London: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003193791-14

  • Povey, Jenny, Plage, Stefanie, Huang, Yanshu, Gramotnev, Alexandra, Cook, Stephanie, Austerberry, Sophie and Western, Mark (2022). Adolescence a period of vulnerability and risk for adverse outcomes across the life course: the role of parent engagement in learning. Family dynamics over the life course: foundations, turning points and outcomes. (pp. 97-131) edited by Janeen Baxter, Jack Lam, Jenny Povey, Rennie Lee and Stephen R. Zubrick. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-031-12224-8_6

  • Western, Mark (2022). Some comments on class analysis. Class in Australia. (pp. 58-74) edited by Steven Threadgold and Jessica Gerrard. Clayton, VIC Australia: Monash University Publishing.

  • Western, Mark, Baxter, Janeen and Germov, John (2020). Class and inequality in Australia. Public Socology. (pp. 238-264) London, United Kingdom: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9781003116974-14

  • Huang, Xianbi and Western, Mark (2015). Social capital and life satisfaction in Australia. Handbook of research methods and applications in social capital. (pp. 225-241) edited by Yaojun Li. Cheltenham, United Kingdom: Edward Elgar. doi: 10.4337/9780857935854.00017

  • Baxter, Janeen, Van Egmond, Marcel, Buchler, Sandra and Western, Mark (2014). Gender role attitudes in Australia, 1986-2005. Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. (pp. 2458-2461) edited by Alex C. Michalos. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5

  • Western, Mark (2014). Using quantitative data in the social sciences. Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Spatially Integrated Social Science. (pp. 150-176) edited by Robert J. Stimson. Cheltenham, Glos, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. doi: 10.4337/9780857932976.00017

  • Baxter, Janeen, Hewitt, Belinda, Haynes, Michele and Western, Mark (2013). Pathways through the life course: The effect of relationship and parenthood transitions on domestic labour. Negotiating the Life Course: Stability and change in life pathways. (pp. 145-160) edited by Ann Evans and Janeen Baxter. New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-8912-0_8

  • Huang, Xianbi and Western, Mark (2012). How do Australians search for jobs?. Australia: Identity, Fear and Governance in the 21St Century. (pp. 171-191) edited by Juliet Pietsch and Haydn Aarons. Canberra, Australia: ANU Press.

  • Memmott, Paul, Greenop, Kelly, Clarke, Andrew, Go-Sam, Carroll, Birdsall-Jones, Christina, Harvey-Jones, William, Corunna, Vanessa and Western, Mark (2012). NATSISS crowding data: what does it assume and how can we challenge the orthodoxy?. Survey Analysis for Indigenous Policy in Australia: Social Science Perspectives. (pp. 241-279) edited by Boyd Hunter and Nicholas Biddle. Canberra, Australia: ANU E Press.

  • Western, Mark and Baxter, Janeen (2011). Class and inequality in Australia. Public sociology. An introduction to Australian society. (pp. 206-229) edited by John Germov and Marilyn Poole. Crows Nest, Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

  • McRea, Rod, Western, Mark and Shyy, Tung-Kai (2011). Subjective quality of life in Queensland: Comparing metropolitan, regional and rural areas. Investigating quality of urban life: Theory, methods, and empirical research. (pp. 295-313) edited by Robert W. Marans and Robert J. Stimson. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-1742-8_13

  • Western, Mark (2010). Class. Encyclopedia of identity. (pp. 86-91) edited by Ronald L. Jackson, II, Michael A. Hogg, Ronald C. Arnett, Jacqueline Imani Bryant, James Haywood Rolling Jr., Corey D. B. Walker, Mark Western, Danielle L. Blaylock, Stephen Hocker, Amanda G. McKendree, Celeste Grayson Seymour and Algernon Williams. Thousand Oaks, CA, U.S.A.: Sage Publications.

  • Western, M. C. and Baxter, J. H. (2007). Class and Inequality in Australia. Public sociology: an Introduction to Australia Society. (pp. 215-236) edited by J. Germov and M. Poole. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.

  • Western, M., Baxter, J. and Chesters, J. (2007). How are families managing?. Australian social Attitudes 2: Citzenship, Work and Aspirations. (pp. 241-261) edited by D. Denemark, G. Meagher, S. Wilson, M. C. Western and T. Phillips. Sydney, NSW: UNSW Press.

  • Western, M. C. and Tranter, B. K. (2005). Engaged Citizens: Are Post Materialists Making a Difference?. Australian Social Attitudes : The First Report. (pp. 82-100) edited by Shaun Wilson, Gabrielle Meagher, Rachel Gibson, David Denemark and Mark Western. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press.

  • Gibson, Rachel, Wilson, Shanu, Meagher, Gabrielle, Denemark, David and Western, Mark (2005). Introduction. Australian Social Attitudes: The First Report. (pp. 1-11) edited by Shaun Wilson, Gabrielle Meagher, Rachel Gibson, David Denemark and Mark Western. Sydney, NSW, Australia: University of New South Wales Press.

  • Phillips, T. and Western, M. C. (2005). Social Change and Social Identity: Postmodernity, Reflexive modernisation and the Transformation of Social Identities in Australia. Rethinking Class: Culture, Identities and Lifestyle. (pp. 163-185) edited by F. Devine, M. Savage, J. Scott and R. Crompton. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

  • Western, M. C. and Baxter, J. H. (2001). Introduction. Reconfigurations of Class and Gender. (pp. 1-13) edited by J Baxter; M Western. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Baxter, J. H. and Western, M. C. (2001). The links between paid and unpaid work: Australia and Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s. Reconfigurations of Class and Gender. (pp. 81-104) edited by Baxter, J. and Western, M.. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Western, M. C. (2000). Competition education and class formation. Beyond nostalgia: Reshaping Australian education. (pp. 91-104) edited by Lawrence Angus and Terri Seddon. Melbourne: ACER Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Completed Supervision