Valuing the environment to make it count in decision making


Benefits from environmental policies are often unpriced “non-market values” (NMVs). Environmental agencies struggle to know how best to measure these relatively intangible benefits, but doing so is important to ensure value for money from public investments. Environmental economists have developed and applied a wide range of methods for estimating NMVs. The methods vary in their comprehensiveness, accuracy and cost. Yet no rigorous tool is available to assess (a) which NMV method is best to implement, accounting for its cost and its potential to improve decisions, or (b) whether any NMV method improves decisions enough to warrant its cost. In creating such a tool, this project will deliver a key breakthrough in environmental economics.

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council and involves collaboration between researchers at UWA, Griffith University and Clark University (USA).

Project goals:

  • Develop and apply an economic framework for quantifying the costs, the accuracy and the benefits of non-market value information resulting from different methodological approaches, including making decisions without any quantitative measure of non-market values, various methods for conducting benefit transfer, and various methods for conducting original studies.
  • Identify how the optimal choice of non-market value approach varies in different contexts and circumstances.
  • Formulate heuristics for analysts and decision makers regarding the choice of non-market value method.


This is a broad-ranging project that encompasses environmental valuation of all types, benefit transfer, decision science and environmental policy. A PhD topic that is relevant to the broader project and is of interest to the student will be developed jointly.

Two suggested topics are:

  • The extrapolation of results from Hedonic Pricing (Benefit Transfer), and its use for policy decision making.
  • Bayesian Benefit Transfer – a sophisticated method for extrapolating results from non-market valuation.

The successful PhD applicant will be part of the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy. As part of the Agricultural and Resource Economics group, you will be part of a strong community of PhD students – Australia’s largest in this discipline. Many past PhD students from this group have won national or international awards for their thesis, and there is strong support to students to publish their research in leading international journals.

Depending on the research topic, the team of supervisors will be drawn from David Pannell, Abbie Rogers, Michael Burton, Sayed Iftekhar (Griffith University) and Robert Johnston (Clark University).





Suggested readings

Research team leader: Professor David Pannell

I am an environmental economist who is very interested in using the tools of economics to protect and restore the natural environment. I work closely with various government agencies and other bodies to assist them to bring economic thinking into their planning and decision making. My research includes project related to water pollution, threatened species, native vegetation, plastic pollution, climate change, soil conservation and the urban environment. Together with Dr Abbie Rogers, I lead the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy at UWA. Our work in this area has a strong national and international profile.


Funding and Collaborations


  • Stipend scholarship of around $27,000 per year for 3 or 3.5 years
  • Operating funds of at least $4500
  • Access to resources within the ARC project (funds for travel and meetings that benefit the whole project)
  • A travel scholarship from UWA $1800
  • A laptop computer and software

External Collaborators:

    • Professor Robert Johnston, Clark University
    • Dr Sayed Iftekhar, Griffith University
    • The project will involve collaboration with a set of policy makers in Australian environmental agencies. We will recruit policy makers who want to improve the quality of their decision making by better accounting for values held by the community.



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
  • Requirements specific to this project:
    • Background in economics (preferably environmental economics).
    • Competence in statistical analysis.
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact to proceed with your application