Dr Saffron O'Neill
Associate Professor in Geography


Research projects

Saffron's research is interdisciplinary, focusing on the social science dimensions of climate variability and climate change. Her work explores risk perception, risk communication and public engagement with climate change; and the implications of these areas for public policy. She has experience in using diverse social science methods. She has published research using survey, interview, focus group, expert elicitation, photo-elicitation and Q methods; and content and frame analysis.

Saffron currently holds an ESRC Future Research Leader fellowship, 'Visualising Climate Change'. The fellowship aims to increase understanding of the representations and power of visual imagery for engaging people with climate change. Specifically, it is exploring both top down visual representations of climate change (in newspapers, on TV, on social media) and bottom up climate imagery (through a photo-elicitation project exploring adaptation to sea level rise).

Saffron also led a HASS seed funded project 'Media and the cultural politics of climate change: tracking the coverage of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. This was an interdisciplinary project, involving colleagues in Bioscience, Psychology and Politics; exploring climate change coverage arising from the reporting of the three IPCC Working Groups. The project tracked coverage on TV, in newspapers and on the social media platform Twitter and carried out a frame analysis of this data.

Saffron's research has contributed to the development of public policy. She has contributed to research about community safety concerning bushfire risk (including a report for the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission); and in defining and assessing maladaptation in the water sector. She has also contributed to public engagement with climate change activities beyond academia, with past projects including a silver medal-winning garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 'The 2050 Garden'.


2017 – 2020 ESRC +3 SWDTC PhD Award: ‘Children’s conceptualisations of climate change: prevalent discourses and potential for action’ (co-I)

2016 – 2020 ESRC 1+3 SWDTC PhD Award: ‘Following the forecast: risk, uncertainty and the life of seasonal weather forecasts’ (co-PI)

2012 – 2017 £214,811 ESRC Future Research Leader award: ‘Visualising climate change’ (PI)

2014 - 2015 £198,044 ESRC Urgency Grant: 'The 2013/14 winter floods and policy change: the dynamics of change in the aftermath of major crises’ (co-I)

2011 – 2012 AU$19,103 (£11,880) Early Career Researcher Grants Scheme, Melbourne University, Australia: ‘Visualising climate change: international perspectives on mitigation and adaptation’ (PI)

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