Researcher biography

Kelly Fielding is a Professor in the School of Communication and Arts at The University of Queensland (UQ) and a Vice Chancellor’s research and teaching fellow. She is a social and environmental psychologist whose research is broadly focused on two interlinked areas: 1) identifying the determinants of individuals’ environmental and risk-related perceptions, attitudes and behaviour; 2) developing effective ways to engage with communities about risk and environmental issues, including developing effective communication and behaviour change programs. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to her research working with researchers from a range of disciplines and leading interdisciplinary cross-institutional research teams. As part of her commitment to interdisciplinary research she co-founded the Network of Environmental Social Scientists at UQ. Kelly has been a visiting scientist at CSIRO and has worked closely with industry partners in her research including local and state government agencies.

Current Research Topics

  • Engaging communities with sustainable urban water management
  • Understanding and responding to scepticism about science
  • Assessing, understanding and influencing consumers’ perceptions of water quality
  • Developing effective strategies to promote environmentally friendly behaviour
  • Communicating to influence responses to environmental policy

Grant highlights

ARC Future Fellowship: Public responses to alternative water supplies

Future water security will require a diversification of water sources yet it is clear that community members are not always supportive of these alternatives  and in some cases community opposition can prevent an alternative water scheme from going ahead. The aim of the fellowship was to explore how people think about alternative water sources, such as recycled water for potable use and, importantly, how we can effectively communicate about these sources. In addition to identifying trust in science and government as important predictors of comfort with a range of alternative water sources, the research also demonstrated a critical role of knowledge: a large national survey of Australians showed that respondents with higher levels of knowledge about water in general had greater support for a range of alternative water sources (desalinated water, treated stormwater, recycled wastewater) for a potable and non-potable use. The research also demonstrates that communication that was tailored to build knowledge and address key concerns that the community have about recycled water (e.g., health risks, sense of disgust) changed attitudes and behaviours: it increased support for potable recycled water schemes and increased the likelihood of people actually drinking recycled water.  Further details of these findings can be found in the articles listed below.

Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Water Sensitive Cities: Engaging communities with water sensitive cities

The central question addressed in this research is: How can we bring the community along on the journey toward more sustainable urban water management? To understand how best to engage people, we have to first understand what they know about an issue. We benchmarked Australian water literacy and showed that there are some aspects of water that people understand well but others where there is very little understanding—these especially relate to water treatment. Importantly, water literacy was related to water conservation attitudes and behaviours and support for sustainable water management policies. Although water professionals seem to understand that the general community have a fairly limited understanding of water issues, sophisticated water terminology continues to be used in water communication materials. We have also identified that although a range of strategies have been trialled to encourage greater community engagement with water issues, a lack of evaluation of these different strategies means that there is currently little known about what works and what doesn’t. Links to summaries and reports of Australians’ water literacy and a review of engagement strategies can be found here:

ARC Discovery project: Understanding and responding to rejection of science

There is growing evidence of resistance to science amongst some segments of the community: sizeable numbers of people reject the consensus on climate change and some people are not vaccinating their children. These examples highlight the potential for rejection of science to have negative consequences – to undermine progress on addressing climate change or to lead to resurgences in easily controlled diseases. This project develops a framework for understanding why people might reject science as a way to inform how to respond to this rejection. The project has just commenced with a multi-nation study currently underway.

Post Docs

  • Angela Dean

RhD students

  • Tracy Schultz
  • Anna Cooke
  • Courtney Morgans
  • Sarah Kneebone (Monash University)
  • Anne Cleary (Griffith University)
  • Melissa Jackson (Griffith University)

Key Publications

  1. Hornsey, M.J., & Fielding, K.S. (in press). A cautionary note about messages of hope: Focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation. Global Environmental Change.
  2. Fielding, K.S., & Hornsey, M.J. (2016). A social identity analysis of climate change and environmental attitudes and behavior: Insights and opportunities. Frontiers in Psychology, doi.10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00121.
  3. Hornsey, M., Harris, E., Bain, P., & Fielding, K. (2016). A meta-analysis of the determinants and outcomes of climate change belief. Nature Climate Change, doiL10.1038/nclimate2943. 
  4. Fielding, K.S., Gardner, J., Leviston, Z., & Price, J. (2015). Comparing public perceptions of alternative water sources for potable use: The case of rainwater, stormwater, desalinated water, and recycled water. Water Resources Management, 29(12), 4501-4518. 
  5. Price, J., Fielding, K.S., Leviston, Z., Green, M., & Gardner, J. (2015). Developing effective messages about potable recycled water: The importance of message structure and content. Water Resources Research, 41, 2174-2187, doi: 10.1002/2014WR016514.
  6. Schultz, T., & Fielding, K. (2014). The common in-group identity model enhances communication about recycled water. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 40, 296-305.
  7. Fielding, K.S., & Roiko, A.H. (2014). Providing information promotes greater public support for potable recycled water. Water Research, 61, 86-96. DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2014.05.002.
  8. Unsworth, K.L., & Fielding, K.S. (2014). It’s political: How the salience of one’s political identity changes climate change beliefs and policy support. Global Environmental Change, 27, 131-137. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.05.002.
  9. Fielding, K.S., Spinks, A., Russell, S.R., McCrea, R., Stewart, R., & Gardner, J. (2013). An experimental test of voluntary strategies to promote urban water demand management.  Journal of Environmental Management. Journal of Environmental Management, 114, 343-351.
  10. McDonald, R. I., Fielding, K. S., & Louis, W. R. (2013). Energizing and de-motivating effects of norm conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(1), 57-72.
  11. Fielding, K.S., Russell, S., Spinks, A. & Mankad, A. (2012). Determinants of household water conservation: The role of demographic, infrastructure, behaviour and psycho-social variables. Water Resources Research, 48, W10510, doi:10.1029/2012WR012398.
  12. Russell, S., & Fielding, K.S. (2010). Water demand management research: A psychological perspective. Water Resources Research, 46, W05302, doi:10.1029/2009WR008408.
  13. Fielding, K.S., McDonald, R., & Louis, W.R. (2008). Theory of planned behaviour, identity, and intentions to engage in environmental activism. Journal of Environmental Psychology.28, 318-326.
  14. Fielding, K.S., Terry, D.J., Masser, B., & Hogg, M.A. (2008). Integrating social identity theory and the theory of planned behaviour to explain decisions to engage in sustainable agricultural practices. British Journal of Social Psychology, 47, 23-48.
  15. Fielding, K.S., Terry, D.J., Masser, B., & Hogg, M.A. (2005). Explaining landholders’ decisions about riparian zone management: The role of attitudinal, normative, and control beliefs. Journal of Environmental Management, 77, 12-21.