27 May 2020

Research leadership appointments

In light of the new strategic plan that will become operational in 2021, IIASA has appointed four program directors to lead new research programs. Raya Muttarak, Keywan Riahi, Elena Rovenskaya, and Yoshihide Wada will form part of the scientific leadership that will address the institute’s research priorities to ensure that program objectives are aligned with the new IIASA strategy and institute values.



The program directors will provide research vision and leadership, and steer the strategic positions for their programs. They will ensure effective collaboration within their own programs, between programs, as well as with all IIASA researchers and external research collaborators. In addition, the program directors are key in strengthening the institute's ability to attract external funding and be responsive to the objectives of the IIASA National Member Organizations.

IIASA Deputy Director General for Science, Leena Srivastava commented, “These new appointments build on the scientific leadership at IIASA while providing new direction and purpose; they position us well to address our ambitious strategic goals, maximize the impact of our science, and improve on our track record of scientific excellence. I wish Raya, Keywan, Elena, and Yoshi all the best in their new roles.”

The new program structure comprises the following programs: Advancing Systems Analysis; Biodiversity and Natural Resources; Energy, Climate, and Environment; Population and Just Societies; Economic Frontiers; and Strategic Initiatives.

Advancing Systems Analysis – Elena Rovenskaya

The Advancing Systems Analysis Program will focus on a broad range of systems related methods including areas from data sciences, computational sciences, risk, resilience, financial systems, and implementation sciences. Rovenskaya commented, “I am delighted to embark on this new position. I envisage that the Advancing Systems Analysis Program will become an innovation lab of IIASA, pushing the frontiers of systems analysis methodology including the interface with policy. Together with my colleagues, I will seek to create anthe environment that stimulates explorations and innovations through curiosity, creativity, and cross-pollination”. Rovenskaya has been leading the Advanced Systems Analysis Program at IIASA since 2013, after joining the institute in 2006. A participant of the Young Scientists Summer Program in 2005, Rovenskaya has a PhD from the Faculty of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia, in which she developed a numerical algorithm to solve a class of non-convex optimization problems. Her current research is motivated by the ambition to develop a suite of modeling approaches capable of informing decisions in the presence of the ambiguity of stakeholder interests, complexity of the underlying systems, volatile dynamics, and uncertainty in future trends.

Biodiversity and Natural Resources – Yoshihide Wada

Wada will lead the research program that will address ecosystem management and modeling, biodiversity and land use matters, and fresh water and marine issues. Wada has received numerous accolades, including the Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Early Career Scientists (2018) and the prestigious Hydrological Award from the Dutch Hydrological Society (2017). In addition to leading the IIASA Water Program since 2019, Wada has led a number of international projects and was a lead author on the UN Global Environmental Outlook for Freshwater. “It is my honor to take up this position. IIASA has an excellent track record of ecosystem and natural resources research. Now we have a great opportunity to fully exploit the potential for biodiversity research within integrated systems analysis. I strive to keep the balance of tradition and innovation and I have a great passion to nurture and support the next generation of systems scientists that could tackle imminent global challenges," commented Wada.

Energy, Climate, and Environment – Keywan Riahi

The aim of the new Energy, Climate, and Environment Program is to understand the nature, dynamics, and pace of feasible systems transformations that can address environmental impacts in a socially and economically sustainable manner. Addressing climate change while assuring human health and wellbeing and the reduction of social inequalities, implies rapid and unprecedented structural changes at the global scale as well as cost-effective and acceptable local policies. “Such fundamental changes can only be achieved through a systems perspective, which fully accounts for critical interdependencies across sectors, and manages trade-offs and synergies between technologies, the environmental objectives and other societal and economic priorities at different scales – these trade-offs and potential synergies will be the central theme of the new program,” says Riahi. Having led the IIASA Energy Program for more than 10 years, Riahi has also acted as lead author on multiple reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is a member of the scientific steering committee of the Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium. Riahi has also been acknowledged as being among the top 1% of highly cited researchers world-wide by Clarivate Analytics.

Population and Just Societies – Raya Muttarak

The Population and Just Societies Program studies changing demographics and social structures, and their impact on sustainability, resilience, and equitable human wellbeing. Muttarak will lead this research area that addresses population dynamics, migration, population aging, health and wellbeing, and sustainable lifestyles and consumption with a focus on equity across gender and socioeconomic groups. Muttarak has been at IIASA since 2011, most recently acting as deputy program director of the World Population Program. Graduated from the University of Oxford, Muttarak is also director of Population, Environment, and Sustainable Development at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital. She is currently a chair of the IUSSP Population Environment Research Network. “I appreciate my colleagues for trusting me to lead the new program with a visionary agenda on delivering people-centric systems solutions for sustainable, resilient, and just societies. Building on the institute’s strong basis in demographic modeling, coupled with my expertise in social inequalities, our program endeavors to provide empirical-based research using advanced data and methodological tools to deliver relevant results that can be incorporated into different models used in systems analysis,” says Muttarak.

Applications are currently open for the leadership roles for the Economic Frontiers and Strategic Initiatives programs. All appointments will commence as of 1 January 2021.

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Last edited: 29 January 2021

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