Christopher Lee Neff

University of Sydney
Government and International Relations

90 Carillon Ave
Newtown, NSW
2042 |  Visit Personal Website

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My research focuses on environmental politics and theories of the policy process. I am currently looking at the factors that influence policy responses to shark attacks in Australia, South Africa and the United States. I am examining: a.) the impact of education on public attitudes toward sharks; b.) the role of emotional events in advantaging policy entrepreneurship and c.) the implications of responses that address risk perceptions over actual risk. I believe this research provides a unique avenue for understanding social and political features that can be applied to a broad range of issues.

Neff, Christopher and Robert Hueter. 2013. "Science, Policy and the Public Discourse of Shark "Attack": A Proposal for Reclassify​ing Human-Shar​k Interactions​." Journal of Environmental Studies and Science 3 (1):65-73.
Abstract: There are few phrases in the Western world that evoke as much emotion or as powerful an image as the words “shark” and “attack.” However, not all “shark attacks” are created equal. Under current labels, listings of shark attack may even include instances where there is no physical contact between shark and human. The dominant perception of intent-laden shark “attacks” with fatal outcomes is outdated as a generic term and misleading to the public. We propose new descriptive labels based on the different outcomes associated with human–shark interactions, including sightings, encounters, bites, and the rare cases of fatal bites. We argue two central points: first, that a review of the scientific literature shows that humans are “not on the menu” as typical shark prey. Second, we argue that the adoption of a more prescriptive code of reporting by scientists, the media, and policy makers will serve the public interest by clarifying the true risk posed by sharks and informing better policy making. Finally, we apply these new categories to the 2009 New South Wales Shark Meshing Report in Australia and the history of shark incidents in Florida to illustrate how these changes in terminology can alter the narratives of human–shark interactions.
DOI: 10.1007/s13412-013-0107-2
Neff, Christopher and Luke Edgell. 2013. "The Rise of Repeal: Policy Entrepreneurship and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Journal of Homosexuality 60 (2):232-249.
Abstract: We report on policy entrepreneurship by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and how its legislative strategies used mini-windows of opportunity to shift Capitol Hill perspectives of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) frompolitical plutoniumto an emerg-ing issue requiring a second look. Four phases in the legislative history of DADT are identified: radioactive, contested, emerging,and viable. In all, this article argues that SLDN’s entrepreneurship focused on contesting congressional sensibilities to wait or defer onrepeal, maintained that every discharge was damaging and tran- sitioned toward a post-repeal mind set. Finally, we illustrate the importance of these transitions by comparing SLDN’s 2004 esti-mated vote count for the introduction of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act with the final 2010 voting results on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act.
DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2013.744669
Neff, Christopher and Jean Yang. 2012. "Shark Bites and Public Attitudes: Policy Implications from the First Before and After Shark Bite Survey." Marine Policy 38:545-547.
Abstract: Public feelings toward sharks are expected to grow negatively following shark bites on humans. Mediaand government responses are often predicated on this presumptive emotional response; however,there have been no published data on attitudes toward sharks following shark bite incidents. This studyshows that levels of ‘‘pride’’ in white shark populations in the absence of an incident remained steadyafter a shark bite occurred. This was consistent across response areas regarding other marine life and‘‘confidence’’ in beach safety programs. Results are based on a pilot survey conducted in the Cape Townbeach suburbs of Fish Hoek and Muizenberg before and after a shark bite at Fish Hoek beach. The studyfound no statistical significance between survey responses and the occurrence of the shark biteincident. The results indicate a previously undocumented level of public sophistication following theseevents. This data challenges the underlying basis of policy responses to shark bites and suggests thatnew considerations of public knowledge, endemic value and causal narratives should be incorporatedinto decision making.
DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2012.06.017

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy PRIMARY
Social Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation SECONDARY
Policy Analysis and Evaluation