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Pro-Vice Chancellor: Global and Sustainability, Newcastle University

Professor Richard Davies is a petroleum geologist who started his career in the mining industry of South Africa. After his degree and PhD he worked in the oil and gas sector, spending 8 years in the petroleum industry in Aberdeen, London and Houston with ExxonMobil working on development and exploration projects. This included working one of the UK's biggest oil field developments in the 1990s in the UK’s North Sea followed by what were in the 1990s the deepest water wells every drilled by a semi-submersible rig, west of Shetlands (UK) and lastly exploration wells drilled 100s of miles offshore of Nigeria.

He moved from Houston to Cardiff in 2003 as a senior lecturer and then moved to Durham University in 2006 as a Professor. Much - but not all - of his academic career has been defined by research questions that in some way stem from issues that society or the commercial world faces, that also yield research papers that are internationally significant. In 2009 he became Professor of Energy and Director of Durham Energy Institute in 2011 Dean of Knowledge Exchange and Impact. In 2014 he joined Newcastle University where he is Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global.

He left industry in 2003 as the full potential of 3D seismic reflection data for the understanding sedimentary basins was being realized and was part of a small number of academics who pioneered its use in structural geology, sedimentology and soft sediment deformation. Most recently he has published on what he argues is one of the world’s best seismically imaged of marine gas hydrates which has yielded several cutting edge papers.

Professor Davies has also led major department and pan-university research initiatives in the field of energy. This started in the field of geo-energy (e.g. fossil fuels, carbon capture and storage) and then across the spectrum of energy research, through the founding of Durham Energy Institute at Durham University. Davies' remit with the institute was to build it from concept to a fully functioning institute which had National and International recognition. In 2014 he moved to Newcastle University where he is now Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global.

Since 2007, Professor Davies has developed a strong track in record researching the risks associated with oil and gas activities, often because society wanted answers to pressing questions. From 2007 to 2010 he led an international team that showed that the Lusi mud volcano that caused 60,000 Indonesian’s to lose their homes was almost certainly triggered by drilling for gas rather than being a natural disaster. He is now working on the risks associated with fracking within a pan-European consortium ‘ReFINE’ (Researching Fracking in Europe) that he leads ( He now leads the Challenge 1 project within the NERC-ESRC Unconventional Hydrocarbons in the UK Energy System Programme. He is staunchly agnostic about whether or not fracking is a technology that nation states use but adamant that there is a pressing need for more reliable, peer-reviewed research. His role is to remain unbiased and seek to do the best science possible to help inform the public, governments and other decision makers.


  • –present
    Pro-Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation, Newcastle University