Duncan is an award-winning academic and science communicator at the University of Sheffield, UK. At Sheffield, he is the Professor of plant and soil biology and Co-director of The Institute for Sustainable Food. Duncan is an environmental microbiologist and bio-chemist and his research seeks to understand how soil microbes enhance plant nutrition and health in the context of sustainable agriculture and global food security. He has held prestigious UK and international fellowships including a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and a visiting professorial fellowship at the University of Tasmania, Australia and has published over 80 academic papers in international journals.
Duncan is active in science policy, for example he gave a testimony at CoP21, the UN climate negotiations in Paris in 2015 and again in at CoP22 in Marrakesh in 2016 and has spoken about food security and climate change at a range of policy fora including the international affairs think tank, Chatham House. Prior to this, Duncan’s applied research saw him win the World Economic Forum “Young Scientist Award (40 under 40)” in 2013. Duncan’s work is highly interdisciplinary, as examples, he co-leads the Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy People consortium, part of UKRI’s “Transforming UK food systems” programme, is developing probiotics for plants to help control crop diseases without the use of pesticides and has worked with historians to understand the socio cultural impacts changing diets in India. Most recently Duncan has worked with the UNHCR in Jordan to develop hydroponic farms with refugees from the Syrian conflict using recycled mattresses, raising £250K in donations to launch the “Desert Garden” for which he and his colleagues won the 2020 Green Gown Award for “research with impact”.
Duncan is a passionate science communicator working with painters, sculptors, musicians and performance artists to develop (and sometimes perform in) artworks and stage shows that explore food security and environmental sustainability for both adults and children. He has performed in local and national festivals including Sheffield’s Festival of the Mind and the Cheltenham Science Festival. In 2017, Duncan and his team won the Royal Society Colin Pillinger award for public engagement for a musical and video graphic performance, “AquaKulture”.
Duncan is disabled and uses wheelchair. Duncan does not let his disabilities hamper him, he is an avid traveller and is currently re-learning to kayak. Duncan is gay and he is committed to increasing the visibility of LGBTQI+ and disabled people as well as highlighting LGBTQI+ issues in academia as part of his position as a ‘gay role model’ at The University of Sheffield.