John Shaw.

Newly appointed Vice Provost for Research John Shaw will lead efforts to streamline the University’s research-related policies and practices.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

John H. Shaw named vice provost for research

4 min read

Will create new cross-University strategic research initiatives and incentives to remove barriers to collaboration

John H. Shaw, a prominent geologist and applied geophysicist who chaired Harvard’s Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) Department for 13 years, has been named the University’s next vice provost for research.

“I’ve had the privilege of being an investigator, researcher, and faculty member at Harvard for more than two decades, and hope to bring this perspective in the VPR role to help support all members of our research community — as well as those who help enable us,” said Shaw.

“Research is a central element bridging the Schools, affiliated hospitals, and other organizational units that comprise our University, and it’s also closely coupled to our educational mission. Our greatest strength is the diversity of research fields and ways that we approach them. Combining these elements across our campus gives us a unique opportunity to make fundamental discoveries and translate this knowledge to benefit society.”

Currently the Harry C. Dudley Professor of Structural and Economic Geology and professor of environmental science and engineering, Shaw is an expert on the nature of faults in the Earth’s crust as they relate to energy systems and natural hazards, particularly earthquakes. His lab has advanced scientific models of the Earth’s structures around energy systems and active faults, building a visualization laboratory that has also become a powerful tool for interactive teaching in the sciences, Egyptology, astronomy, and foreign language and culture.

“During my conversations with John, it became clear that he has the expertise, experience, and commitment to the University to successfully serve as Harvard’s next vice provost for research,” said Provost Alan M. Garber, who announced Shaw’s appointment today in an email to the Harvard faculty. “He is a visionary researcher and scientist. He is also a community-builder, with a unique ability to nurture relationships across departments and Schools. I look forward to working closely with him to support his vision for the future of research at Harvard. He exemplifies the shared academic and institutional values that are the foundation of Harvard’s excellence as a research university.”

Shaw served as chair of the EPS department from 2006 to 2019, leading strategic planning, research compliance, lab renovations, fundraising, and diversity and inclusion initiatives for a group of over 30 faculty members and more than 250 affiliated scientists, students, and staff. He has also served on numerous committees at Harvard, including the FAS Committee on Research Policy, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Committee on Professional Conduct, the University Bargaining Team during first-round negotiations with the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers, and the faculty steering committee for the Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis, which is one of the University’s Interfaculty Initiatives.

“Pursuing cutting-edge research is a core element of the FAS mission,” said Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “I’m thrilled that John has agreed to serve as the new VP of research. He’s not only an innovative researcher in his own right, but a dedicated University citizen who is committed to engaging and empowering our diverse community of scholars across our many disciplines. I look forward to working with him to advance research opportunities at all levels of our institution.”

As vice provost for research, Shaw reports directly to Garber. He is responsible for the development, review, and implementation of academic research strategies and policies that advance Harvard’s research enterprise, while working to create new cross-University strategic research initiatives and incentives to remove barriers to collaboration. Shaw will also lead efforts to streamline the University’s research-related policies and practices.

Outside of Harvard, Shaw’s leadership experience includes chairing the board of directors for the Southern California Earthquake Center, a premier international earthquake research organization that seeks to reduce seismic risks. With MIT Professor Ruben Juanes, he also co-founded Seismix Reservoir Management, LLC, which provides consulting services for the energy and environmental industries, as well as government regulatory groups.

Shaw holds a B.Sc. from the University of Massachusetts, an M.S. from Princeton University in structural geology and applied geophysics, and his Ph.D., also from Princeton, in geology and geophysics. In 2002, Harvard awarded him an honorary master’s degree.

Shaw replaces outgoing Vice Provost for Research Rick McCullough, who was named the president of Florida State University last summer. Shaw began his tenure on Jan. 3.