About

The School offers undergraduate students the opportunity to participate in the UQ Summer & Winter Research Scholarship Programs over the summer and winter vacation periods. 

This experience provides students with the opportunity to work with a researcher in a formal research environment so that they may experience the research process and discover what research is being undertaken in their field of interest at the School.

How to apply

Read the detailed information guide on how to apply for a research program. 

Applications for the 2021 Summer Research Program are now closed.

Projects

Three projects are offered in the 2021/22 Summer Research Program. 

Project title: 

Constituent Power, Sovereignty and Federalism

Project duration & delivery

8 weeks
29 November – 18 Feb (includes a break)
6 hours per week

The project can be completed under a remote working arrangement if required. 

Description

This project will undertake an investigation of the concept of constituent power (and the related concept of sovereignty) as it manifests in federations and multi-level systems of government. The project will involve both theoretical inquiry and comparative investigation of a selected group of such systems. The federal and multi-level systems to be compared will depend partly on any particular language and background knowledge and skills that the selected student can bring to the project.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The student will develop skills in data collection, legal analysis and theorisation in the general field of comparative constitutional law, with particular attention to issues in federalism. The research will contribute to the development of publications in the field.

Publication with the student is possible, but this will depend on the results of the research. The training provided to the student will enable them to understand the methods and standards required for publishable research and RHD study. Benefits to the school will include training of the student in advanced research methods and contribution to publications in highest quality law journals in the field.

Suitable for:

The research project is suitable for students who have successfully completed Constitutional Law and have relevant experience and language skills (eg, personal knowledge of a particular federal country or fluency in its language). Students who have studied political theory, legal theory, political science or government, especially comparative government and constitutional theory, will be especially suited to the project, but this is not essential.

Primary Supervisor

Professor Nicholas Aroney​

Further info Students are welcome to contact Professor Aroney at n.aroney@uq.edu.au if they have any particular questions.

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Project title

Autonomous Technologies Case Law Compendium

Project duration & delivery

Negotiable: 6–10 weeks between 28 November 2021 and 18 February 2022 at 20–36 hours per week.
The project can be completed under a remote working arrangement but on-campus attendance at least one day a week is desirable.

Description

A wide variety of autonomous technologies are in use today, including self-driving vehicles, autopilot systems in aircraft, and software that directs machines, or creates reports or outputs that are relied upon by users. The use of such technologies may give rise to civil or criminal proceedings, with implications across numerous areas of law, such as negligence, product liability, personal injury and intellectual property rights.

Although there has been significant interest and academic scholarship on discrete issues relating to autonomy, artificial intelligence (AI) and the law, judicial practice is only gradually emerging. There has not, to date, been an overview of significant cases across various jurisdictions dealing with case law (in both civil and criminal matters) relating to autonomy.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

Create a compendium of domestic law cases from different jurisdictions dealing with autonomous systems (of any kind), from a civil and criminal law perspective. The research output is expected to be a list of cases, case summaries, and if relevant, a comparative analysis of how different jurisdictions have approached autonomy in criminal and civil proceedings.

The TRIAL Universal Jurisdiction Database and Annual Report on cases dealing with universal jurisdiction is an example of the kind of product that would be expected at the completion of the Summer Research Project.

The student researcher will gain a good understanding of legal challenges posed by autonomous technologies, will develop practical comparative research skills, and will participate in the work of a legal research group with a high level of engagement with industry and government.

Suitable for:

This project is open to applications from students who will have completed, by the time this project commences, the following courses or their equivalents:

  • LAWS1701 and LAWS1702 (Law of Contract),
  • LAWS2702 and LAWS2703 (Law of Torts), and
  • LAWS2700 and LAWS2701 (Criminal Law).

Primary Supervisor

Associate Professor Rain Liivoja

Further info

Please indicate in the application your preferred time commitment to this project within the limits outlined above.

Please contact A/Prof Rain Liivoja (r.liivoja@uq.edu.au) with any questions.

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Project title

The Criminalisation of Threats: Theory and Practice

Project duration & delivery

The project will run for 8 weeks, between 1 December 2021 and 15 February 2022 (excluding the two weeks covering the Christmas period). The applicant will be expected to be available for work for approximately 20-25 hours each week and attend team meetings as required.

Given potential COVID-19 restrictions, the project may be completed remotely. The ability to work on-campus at least once a week will be preferred in the absence of such restrictions.

Description

The supervisors (Dr Lelliott and Ms Wallis) are currently conducting a project investigating dousing threats as a form of criminal conduct and domestic and family violence (DFV). This project, which stemmed initially from pro bono work, is currently in the process of interviewing DFV service providers and persons with lived experiences of dousing threats. It has already generated a publication in the Alternative Law Journal.

A preliminary finding of the dousing threats project is the substantial lack of attention to threats as a form of criminal conduct. It appears that threat offences are often poorly (or vaguely) articulated, not well understood, and not often charged or prosecuted (especially in the DFV context). Initial searches of the literature further indicate a lack of scholarly attention to threats in a criminal context and, furthermore, a lack of theorisation around legal responses to threats in general.

On this background, the supervisors are keen to expand their current project on dousing threats into a more general exploration of the criminalisation of threats. In turn, this will feed into a broader project on legal responses to threats across a range of contexts (such as private, labour, and international law). Given the dearth of current research on threats as criminal conduct, the applicant will be required to undertake an in-depth and comprehensive literature review of the criminalisation of threats. This research will include, inter alia, examination of material concerning typologies of threats (and psychological underpinnings), socio- and criminological rationales and impacts of threat-making, as well as legal responses.

The aim of the project is to produce a literature review to inform the supervisors’ research on threats going forward, as well as providing important context to their work on dousing threats. It will contribute to publications and a book proposal.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The main deliverable from the project will be a comprehensive literature review of relevant law and literature concerning the criminalisation of threats. The student will be asked to present this literature review in a well-organised and clear format.

The student will gain significant experience in legal and socio-legal research, including the ability to synthesise large quantities of information and assess for relevance. The student will also gain experience working in a team of researchers comprising multiple academics, honours and undergraduate students. The literature review will inform an ongoing project that is expected to lead to numerous journal publications and a book proposal.  

Suitable for:

Applicants should be in the 4th year or onwards of study. Given the socio-legal nature of the project, interest in non-law areas such as criminology, sociology, and psychology would be beneficial (including experience conducting research in these fields).

Primary Supervisor

Dr Joseph Lelliott and Ms Rebecca Wallis

Further info

Students wanting further information about the project may contact Dr Lelliott by email at j.lelliott1@uq.edu.au

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Applications for the 2021 Winter Research Program are now closed. Please check back in March 2022 for more information.

Project title: 

Private enforcement of public laws: a role for bounty-hunters and whistle-blowers?

Project duration:

4 weeks
21June-16th July.

Description:

Background context - Public and private enforcement:

This project feeds into a bigger Oxford University Press book project, currently under contract and due for completion in June 2022, which examines the different ways in which we currently enforce our laws.  Although the modern assumption is that all our public laws, including the criminal law, are always enforced by public prosecutors and public regulatory agencies, there is a range of persistent exceptions to this pattern, in which private individuals are actively enlisted in the law enforcement exercise in one way or another. This range of exceptions seems to be growing.

In the United States, private actors have come to be seen as playing a vital constitutional role in enforcing public laws in cases in which public agency enforcement is perceptibly failing, either because the agency in question is politically compromised, or because its budget is so limited as to disable it from being properly effective. Private enforcement is also becoming more popular in regulatory contexts in Europe, although it is as yet not as fully developed. In Australia, by contrast, prosecutorial powers have tended historically to be almost exclusively reserved to the State, or to public agencies. At the same time, it is nowadays regularly noted in this jurisdiction that public enforcement systems are failing to catch and deter wrongdoers and that they are leaving victims without proper public justice.

Should Australia follow the American pattern and find ways of more actively involve private individuals in the law enforcement process when public systems fail to deliver?

Project Description and Research Questions:

This project will analyse two different types of mechanism that exist in the USA for involving private parties more closely in public law enforcement, with a view to assessing their explanations, advantages and disadvantages and their suitability for broader use elsewhere.

  1. Bounty-hunter provisions. These are provisions under the Federal False Claims Act, which allow private parties both to have full powers of prosecution in respect of public frauds and to claim a share of the litigation proceeds on success. The process is subject to some important checks and balances. It has netted the State billions of dollars since it was reinvigorated in the late 1980s.
  2. Whistle-blower provisions. These are provisions that do not allow private parties actual powers of prosecution as such, but which provide them with rewards for supplying vital, useful information about crimes to prosecutors or agencies.  

The task of the applicant will be to find, collect, organise and assist in the analysis of primary and secondary materials on both types of provisions, with a view to determining the following research questions:

  1. Why do they exist?
  2. How do they work in practice?
  3. What are their main advantages and disadvantages?
  4. Are they potentially suitability for replication in Australia?

Project Phases:

Stage 1 - Data Collection (1 week): Identification and collection of primary and secondary materials and uploading to Dropbox.  This will involve the use of online databases to track both relevant primary provisions and academic and policy commentary about them. 

Stage 2- Preliminary summation and analysis (2 weeks). This stage involves entering all details of the materials found into a suitably-organised excel spreadsheet. Each item needs to be referenced and a brief summary of its content provided. Each item also needs to be coded with appropriate keywords to enable the database to be easily searchable. 

Stage 3- Summary Report (1 week) This stage involves the preparation of a brief report which addresses each of the principal research questions and provides preliminary conclusions for discussion with the research supervisor. The report will:  

  1. Provide a brief summary of  the main bounty-hunter and whistle-blower provisions and the reasons why each one was introduced
  2. Identify the way they work in practice
  3. Identify the main criticisms and supporting arguments that have attended them in legal and public policy spaces.
  4. Identify the main arguments regarding their suitability for the Australian legal and political environment.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Expected outcomes of this project are:

  • A major monograph publication with Oxford University Press by the end of 2022.
  • A summary research report
  • A journal article in peer-refereed law journal of international standing.
  • Possible Opportunities for a variety of HDR projects on private law enforcement.  

What the applicant may gain from the project:

  • upgraded skills in primary and secondary source data collection
  • experience in finding and handling materials and data drawn from a major foreign jurisdiction
  • enhanced excel spreadsheet database skills
  • an opportunity to present a summary report (or to share in the presentation of such a report, as you wish) to an expert forum, either in person or via zoom
  • an opportunity to publish a joint article (depending on the nature and extent of your input)
  • an opportunity to discuss ideas about law enforcement with an enthusiastic legal expert.

Other deliverables/advantages:

  • this project will facilitate the production of a major scholarly book (and a journal article) for ERA purposes
  • it advances the objectives of both private and public law research groupings within the law school and hopefully provides an opportunity for collaboration between these groupings.
  • it also connects with a proposed joint research project on private prosecution with Professor Heather Douglas at Melbourne University, that will strengthen existing links with researchers in that institution.

Suitable for:

  • This project is suitable for year 3-5 student.
  • You should have a strong record of academic performance
  • You must be competent in the use of excel spreadsheets
  • Prior experience in working as a research assistant is preferred, but not required
  • A strong background in criminal law and procedure, or in other areas of legal regulation (eg competition law/financial regulation/ consumer law) is likely to be an advantage

Primary Supervisor:

Professor Kit Barker

Further info:

If you are interested in this project and wish to know more before applying, please contact me:

k.barker@law.uq.edu.au

Project title: 

Protecting children’s human rights in education settings

Project duration:

21 June – 16 July

Description:

In 2020, the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) came into effect requiring public entities to take into account individuals’ human rights when making decisions. State schools are considered public entities under the Act, and school staff are often required to make decisions affecting the rights of vulnerable children.

The Human Rights Act protects three specific rights pertaining to children: the right of children to protection of their wellbeing and best interests; the right of children not to have their home or family life arbitrarily interfered with; and the right to education.

Children are particularly vulnerable if they have a disability or experience disadvantage. Educators may need to decide whether or not to make a notification to Child Safety in respect of a child who they consider to be at risk of harm. Educators are also required to meet children’s educational needs, and this may overlap with their social, economic and health needs. Special schools play a particularly important role because their entire student cohort may be considered vulnerable.

This project will investigate the intersection between education, child protection and human rights. Educators will be interviewed to ascertain their views on what roles schools, child safety services and other agencies play in protecting vulnerable children, and how they can work together to ensure children’s rights are respected. A particular focus of this research will be special schools, and the challenges they face in protecting the interests of their vulnerable student cohort.

Student scholars will assist by providing a literature review, analysing interview data, and observing (and possibly even conducting) interviews with study participants.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will gain skills in documentary and empirical research. They will learn about qualitative legal research methodologies. They will expand their knowledge on human rights and children’s rights. If the opportunity arises, the student may have the opportunity to participate as an empirical researcher.

If the quality of the student’s written work is high, they will be invited to co-author the academic paper that results from this research.

This project will benefit the Law School because it involves a partnership with the Queensland Department of Education. The project is currently going through the approval process within the department, and the department has expressed in-principle support for this project. Inclusive education, and ensuring children’s safety and wellbeing, are high priorities for the department, so they are supportive of this research. There may be opportunities for future collaboration if this initial scoping study yields interesting and useful results. (Note: this initial study has no external funding.)

Suitable for:

Students who have completed Children, Young People and the Law or Human Rights Law will be favourably considered. However, this project is appropriate for any student who has an interest in human rights, or applied legal research. Students should have completed at least three years of legal study. A complementary dual degree (particularly those that involve applied research methods), and previous experience in qualitative research, is also preferred (but not essential).

Primary Supervisor:

Prof Tamara Walsh

Further info:

Please contact me with any queries: t.walsh@uq.edu.au

Project title: 

An Empirical Study of Employee Restraint of Trade Clauses

Project duration:

4 weeks
Winter: 21 June – 16 July

Description:

The project is an empirical study of ‘restraint of trade’ clauses in employment contracts. Such clauses restrict the employment or business activities of the employee after their employment ends. For example, they may prevent the employee from working for competitors of their previous employer, or from having dealings with the previous employer’s clients. These clauses can severely affect employees, who may be effectively prevented from working at all, as their skills might only be relevant in the particular industry in which they are prevented from working. Therefore, to balance the interests of employees and employers, the common law imposes limits on restraint of trade clauses; they must be ‘reasonable’, having regard to (among other things) the duration of the restraint and the activities that the employee is prevented from engaging in.

This project will involve gathering empirical data about Australian court decisions on the validity of particular employee restraint of trade clauses. The data will relate particularly to the duration for which the clauses are held to be valid, across (for example) different kinds of restraint, different industries and different States. The data will be gathered solely from published court judgments; the project will therefore involve reading cases and recording information about various aspects of the facts and decision.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

Students will increase their knowledge of the law relating to employee restraint of trade clauses. They will also obtain skills in empirical legal research, particularly in the emerging area of the empirical study of court decisions. If the project is successful, there is a likelihood of jointly publishing the research with the project supervisors in a peer-reviewed journal.

Suitable for:

Students must have completed Contract I and II. It is also preferred (but not necessary) that students have familiarity with the equitable rules relating to ‘breach of confidence’ (eg from Trusts II or Torts II)

Primary Supervisor:

Dr Andrew Fell

Dr Kate Falconer

Further info:

For further information, contact either andrew.fell@uq.edu.au or k.falconer@uq.edu.au