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Domain Co-Chairs

Prof Dan Osborn (UCL Earth Sciences), Professor of Human Ecology

Dan Osborn

I have a long-term interest in how knowledge and research are translated into policies and decisions.

Doing interesting research and changing policy can be complementary. My interest was stimulated by my undergraduate and postgraduate studies in pharmacology at UCL. I was soon busy working with others to change government policy on postgraduate education. I then moved from Medical Research Council funding to Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) support, through which I was allowed scope to develop and work on the significance of the pollution of seabirds. Again, this meant working with others to change policy approaches and then taking part in the implementation of that new approach. It also led to Nature publications.

In the 1980s, I spent two years seconded to what we now call the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, working in partnership with experts in planning, economics and public administration to advise Ministers and senior officials on new policy lines to protect human health and the environment. This work on pollution control and trends in emissions indirectly led to an interest in how chemical accidents at large industrial plants could be prevented and follow-up work developing technical aspects of legislation in Europe.

Latterly, the links between people and their environment have moved centre stage for me, as it seemed clear that approaches to risk and environmental resources were not delivering sustainable outcomes fast enough to deal with the challenges arising from a growing population and a changing climate. I felt more attention was needed on the people–environment dynamic.

Following a period working for NERC in senior management roles, running research programmes, government–Research Council UK partnerships and fostering early work on what became the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, I’ve returned to UCL to see how our knowledge of global systems and natural resources plays out at the local level.

I’ll be interested to see what policies and implementation measures may be needed to help people and communities live well in a sustainable fashion. I am currently, with colleagues from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UCL and elsewhere, working as lead contributor to a chapter of the evidence report for the upcoming UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.

I am looking forward to the UCL Environment Domain increasing opportunities for research on the key issues facing humanity. People and communities need to live well and sustainably within the resources our planet can provide. The Domain should help strengthen the pathway from knowledge to impact, so such issues can be addressed in ways that meet people’s needs and reduce risks from and to the environment.

Selected publications

See selected publications from work with colleagues in the research, public and private sectors:

Publications for Prof Dan Osborn

Prof Nick Tyler (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering), Chadwick Chair of Civil Engineering

I investigate the ways in which people interact with their immediate environments. I set up the Accessibility Research Group within the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, with a team of researchers investigating many aspects of accessibility and public transport. The group has a total research portfolio of more than £20 million for projects including the PAMELA pedestrian environment laboratory, which is being used to develop models for accessible pedestrian infrastructure.

I am also the Director of the UCL CRUCIBLE Centre, which a centre for interdisciplinary research on lifelong health and wellbeing, funded by multiple Research Councils and involving researchers from eight UCL faculties.

I hold a PhD from UCL, where my thesis was on a methodology for the design of high-capacity bus systems using artificial intelligence. I was on the winning team for the EC-funded ‘City Design in Latin America 2000: The European City as a Model’ competition, for the design of the transport interchange at Federico Lacroze in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I am part of the UK involvement in the Chinese Low Carbon Cities Development project; a member of the UK HM Treasury Infrastructure UK’s Engineering Interdependencies Expert Group; a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers; and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. I was appointed a CBE in the New Year’s Honours 2011 for services to technology and elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014.

In the UCL Environment Domain our definition of ‘environment’ is strong and inclusive. We embrace all ‘environments’ – natural, built, cultural, emotional, intellectual, technical, social ... whatever people choose to define as their environment of interest. I would like the Domain to inspire everyone at UCL to see their thinking and activity in relation to everyone else’s, thus opening the door to creating collaborative opportunities for generating new thought, inspiring ideas and frontier-breaking research that will help us understand the challenges we face now and in the future.

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