UoA 17: UCL-Birkbeck School of Earth Sciences

Building on our success as the co-located and fully-integrated UCL-Birkbeck School of Earth Sciences, we have made significant advances since RAE2001 in research output, staff, and funding. We now have 41 research staff comprising 14 Professors, 10 Readers, 8 Senior Lecturers, 3 Lecturers and 6 Fellows. In RAE2001 we stated that our aims were to perform excellent research, for the advancement of Earth Science and the benefit of the public good, to provide a first-class training for research students, and to provide international leadership in scientific and wider communities. Our achievement, and further improvement since RAE2001, is evidenced by the following measures of School esteem and their trends:

  • We have made 10 new appointments, attracting outstanding, internationally-recognised senior staff (Dobson, Lithgow-Bertelloni, Stofan, Stixrude, Shields, and Vočadlo), and appointed 4 Lecturers/Senior Lecturers (Carter, Kilburn, Tong, Upchurch).
  • We have attracted an excellent Fellowship base of young researchers with 5 Royal Society (Robinson), STFC (Fortes), Marie Curie (Benson) and Leverhulme (de Ronde) and RCUK (Vermeesch) Fellows.
  • Our grant income per FTE has increased from RAE2001 by 211% to £444 k/FTE, with OSI Research Council income increasing by 200% and OSI Research Central Facilities income by 306%.
  • In the reporting period the School published 1860 papers, of which 36 were in Science or Nature. Our WoS citations have increased from 54 citations/yr/FTE in 2000 to 91 citations/yr/FTE in 2006.
  • In 2001–07, School staff won the following recognitions: the Richardson Medal of the European Geophysical Society (Hunt), the Louis Néel Medal of the European Geosciences Union (Price), the European Young Investigator Award (EURYI) (Alfè), 3 Philip Leverhulme Prizes (Alfè, Dobson, Feltham), 1 Elected Fellow, American Geophysical Union (Price), 2 Elected Fellows of the Mineralological Society of America (Brodholt, Stixrude), 1 Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (Stixrude), and the British Insurance Awards for London Market Innovation in 2004 and Risk Management in 2006 (Saunders).
  • School staff lead NERC Consortium Grants (Laxon, ‘ASBO’, £ 1.8 M, Wingham, ‘CryoSat’, £ 1.6M), or their UCL components (Brodholt, ‘e-minerals’, £ 1.3 M,  ‘e-science’, £ 1.7 M, ‘DESMOND’, £ 0.8 M)
  • We hosted 24 visitors from six continents. Two gave the Leverhulme Lectures Series (Profs. Weidner and Li of SUNY, 2005; Prof. Baroni, International School of Advanced Study, Trieste, 2007-8).
  • The School won some 3 million supercomputer hours from NERC in 2001-7. It was cited as an “outstanding example of science delivery” in the 2005 EPSRC-NERC International Review of Research Computing.


We aim to pursue world-class research into the processes at work on, and within, the Earth and planets, and the record of the past revealed by their investigation. We do so across the discipline, spanning the dynamics of the Earth and planets, the materials that compose them, present and past processes occurring at their surface, the evolution of life and the environment, and the applied geosciences of pollution and natural hazards. We aim to provide international and national leadership to the scientific and wider community, and provide first-class research training in the physics, chemistry and biology of the Earth.

In keeping with our RAE2001 submission, our UCL/Birkbeck-approved Research Strategy has focused our research into five central themes of Earth and Planetary Science: ‘Structure, dynamics and Evolution of the Earth and Planets’, ‘Dynamics and Evolution of the Crust’, ‘Palaeoclimate, Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments’, ‘Polar Climate Modelling and Change’ and ‘Natural Hazards and Pollution’. As stated in our RAE2001 submission, and in keeping with the feedback from it, we have targeted new staff appointments at individuals who are, or will become, international leaders in their field. In particular, we have:

  • Recognised the growing capacity of computers to provide ab initio predictions of the thermodynamics of Earth and planetary materials, and illuminate the evolution of these bodies, through appointing Stixrude (from Ann Arbor, Michigan);
  • Extended our capability to examining the transport properties and thermodynamics of mantle materials under deviatoric stresses (§ 3.1), through appointing Dobson (previously Royal Society University Research Fellow), supporting de Ronde’s ‘Early Career’ Leverhulme Fellowship, and through SRIF investment;
  • Extended our computational thermodynamics to the icy moons of the Solar System (§ 3.1) by appointing Vočadlo (previously Royal Society University Research Fellow), and supporting Fortes’s PPARC Fellowship (2004) and STFC Advanced Fellowship (2007);
  • Initiating modelling of the dynamic consequences of our predictions of mantle thermodynamics, through appointing Lithgow-Bertelloni (from Ann Arbor, Michigan);
  • Maintained strength in seismology following the departure of Simons (to Princeton) with the appointment of Tong (from Imperial College London); in crustal evolution following the departure of Platt (to Santa Cruz, California) with the appointment of Vermeesch (from ETH, Zurich), through supporting Benson’s Madame-Curie Fellowship (§ 3.2) and through SRIF investment;
  • Extended palaeoclimate and palaeoenvionment research to embrace the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition, the palaeo-carbon cycle, and the interaction of palaeo-biodiversity with tectonics and sea level, through appointing Shields (previously von Humboldt Research Fellow), supporting Robinson’s Royal Society Research Fellowship, and appointing Upchurch (previously NERC Fellow).


We have further developed inter-disciplinary collaboration. Benefiting from the rich research environment of UCL, we have been instrumental in forming, with Geography, the UCL Environment Institute (EI), and, with Physics, the UCL Origins Institute (OI) and the Centre for Planetary Sciences (CPS). We have also strengthened our national collaborations with HEIs and NERC Centre Surveys. In particular:

  • Within the EI, we have integrated UCL palaeoclimate research with Geography (UoA 32) through the joint appointment of Shevenell (from Washington State, returned on UoA 32), through SRIF investment in environmental core scanning and with UCL-funded Fellows and Postgraduate Studentships;
  • Within the OI, we have integrated UCL research in planetary atmospheres (Aylward, UoA 19), planetary interiors (Vočadlo & Fortes), and astrobiology (Crawford), and have appointed Stofan (from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California) to develop research in planetary surfaces; this activity is carried out within the CPS, which we host, supported with UCL-funded Fellowships and Postgraduate Studentships;
  • We are integrating research in polar climate with that of the NERC British Antarctic Survey field programme through the joint appointment of a Readership in Polar Oceanography (Feltham).


We have also strengthened our Knowledge Exchange through the London Centre for Nanotechnology (UoA 19), and the UCL Centre for Materials Research (UoA 18).

Download full text of the RA5a statement for Earth Sciences (pdf 292Kb)


Staff names below link to submitted publications [UCL staff only]:

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Page last modified on 24 jan 08 12:04


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