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Professor of Geography and Vice-President for Research and Innovation, University of Sheffield

Dave Petley took up the role of Vice-President for Research and Innovation in November 2016 having previously been Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of East Anglia. Dave is a geographer and earth scientist with a strong interest in the development and support of research and innovation at national, regional and institutional levels.

Dave provides the strategic lead for research and innovation across the University; included in his portfolio are postgraduate research students. He is responsible for developing and delivering the University research strategy, and for ensuring that society gains the maximum benefit from research at Sheffield. He will oversee the development of the University submission for the next REF, and for ensuring that we uphold the highest standards in terms of research integrity.

Dave initially graduated with a BSc in Geography from Kings College London in 1990 before moving to UCL to study for a PhD in earth sciences. His first two lectureships were at the University of Sunderland and then the University of Portsmouth. In 2000 he moved to the Department of Geography at the University of Durham, and then in 2014 to the University of East Anglia. At Durham, Dave established and was Director of the Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017. He was also the first Deputy Head of Faculty (Research) in Social Sciences and Health. In 2012 he was appointed as the first Dean of Research at Durham where he oversaw both the REF 2014 submission and the development of a new research strategy. Dave also held the position of Dean of Global Engagement.

Dave's research focuses on landslides. He works in particular on the understanding of landslide mechanics through both state of the art monitoring of their movement using field instrumentation and the development of novel lab testing approaches. He has also worked extensively to document and analyse patterns of landslide costs, in particular in respect to loss of life. Dave's research areas are focused mainly in high mountain areas, most notably Taiwan, New Zealand, China, Chile and Nepal. In recent years Dave has been particularly interested in landslides triggered by major earthquakes. Dave sits on the Slope Safety Technical Review Board of the Hong Kong Government and runs a popular blog that is hosted by the American Geophysical Union.

Dave has held a number of external roles, and sat on the Council of the Royal Geographical Society for six years. He has worked extensively with governments, the military, mining companies, the oil industry and the insurance sector.

Dave has two children, Holly and Adam, and is a keen runner. He regrets that he is a lifelong supporter of Coventry City.


  • –present
    Professor of Geography and Vice-President for Research and Innovation, University of Sheffield