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Department Receives Marsden Grant (Prof Stephen Cranefield)

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Stephen C Webphoto

Professor Stephen Cranefield (along with academic colleague Prof Jeremy Pitt) received the Department of Information Science's first ever Marsden Grant. Here are the details:

A computational theory of collective action

(for $460,000)

This project will apply computational modelling and simulation to investigate the problem of collective action: explaining how self-interested parties can be motivated to coordinate their action to achieve a common benefit. Problems of this sort include management of a common resource pool (such as a river or a fishery) and collectively reducing carbon emissions. Mathematical models from game theory predict that free-riding behaviour will dominate and cause the collective action to fail. However, a range of social factors, such as the existence of norms, a desire to earn "social capital", and leadership mechanisms have been proposed to explain why collective action will often succeed in practice.


This project uses a computational approach to gain new understanding of the social reasoning underlying collective action problems. We will develop a computational model describing how individuals decide how to act based on personal and social goals and rewards, in combination with social incentives and group coordination mechanisms. Through simulations of various scenarios we will investigate which social factors have the most impact on achieving collective action.


The techniques developed will have the potential for use in building software to advise and assist people to coordinate their actions and achieve collective goals.