Professor Sawer was Head of the Political Science Program, in the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) at the Australian National University in 2000-03 and Vice-President International Political Science Association 2009-12. She was President of the Australasian Political Studies Association, 1985-86.
In 2009 she was received an Australian Political Studies Assocation, Lifetime Achievement Award. She became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in1996. She was awarded Officer of the Order of Australia in 1994.
One of Professor Sawer's major roles has been leading the ARC-funded Democratic Audit of Australia 2002-08. The capstone book, ‘Australia: The State of Democracy’, was launched in October 2009. She won ARC-funding (2008-10) for a project with Sarah Maddison on the evolution of social movements: ‘The Women's Movement in Protest, Institutions and the Internet’ was published by Routledge in 2013. In 2010 she received funding to conduct a project on women and leadership in movements for social change (part of a larger ARC Linkage project headed by Pat Grimshaw of University of Melbourne). In 2011, together with colleagues in History, Philosophy and Sociology, she won funding from the RSSS interdisciplinary research scheme for a comparative project on gender in the social sciences.