The Steering Committee comprises of Fellows from the four national aademies who provide guidance and oversight for the Frontiers of Development programme. The role of the Committee is to review event themes, provide comments on discussion topics for sessions and choose the Event Chairs from a shortlist of nominees provided by each Academy. 

The defining feature of the Frontiers of Development programme is interdisciplinary research and this is reflected in the diversity of the Committee members: 

Committee Representatives:

 Professor William Powrie FREng (Committee Chair)

 Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Environment 
 University of Southampton 
 Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering



Professor Powrie is a Professor of Geotechnical Engineering, his main technical areas of expertise are in geotechnical aspects of transport infrastructure, and sustainable waste and resource management. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in recognition of significant work in these areas in 2009. 

His work on geotechnical aspects of transport infrastructure encompasses groundwater control, in-ground construction to reduce environmental impacts in urban and other sensitive areas, understanding and mitigating vegetation and climate change effects, and fundamental soil behaviour.  

Major projects on which he has worked on include the A55 Conwy Crossing, the Jubilee Line extension stations at Canary Wharf and Canada Water and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (now HS1). He is also a  former Associate Editor of the 'Canadian Geotechnical Journal' and a former Honorary Editor of the Institution of Civil Engineers journal 'Geotechnical Engineering'. Professor Powrie has also led multiple stakeholder research projects with a variety of institutions including the EPSRC as well as advising Government on Scientific Committees, particularly on the issue of biodegradable waste technologies. He has also authored several best-selling, widely respected textbooks. 


 Professor Sarah Birch FBA

 Professor of Political Science & Director of Research
 Kings College London
 Fellow of The British Academy




Sarah Birch is a Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. She previously held chairs at the University of Glasgow and the University of Essex. Her research is mainly focused on the empirical study of ethics, including electoral malpractice, corruption and political violence. 

Professor Birch was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2017. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


 Professor Peter Liss FRS

 Professor of Environmental Science
 University of East Anglia
 Fellow of the Royal Society


Peter Liss is an Emeritus Professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK.   His research interests are in ocean-atmosphere interaction particularly involving trace gases and how this relates to global change and the Earth System. 

He served as chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) for 5 years and was subsequently Chair of its Surface Ocean – Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS).  From 2005 to 2011 he was on the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) and previously served on the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) for 5 years.  In 2014-15 he was Interim Executive Director of the International Council for Science (ICSU).  Currently he is Chair of the Sir Alister Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), the UK’s Marine Data and Information Network (MEDIN) and the Board of the Association of the National Oceanography Centre.

Prof. Liss has received the Challenger Society Medal, the Plymouth Marine Sciences Medal and the John Jeyes Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  He is a Guest Professor at the Ocean University of Qingdao and an Adjunct Professor at Texas A & M University in College Station.  


 Professor Betty Kirkwood FMedSci FFPH

 Professor of Epidemiology & International Health
 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
 Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences



Betty is an epidemiologist with a statistical background. She has over 35 years of experience in research aimed at improving the health of young children in developing countries. 

Her main current research interests are trials evaluating the impact of: an integrated community-based intervention to improve child development, growth and survival in India & Pakistan; different vitamin A supplementation strategies; innovations to improve retention, satisfaction and performance of community based agents delivering integrated management of common childhood illnesses in Uganda and Mozambique; public health interventions to detect and treat common mental disorders in Goa. 

Betty’s substantive research has been accompanied by a commitment to translating research findings into health policy and programme action, to research capacity strengthening, and to making complex epidemiological and statistical methods accessible to public health researchers and policy makers. The latter led to her textbook “Essential Medical Statistics”, first published in 1988. Betty has an extensive network of overseas collaborators and close links with the World Health Organization. In 2017 she was awarded the George MacDonald medal in recognition of outstanding research leading to improvement of health in the tropics.

For the 'Building Resilience' series, we have invited two former event chairs to join the committee, Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga, and Professor Mark Pelling. 


Dilanthi Amaratunga

Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga FHEA FRICS
Professor of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
University of Huddersfield
Event Chair at Symposium 1
Professor Dilanthi Amaratunga holds the chair in Disaster Risk Management at the University of Huddersfield, UK and leads its Global Disaster Resilience Centre. She is a leading expert in disaster resilience with an international reputation. Dilanthi’s vision has always been to be an international leader in disaster risk reduction and management with specific emphasis on the built environment, and to champion the under representation of women in this key research area. Her research interests include: Disaster Risk Reduction in the Built Environment; Understanding disaster risk, preparedness for response; Early warning systems; Gender-Responsive Disaster Risk Reduction and gender equality in DRR.
She has project managed to successful completion,  a large number of international research projects generating significant research outputs and outcomes, has produced over 300 publications, refereed papers and reports, and has made over 100 key note speeches in around 30 countries. She has led and chaired a large number of international conferences, including the International Conference on Building Resilience (ICBR) series which she co-created. 
Among several other leadership roles, she is the Chair of the United Nations Working Group on Words into action on Disaster Accountability and Governance, a member of the Steering Committee of the UNISDR "Making Cities Resilient" Campaign, the joint editor chief of the International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, a member of the European Commission and UNISDR’s European Science & Technology Advisory Group representing the UK. She is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Further details on her activities can be viewed at:
Professor Mark PellingProfessor Mark Pelling
Professor of Geography, King's College London
UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund Challenge Leader for Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change
Event Chair at Symposium 2
Mark is the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund Challenge Leader for Resilience to Environmental Shocks and Change and Professor of Geography at Kings College London. Before this he was based at the Department of Geography, University of Liverpool, UK and the University of Guyana. His research interests are in the institutions and social relationships that shape vulnerability and adaptation to natural disasters, including those associated with climate change, and in the ways in which conflicting values and practices of development inform resilience and transformation in the face of environmental change.