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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Durham Earth Sciences Advisory Board (DESAB)

DESAB is a made up of a group of invited geoscientists currently employed in the petroleum, minerals and environmental sectors who have agreed to meet at least once per year, and sometimes twice, to give advice to the leadership team at Durham Earth Science on a number of matters concerning the strategic development and future well-being of the Department. Our aim is to bring some insights from industry to support the vision of the Department so that it can flourish and grow in the 21st century. This role is especially important with the increasing emphasis being given by HM government to so-called ‘Knowledge Transfer’ activities between academia and industry.

As you may know, Durham Earth Sciences has in recent years submitted a number of strategic plans to the University authorities aimed at maintaining Durham at the forefront of teaching and research in this country. These plans have benefited from being checked against the experience and knowledge of DESAB members who have broad experience of the role and impact of Earth Sciences in the wider business community. In particular DESAB has encouraged the department to go through a classic SWOT analysis of themselves (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This technique is often very helpful for organisations thinking about what they need to do to improve. We also offer advice concerning ways of increasing research income and numbers, maintaining teaching scores, making the research areas relevant to today’s major challenges and so on. In response, the University authorities have given strong backing to the Department, investing in a new building, new equipment and new staff.

DESAB members have also helped develop a number of key Departmental initiatives, the most important of which is the Centre for Research into Earth Energy Systems (CeREES), led by its new Director, Dr Charlotte Adams. Membership of DESAB is entirely voluntary. Some of the members have close links to Durham by being alumni, but others are linked in other ways – perhaps through a long-standing research association – but all have a clear commitment to the Department and the University. In the time that DESAB has existed, there has been a significant transformation in the Department’s morale and energy, firstly under the leadership of Professor Jon Davidson and continued under Professor Bob Holdsworth, Professor Jon Gluyas and Professor Colin Macpherson. Of course the move into new premises has had a significant impact, but the cultural changes which have been going on will have a more lasting impact. Without doubt, some of this progress has been helped by DESAB – certainly, the University views the existence of this board as a model of good practice. The Earth Sciences Department is now poised to make major contributions to pure and applied research in the 21st century: DESAB is delighted to play a role in that success.