This panel explores the value, and role of, of public protest in contemporary society, exploring how public protest has or has not influenced policy in regards to issues such as (but not limited to) fracking, climate change and live animal exports. We also examine the role which researchers do and should play in such contentious debates.
We propose linking two sessions, starting with a standard panel of presentations, transitioning into a round table discussion on the role of protest in contemporary society in Australia, and globally. We ask the question, is activism a useful force for influencing policy and regulation in contemporary society? And importantly, what is, or should be, the role of researchers in reporting on activism? Over the past decade, there has been a notable resurgence in protest activities in relation to extractive development, agriculture and a range of other industries. In the academic literature, the social license concept has received growing interest, particularly with regard to the role that broader public outcry or local resident protest can influence industry activities, productivity and growth. This has been increasingly recognised as a real risk to companies, projects and industry, which needs to be better understood and managed. Others may view this increasing participation in protest activities as a signal for much needed changes in regulation and policy on some big contemporary issues, such as climate action. In some places, however, being an activist may be viewed as undesirable or stigmatised, therefore protest occurs via other less overt means, if at all. While we invite presentations on social license, public protest, climate justice and social movements emerging in Australia and globally, we also are also interested in reflections on researcher experience of conducting study on contentious topics.