Investigating adoption methodologies and marketing principles to accelerate sheep reproduction best practice

UWA and Thrive Agri Services are seeking a motivated student to participate in a jointly funded PhD opportunity to contribute to Australia’s agricultural sector through enabling innovation and the early adoption of technology. The PhD project is part of a larger national project that aims to contribute data on relevant adoption pathways and marketing principles to inform the development of an extension methodology that will drive implementation of best practice sheep reproduction to 2000 producers across Australia. Furthermore, this national project located across southern Australia (Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) will provide a framework for extension of similar programs to wider sectors of the red meat industry. 

The adoption of proven knowledge and best practice from research and development of sheep reproduction is a major opportunity to increase lamb and sheep output. Producer demonstration sites (PDS) have long been used as a mechanism to achieve adoption of R&D outputs and increase producer skill and knowledge. However, there are some limitations to the impact that PDS have on the rates of adoption and practice change. The PDS programs are generally narrow in scope, restricted to a discrete locality, often lack design rigor and can generate uncertainty through mis management and low adherence to protocols and don’t provide any ongoing legacy products. 

The PhD program will investigate current adoption theories and how marketing principles may contribute to achieving higher rates of adoption in technologies with known benefits. The PhD project could explore the traditional adoption process and its relevance in the current environment with social media platforms, online learning and what methods of exposure and awareness are most effective. This could include how online and digital programs are designed and implemented, the effectiveness of integration with group learning and physical (in-person) training. Alternatively, the PhD project could explore the barriers to engagement in current adoption programs (knowledge, skills, technology, resources), how learning pathways may differ to historical adoption and extension methods and assess if there are alternative approaches to attract the target producer segments.

Successful applicants will be based at UWA’s Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy, where they will be part of a diverse team of researchers and postgraduate students, and have the opportunity to work alongside team members on the larger-scale project as well as industry stakeholders.


What you will do

  • Have access/be embedded in a national project that is developing and implementing an adoption program to improve the uptake of best practices in sheep reproduction. 
  • Undertake a literature review, interrogate industry datasets and existing research in the relevant areas.
  • Conduct experiments that may include interviews, focus groups, surveys, and statistical and behavioral analysis.
  • Produce written progress reports, presentations and final thesis.



  • Stipend scholarship of $35,000 per year for 3 or 3.5 years
  • Operating funds of up to a maximum of $22,500
  • A laptop computer, software and office space

Recommended reading


Research team leader

Professor David Pannell

Professor Pannell is an agricultural economist who specialises in adoption of new practices in agriculture. He collaborates with a wide variety of industry organisations. In partnership with CSIRO, he developed ADOPT, and was an integral member of the Rural Practice Change project, which provides insights and lessons from research into adoption of new practices by farmers (RPC). Professor Pannell has supervised 30+ PhD students to completion, published 8 books and 250 journal articles and book chapters.

How to Apply

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Prospective candidates should send a single PDF file that clearly identifies the preferred project and includes: a brief cover letter/statement of interest and experience (1 page max), a CV including the names and contact details of 3 referees (2 pages max), and an academic transcript.
  • Please forward EOI by 19 December 2022 to Professor David Pannell at [email protected] and Dr Andrew Kennedy at [email protected] 


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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