Each month we will be asking one of our researchers to provide an insight into their research.
This month Dr Daniel Gregg is our Researcher in Focus. Daniel joined the GFAR team in January this year. He comes to us from New Zealand, where he worked as a Senior Lecturer in Agri-Business at the University of Waikato.
What motivated you to become a researcher?
I guess I came to be here in a round-about way. I had a strong interest in outdoor activities growing up in the Top End. This led to an interest in environmental issues and in development regarding rural and Indigenous Australian communities. My interest in economics stems from a great high school teacher. I unsuccessfully combined these and became an economist via a degree in natural resource economics (rather than becoming a tour-guide who could discuss macro-economic policy over the PA or an outdoor education teacher who could help with my students’ math and econ homework).
The research bit was also accidental. I happened to start out after graduating from my undergraduate degree as a consultant with a public-good research company run by (now) Professor Romy Greiner. Romy stamped out many of my bad habits and laid the foundations for my becoming a researcher. She introduced me to a range of people doing research in natural resource economics, including my future PhD supervisor, and that’s where it all began. I then worked as a research fellow at CQ University before starting my PhD.
What is the aim of your research?
- Most basically: To help people make better decisions.
- More generally: To apply and develop concepts associated with bounded rationality to consider limits to decision making and efficient ways to alleviate those limits.
- I also do a bunch of empirical studies on a range of topics. In these cases, my aim is to apply the simplest and most robust methodology possible to test hypotheses associated with the case study of interest.
What type of research do you do?
I do a range of research mainly associated with applied econometrics and with decision analysis.
- The former involves applications of econometric methods (statistical models incorporating economic theory) to agricultural production, environmental valuation, efficiency analysis, and structural analysis of decision making.
- The latter involves the use of theory and experimental methods to describe how people are making decisions and/or the factors affecting decision making and their implications for the welfare of the people making those decisions. We (Dr Adam Loch and I) are just in the process of starting up a field experiments laboratory which will allow us to generate complex experimental designs to assess decision making in ‘the field’ – i.e. with decision makers in their places of residence/business rather than with students in sterile laboratories.
What was your PhD topic and how long ago did you graduate?
Analysing management decisions in agriculture that impact on natural resources: rangelands grazing in northern Australia.
I graduated in December 2015.
What is your favourite part about being a researcher?
Getting a deep understanding of a complex issue and deriving clear descriptions of causes and potential solutions to it. Also, finding simple ways to describe complex problems (that’s a work in progress for me though…).
What is the hardest part about being a researcher?
Fitting into the policy narrative desired by governments and elected persons. These can be very short-term oriented and most research happens on a much longer time scale.
What advice would you give to other aspiring researchers?
Understand an issue or theory before you try to solve/measure it. Read original texts and history in your discipline, read current literature, always use blank paper (pref. A3) and a pencil to draw out ideas before you start writing. If you’re a PhD student, meet as many people in other universities as you can. Read texts in other disciplines to find new insights into your own.
What is your favourite thing about living in Adelaide, so far?
The weather! I’ve just moved after 6 years in New Zealand. I am very glad to be back in the second driest continent on earth. Adelaide also has fantastic beaches, great cafes and restaurants, and a burgeoning gin scene.
Where is your favourite place in the world, and why?
That’s hard. And it is largely weather dependent. Tully River in north Queensland is a fantastic river to go whitewater kayaking on. The Grand Canyon (see photo) is probably the best river trip I’ve done but it’s also hard to access and very cold. It’s hard to beat surfing the clear, warm water of mid-East coast Australia in summer with dolphins, whales and manta rays. Then there’s home (Darwin) which is one of my favourite places to visit mainly because of family and great childhood friends. Iceland is probably the most beautiful place I’ve visited for holidays which don’t involve kayaking. I’m sure I’ll find many more in the years to come which challenge these.
What is your favourite thing to do (outside of work)?
Outdoor activities most of the time – mainly surfing, stand up paddleboarding, whitewater kayaking (in warm water). Have home-cooked meals with close friends. Saturday mornings, have a coffee and read the paper with smashed avo on toast for breakfast.