Academic Research Grants

Home > Research > Research Awards

Research Grant Awards


2022 Grant Recipient, $10,000:   Applications close on 22nd April 2022 



2021 Grant Recipient, $10,000:   Dr Xiaohua (Sean) Jin,

Assoc. Prof. in Project Management, Director of Academic Programs – Project Management School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment, Western Sydney University.


Improving the Mental Health of Project Management Practitioners in Architecture,
Engineering and Construction (AEC) Projects during COVID-19 Pandemic

Research outline

Unprecedented changes due to COVID-19 pandemic introduces new psychosocial risks for mental health of project management practitioners (PMPs) in architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) projects. This research is aimed at improving mental health status of PMPs in AEC projects during COVID-19 pandemic in Australia by exploring psychosocial risk factors, evaluating their interventions, and establishing a psychosocial risk management framework. The research objectives will be attained through an expert forum, an industry questionnaire survey and a case study. The resultant psychosocial risk management framework is expected to improve mental health status of PMPs in AEC projects.


Research Background

Late-March 2020, the novel coronavirus pandemic outbreak, COVID-19, forced Australian government to order the closure of construction sites across the states and people to work from home, unless they had jobs of high necessity (Australian Government Department of Health 2020). Among construction sectors, AEC project organizations are mostly hit by the pandemic because of their engagement in complex projects that entails large supply chain and multiple parties in delivering construction projects (Weatherly 2020). Disruption in supply chain of materials and workers to construction site has introduced new management system in AEC projects (Steele 2020). Management of multiple project parties remotely due to closure of construction site sparked unprecedented risks new to AEC projects. The situation is even worse as AEC project organizations struggle to transform into new form of budget, quality and time management system due to unplanned changes in project management (Steele 2020; Weatherly 2020).

COVID-19 is not going away soon in Australia (WorkSafe Victoria 2020). Unprecedented changes due to COVID-19 pandemic introduces new psychosocial risks for mental health of PMPs in AEC projects (Association for Project Management 2020). Irrespective of structure of working environment during the pandemic, PMPs are exposed to COVID-19 related psychosocial risks such as isolation, increased workload, stress of using new technologies, work family conflicts, longer working hours, risk of domestic violence and job insecurity (Houseman 2020; International Labour Organisation Office 2020). Social and economic implications of poor mental health among PMPs in AEC projects are substantial as cost of poor mental health to Australian workplaces is roughly AUD10.9 billion per year (PricewaterhouseCoopers 2014). Moreover, recent reports show sharp decrease in productivity of PMPs linked to COVID-19 related psychosocial risk factors for mental ill-health (Association for Project Management 2020).

Despite the relationships between COVID-19 psychosocial risk factors and mental ill-health among PMPs in AEC project organizations in Australia, and urgency to address the significant problem, there is a dearth of research on COVID-19 psychosocial risk management for mental health in AEC projects. This research is timely and urgent because of limited knowledge on how to manage psychosocial risk exposing PMPs to mental ill-health, which negatively influence their performance. Economical implication of poor mental health to Australian government and AEC project organizations ranging from medical cost and compensation claims substantial the significance of addressing the mental ill-health among PMPs.


Research Aim and Objectives

The research is aimed at improving mental health status of project management practitioners in AEC projects during COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. Specifically, the following research objectives are to be attained:
1. To explore psychosocial risk factors causing mental ill-health of PMPs in relation to COVID-19 pandemic in
    AEC projects.
2. To evaluate interventions for psychosocial risk factors during Covid-19 pandemic in AEC projects.
3. To establish psychosocial risk management framework for mental health of PMPs in AEC projects.



2020 Grant Recipient, $10,000:   Dr Yongjian Ke,

Acting Course Director, Project Management School of Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney.


Social Media Use in Project Management
Multiple Case Studies of Transport Projects

Research outline

This project will explore the opportunities that social media could offer to project managers at different stages of transport projects. The findings will improve the understanding of how project managers could use social media to enhance project performance.


Transport infrastructure projects have been chosen for this study. The team will design this project as multiple case studies. Data to be collected will be in two sets - social media data and project management data. A matching collection and analysis of the two sets of data will lead us to achieve the research objectives. The results will be consolidated in a structured approach for using social medial at different stages of a project.


Brief background to the research

Due to global trends such as urbanisation, there is an increasing need for the delivery and maintenance of transport infrastructure, such as roads, railways and subways around the world. Transport infrastructure projects have at least two characteristics that make them unique to study.


First, the scale of these types of projects tends to be large, and the delivered infrastructure is designed to be in use for several decades.


Second, transport infrastructure projects are of interest not only to internal stakeholders but also to citizens who are the future users. Although citizens can, especially in collaboration, have a strong influence on projects (Aaltonen and Kujala, 2016), their capacity for making their voices heard is limited by their peripheral location in stakeholder maps. However, a critical avenue for individual citizens to be heard is social media, which has become widely used in recent times to be able to express opinions publicly.


The published studies combining social media and project management have focused on topics such as improved project learning through social media (Rosa et al., 2016; Winter and Chaves, 2017), better intra-project communication or collaboration through social media (Kanagarajoo et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2018), and social media as a platform for branding a megaproject (Ninan et al., 2019). Although the number of studies is still low, the combined message seems to indicate several possibilities for utilising social media in project management (see also Hysa and Spalek, 2019).



Aims and objectives of the research

This project aims to explore the opportunities that social media could offer to project managers at different stages of transport projects. Three research objectives are to:

• RO-1: Investigate the current state of social media use by project managers

• RO-2: Investigate the impacts of social media on project management

• RO-3: Develop a structured approach for using social medial at different stages


Proposed research methods

Multiple case studies will be the research method. Case studies are useful to study a phenomenon in-depth within a context to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events (Yin, 2014). We will study two cases, as this will allow us to have cross-case analysis and also because multiple cases are analogous to multiple experiments (Eisenhardt, 1989).


We choose to study CBD and South East Light Rail project and Sydney Metro Northwest project, as the project team is familiar with the origin of these projects and has completed a pilot study to use social media to assess benefits realisation in the Sydney Metro Northwest project. These two projects are also selected because both are in the operational phase and have social media presence and activities, thereby enabling us to use social media for study.


Data to be collected will be two sets. First, we plan to use Python and Application Programming Interface provided by the social media platform (e.g. Twitter Search API) to retrieve social media data using pre-defined project keywords and time range. Second, project management data will be collected through interviews. A minimum of five interviews with project managers and team members are anticipated per case. A matching collection and analysis between two sets of data will lead us to achieve the research objectives. In the interviews, project managers will demonstrate how they have used social media in managing their projects at different stages. A cross-analysis on social media data will inform us of how social media has responded to the project management activities, leading to the achievement of RO-1. On the other hand, the analysis of social media data. 


Download the Research Report, published in the 2021 PGCAR journal




2023 winner to be announced June 2023.