The Research & Innovation Office


Strategic Research Themes 2019 – 2024

Taking into consideration its core role as the premier institution of higher education in the South Pacific region producing and disseminating new knowledge via research and innovation,  the needs of its member countries, and its current and potential capacity,  The University of the South Pacific has identified four strategic research themes that are derived from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2015 – 2030) and underpinned by Innovation, Empowerment & Sustainability:

Theme 1:  Sustainable, Inclusive and Equitable Economies

This theme focuses on SDGs 1, 8, 9, and 11. Research under this theme will strengthen the University’s contribution to an understanding of pathways to development that are based upon the eradication of poverty through sustainable and inclusive economic growth and the creation of full and productive employment and decent work for all, together with the building of the social protection systems that can assist in managing the risks faced by Pacific Island countries.

Current Projects

Project Title: Climate Change, Mental Health & Wellbeing in the Pacific Islands Frontier Conversations about Trauma, Culture, Resistance, Resilience and Restoration

Principal Investigator: Dr Litea Meo-Sewabu

Team Members: SPACE, USP– Tima Tuvuki, Dr. Rosiana Lagi,

SoLaSS, USP – Dr. Litea Meo-Sewabu, Dr. Tuinawi Rakuita

Funding: FJD $50,000.00

Duration: 10 months

Overview of Project

This project interrogates the multiple concepts of trauma, resilience and resilience literacies (Koya Vaka’uta, 2013)2 as central to the broader sustainability discourse. It is premised on the potential for dealing with the mental health stresses and pre-trauma experienced by those living in climate change frontier communities i.e. with the reality of relocation or the threat of climate change migration. These communities living on the edge are often used as poster-islands for Climate Change e.g. Tuvalu and Kiribati. The premise on which this study is designed is the recognition that climate-migration and the possibility of climate refugee identities present multiple socio-cultural, economic stresses and familial trauma. A comparative study of the lived experience of climate grief will be conducted in two communities for this pilot study – in Tuvalu and outlier coastal communities in Fiji. The field-study component seeks to determine whether these communities may in fact already be experiencing what might be referred to as pre-traumatic stress as a direct result of the awareness that relocation is an impending reality.


  1. To document through (a) Pacific indigenous storying methods, life story accounts of climate change stresses experienced by select frontier communities; (b) photography – images of heritage places/spaces and heritage objects/arts of significance
  2. To develop a research instrument (questionnaire) which will serve as a measure of the socio-cultural impacts of climate change in these frontier communities
  3. To determine the degree of stress experienced across generational groups
  4. To find out if there are any community resistance and restoration projects which focus on heritage, wellbeing and mental health

Project Title: Establishing a Pacific-wide reef fish tissue bank for elucidating regional population connectivity and ecotoxicology

Principal Investigator: Dr Nicholas Rollings

Team Members: PACE-SD USP- Dr Tammy Tabe

SoLaSS, USP – Dr Jacqueline Ryle

FBE USP – Ms Chethna Ben

Funding: FJD $79,836.00

Duration: 24 months

Overview of Project

The Research Project titled ‘Employing GIS & UAV tools to contribute to sustainability strategies for community resilience in Fiji’ in essence, will be a pilot study conducted to display the strategies adapted for making communities in Fiji The strategy implemented will focus on communities becoming  sustainable and resilient to the vulnerabilities of climate change and problems associated with rapid urbanization. In an attempt to make communities such as informal settlements sustainable, this project will focus on a study that will focus on designing a scheme with a combination of scientific method, sociology, economic and technical strategy. The existing formalization framework has proven to be expensive and takes a considerable amount of time as it requires preparation of schemes, environmental impact reports and engineering works. The aim of designing a strategy with GIS & UAV tools in the existing formalization process is to create a catalogue detailing assessment procedures and guideline for informal settlements.

Project Title: The Contribution of Sport to the Sustainable Development Goals in the Pacific.

Principal Investigator: Dr Nacanieli Rika

Team Members: SAFE, USP – Ms Masilina Rotuivaqali,

SBM, USP – Dr Rup Singh, USP Research Office- Dr Mele Paea

External Collaborators

CMNHS, FNU – Dr Donald Wilson, Associate Dean of Research,

Sport Matters (Australia)- Ms Jackie Lauff

USP Postgraduate Research Students

National, Regional and International Affiliates Sport for Development and Peace,

Commonwealth Secretariat (United Kingdom) – Mr Oliver Dudfield,

The Pacific Community (SPC) (New Caledonia) – Ms Alison Culpin,

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (Fiji) – Ms Charmina Saili, Ms Portia Domonatani Dugu

Project Advisors

Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) – Dr Emma Sherry,

University of the Western Cape (South Africa) – Dr Marion Keim,

Royal Holloway, University of London (United Kingdom) – Professor Helen Tregidga

Funding: $50,000.00

Duration: 14 months

Overview of Project

This project extends knowledge in the area by including four regional countries and examining specific aspects of sustainable development through the SDGs, which have immense current significance at national, regional and global level. Pacific Island Countries need to mobilise all possible development assets and tools at their disposal to achieve the SDGs. Sport, physical activity and physical education sit firmly among these assets. There is a need for governments to align collective measurement and evaluation efforts in these sectors to better evidence their contribution to the SDGs and produce enhanced data and statistics to guide policy priorities and associated investment. Improving data on sport and the SDGs will provide governments, sporting organizations and the private sector with better information on how, where and why to invest in sport to maximize the contribution to broader national development objectives and prioritized SDGs.  At a global level, this research is aligned with the Kazan Action Plan3 (Action 2) adopted by the Sixth International Conference of Ministers Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VI) in July 2017 and the UN Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace4 2019 – 2022 (Priority Area 4). At a regional level, this research contributes to the Pacific Sport, Physical Activity and Physical Education (SPAPE) Action Plan and aims to deliver on a priority action agreed at the first meeting of the Pacific Regional Sports Taskforce (PRST) and further endorsed at the 2nd meeting of the newly-established USP Sport and Sustainable Development Coordinating Committee (SSDCC) in June 2019.  USP is a member of PRST that was established in April 2019 with a mandate from the Forum Economic Ministers.

Aims and Objectives:

  1. Determine the contribution of sport to national development using prioritized targets and indicators in the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development as well as the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Model Indicators on Sport and the SDGs.
  2. Evaluate the voluntary national review process in terms of accountability, effectiveness and inclusiveness.

Theme 2: Oceans, Ecosystems & Climate Resilience

This theme focuses on SDGs 6, 13, 14 and 15. Through the translation of research into actionable innovations and interventions, the University has a key role to play in promoting a scientific base for decision-making that is relevant to the needs of Pacific Island countries. This includes strengthening the inter-relationship between traditional knowledge and modern science and building a better understanding of the social contexts, impacts, and resilience to the challenges that the region faces.

Conservation and sustainability in the use the oceans and marine resources are central concerns to the development of resilient Pacific communities and we will, through our research and innovation, seek to understand and work in partnership with regional and national stakeholders and communities to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, and limit biodiversity loss. It is well recognised that urgent action is needed to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy and the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Current Projects

Project Title: Using Digital Literacy to curate rural women’s lived experiences of Education and Learning

Principal Investigator: Associate Prof. Ann Cheryl Armstrong

Team Members: Dr. Lavinia Tiko, Dr. Ledua Waqailiti, Dr Shika Raturi

External Collaborators

Queensland University of Technology (Aus)

Assoc. Prof. Verena Thomas – Senior Research Fellow, School of Design, Creative Industries Faculty,

Dr. Jackie Kauli – Research Fellow, School of Design, Creative Industries Faculty,

Mrs. Deb Murray – Research Manager, Creative Industries Faculty

Funding: FJD $69,990.00

Duration: 2 years

Overview of Project

This project aims to capture the stories of women in rural communities regarding their memories of and their views about education. This is important to better understand some of the communities we serve as educators.


  1. strengthening education deliveries using creative and visual methods
  2. sharing lived experiences of women through the use of stories and visual methods supporting conversations around social change

Project Title: Establishing a Pacific-wide reef fish tissue bank for elucidating regional population connectivity and ecotoxicology

Principal Investigator: Dr Brian Stockwell

Team Members: SAGEONS, USP-Rufino Varea, Kelly Brown, Janice Taga, Prof Ciro Rico, Marta Ferreira

PaCE-SD USP- Awnesh Singh

SGDIA, FBE, USP – Romitesh Kant,

University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia – Monal Lal

Funding: FJD $97,818.00

Duration: 12 months

Overview of Project

This research proposal aims to establish a long-term tissue bank of important reef fish species sampled from regional countries in the Pacific that will be housed and curated at the marine collections facility within the School of Marine Studies. For the initial phase of the project, the researchers plan to collect and scrutinize the tissue samples through population genetics and the ecotoxicology of five commercially valuable food fish from local reefs. The data will form a baseline for a long-term monitoring program and, over decades, it can be used to detect temporal changes as well.


We will train local fisheries officers in nine of the USP regional campuses (Figure 1) to sample a suite of five phylogenetically and biologically diverse reef fishes (Table1). By comparing seascape genomic analyses with biological data we seek to add to our understanding of the following major question in marine ecology and biological oceanography:

  1. Which biological and oceanographic factors explain larval dispersal of marine organisms?
  2. H1: Biological traits such as pelagic larval duration (PLD), size (fecundity), maximum age, and trophic level are the most informative predictors of dispersal patterns (Table 1).
  3. H2: Ocean currents and the seascape are the most informative predictors of larval dispersal patterns (Figure 1)
  4. H3: Because of the significant interaction between seascape and biological traits, a combination of these is the best predictor of dispersal.

Theme 3: Education, Culture, Health & Wellbeing

This theme focuses on SDGs 2, 3 and 4. Education has been identified by Pacific Leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF) as fundamental to sustainable development and wellbeing across the region. The University has a central role to play in executing this strategy through its research on teacher education, improving delivery of pre-service and in-service teacher training, and the development of innovative actions and interventions for the enhancement of educational opportunities and outcomes. In addition, the threats faced by the region in respect to food and water security, as well as those resulting from NCDs mean that finding effective approaches to good nutrition, the promotion of sustainable agriculture, and the improvement health and wellbeing through sports and physical exercise are all critically dependent on the quality of research in these areas and its translation into sound policy and practice.

Current Projects

Project Title: Beyond legislation: women’s experiences and the effectiveness of implementing domestic violence laws in Fiji and Vanuatu.

Principal Investigator: Dr Naohiro Nakamura

Team Members: SAGEONS, USP-Dr Sarah Pene (Co-PI), Ms Donna Jella

SoLaSS, USP – Associate Professor Yoko Kanemasu, Dr James Johnson, Dr Domenica Gisella Calabrὸ

External Collaborators:

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC)

Vanuatu Women’s Centre (VWC)

Funding: FJD $49,837.00

Duration: 3 years

Overview of Project

This research project will systematically analyze the implementation of two pieces of domestic violence legislation; the Family Protect Act 2008 in Vanuatu and the Domestic Violence Act 2009 in Fiji. Using a mixed methods approach of both quantitative and qualitative analysis the research team will examine how the provisions of the domestic violence legislation is being implemented, the multi-dimensional contexts within which implementation is being carried out, and the experiences and viewpoints of  women who experience violence, and those of service providers from whom they seek assistance.  The ultimate goal of the project is to provide evidence-based research that can be used to strengthen and improve the way in which women can be protected from domestic violence. This will be the first study of its kind in the Pacific region. The project has applicability to other Pacific Island countries, through development of a methodology that will allow for comparisons between countries and over time. The results of this project can be used to support upcoming legislative reform in countries with domestic violence already in place, as well as informing and helping to shape the legislation in those countries yet to draft specific domestic violence laws.


  1. To measure the level of awareness among women and stakeholders of the provisions of domestic violence legislation and where and how to access assistance.
  2. To examine the experiences of women who have sought police assistance for violence matters: including the experience of seeking protection orders and their interactions with police and the judiciary.
  3. To examine specifically the use of protection orders by women: including the number of applications sought, granted, breached, and the consequences of breaches;
  4. To examine how women’s use of domestic violence legislation affects their experience of domestic violence over the longer term.

Theme 4: Governance, Justice and Equality

This theme focuses on SDGs 5, 10, 16 and 17 which includes the achievement of gender equality and female participation in society. It aims to reduce income inequality and the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development based on access to justice for all and the building of effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Theme 5: Innovation, Empowerment and Sustainability

This cross-cutting theme will be integrated into all the transdisciplinary themes. Translating research into sustainable outcomes that make a difference whether by way of new inventions, products or creative ways of seeing solutions to problems is at the core of what the University will contribute to the continuing development and empowerment of the Pacific region and its peoples.

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