HDR Scholarship - Food and Nutrition Policy: the Use, Misuse and Abuse of Evidence in Nutrition Guidance and Policy-making

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Food and Nutrition Policy: the Use, Misuse and Abuse of Evidence in Nutrition Guidance and Policy-making'.

Research topic

An opportunity exists within Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) to undertake a PhD related to an ARC (Australian Research Council) funded project. Sound scientific evidence is crucial for informing the development of nutrition guidance and policy. This is often called evidence-informed policy-making (EIPM). The conventional approach to EIPM typically favours a ‘reductionist’ scientific paradigm focused on using evidence derived from studying associations between individual nutrients and physiology, rather than a broader one that integrates evidence derived from studies of nutrients, foods, dietary patterns and food systems. There is growing recognition that the reductionist paradigm is poorly suited to addressing complex nutrition challenges like food insecurity, obesity, unhealthy food systems, environmental sustainability and equity. Furthermore, the idea that evidence use is value-free and free from political influence is erroneous. Numerous studies show that different interest groups – scientists, policy-makers, advocates and industry – often contest which types of evidence count and which do not.

Acknowledging these challenges, this project attempts to develop a ‘Fit-for-purpose’ (FFP) nutrition evidence framework that helps inform nutrition guidance and policy decision-making. The PhD candidate will work with a highly experienced team to develop, apply and test this framework. In particular, this will involve applying qualitative research methods to assess the worldviews of various nutrition scientists, policy-makers and other stakeholders on the acceptability of the framework, and the challenges involved with applying it in practice. An Australian case study will also be undertaken to understand how various interest groups and institutions use, misuse and abuse different forms of evidence in nutrition policy-making, implementation and evaluation.

Project aim

1. Review the types and characteristics of scientific paradigms that represent different worldviews towards the causes of and solutions to contemporary nutrition and food security problems.
2. Develop principles and procedures to guide researchers, policy-makers and practitioners in applying the FFP framework to evidence-informed food and nutrition policy formulation and evaluation practice.
3. Test and extend current and innovative theories on the role of stakeholder and institutionalised values, beliefs and interests in shaping how and why different forms of evidence are used, ignored or deliberately removed from food and nutrition policy-making processes.

Important dates

Applications will be accepted until 31 January 2020, or until a suitable candidate is found.

Expected commencement date: February - March 2020


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,092 per annum tax exempt (2020 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate or overseas
  • International students only: Tuition fee and overseas health coverage for the duration of 4 years

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be either a domestic or international candidate
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

Additional desirable criteria include:

  • Prospective applicants may have a background in nutrition, public health, dietetics, health promotion, political science, psychology, or social science. Applicants should ideally have experience in both quantitative and qualitative methods, and a critical analysis approach to nutrition science and public health.

How to apply

Learn more about submitting a successful application on the How to apply page


Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Professor Mark Lawrence

Professor Mark Lawrence
Email Mark Lawrence
+61 3 924 43789