Arild Underdal is a political scientist known primarily for his contributions to the study of international cooperation, with particular reference to environmental governance. In his doctoral dissertation, he examined regional fisheries management in the Northeast Atlantic, and found a pattern close to what he called ‘the law of the least ambitious program’. Most of his subsequent research have tried to find ways to escape that particular ‘law’. Underdal was born in Bodø (Norway). In work on his doctoral dissertation he benefited significantly from a six months stay at Harvard University and another three months at University of Washington, Seattle. He has later served in a wide range of other leadership positions, including those of Vice Rector and later Rector of the University of Oslo. Throughout much of his career he has been affiliated also with CICERO (at that time Center for International Climate Research).

Research Interests

Underdal's contribution to the study of international cooperation has focused on three main aspects: diagnosing problems, assessing potential 'cures', and measuring regime effectiveness. In diagnosing problems he has supplemented established political economy categories such as global 'collective goods' and search for actor 'private' interests. In assessing potential 'cures', he has emphasized the role of political science as a partner filling gaps in natural science and economics. In measuring effectiveness his main interest has been to determine how much of potential collective gains are in fact delivered by an existing international regime.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences