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Melissa Leach


Melissa Leach is the Director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex. She co-founded and co-directed the ESRC STEPS (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre from 2006 to 2014, with its pioneering pathways approach to innovation, sustainability and development issues. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to social science.

A social anthropologist and geographer, her interdisciplinary, policy-engaged research in Africa and beyond links environment, agriculture, health, technology and gender, with particular interests in knowledge, power and the politics of science and policy processes.

External Advisory Roles

  • Strategic Coherence of ODA Research (SCOR) Board, Independent Member
  • International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-food)
  • Medical Research Council Global Health Group
  • ESRC International Development Advisory Group
  • Stockholm Environment Institute Science Council
  • Future Earth Science Committee, Vice Chair, 2012 – 2017
  • Lead social scientist, UK and WHO Ebola scientific advisory committees, 2014-15.
  • Lead author, UN Women World Survey on the Role of Women in Economic Development, 2014



Melissa Leach’s recent work

Development Frames

Reframing Development in a Dynamic Global Era

IDS Development Frames 001 Interconnected challenges The starting point in discussing the challenges we now face is to brush aside the web of fantasy we have woven around ‘development’ and decide more precisely what we mean by it. DUDLEY SEERS 1969 Half a century on from IDS'...

1 August 2017

Journal Article

Structural drivers of vulnerability to zoonotic disease in Africa

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 372

This paper argues that addressing the underlying structural drivers of disease vulnerability is essential for a ‘One Health’ approach to tackling zoonotic diseases in Africa. Through three case studies—trypanosomiasis in Zimbabwe, Ebola and Lassa fever in Sierra Leone and Rift Valley fever...

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Melissa Leach & 2 others

1 June 2017