William Clark is the Harvey Brooks Research Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

At Harvard, he directs the Sustainability Science Program. He is co-author of Pursuing sustainability: A guide to the science and practice (Princeton, 2016) and coeditor of Sustainable development of the biosphere (Cambridge, 1986), The earth transformed by human action (Cambridge, 1990), Learning to manage global environmental risks (MIT, 2001), Global environmental assessments (MIT, 2006) and The global health system: Institutions in a time of transition (Harvard, 2010).

Clark co-chaired the US National Research Council’s study Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability (NAP, 1999) and its recent symposium on Progress, Challenges, and Opportunities for Sustainability Science. He serves as an Editorial Board Member of PNAS, with special attention to its Sustainability Science Section.

Clark is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a recipient of the MacArthur Prize, the Humboldt Prize, the Kennedy School’s Carballo Award for excellence in teaching, and the Harvard College Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Research Interests

My research addresses sustainability science: the interactions between human development and Earth's environment. I seek to understand what shapes the long-term, large-scale dynamics of those interactions and how knowledge can be better mobilized to guide them along mutually sustaining trajectories. One thread of my work has explored the processes that determine the vulnerability and resilience of coupled nature-society systems. Another has traced the historical evolution of such systems, with special attention to the interplay among ideas, interests, and institutions in shaping human responses to environmental change. Increasingly, however, I am focusing my research on the question of how society can better utilize science and technology as tools for learning sustainable development. This work has involved the design of indicator systems for informing ecosystem management, the evaluation of alternative approaches to environmental assessment, and analyzing why some institutional arrangements have been more effective than others for mobilizing R&D in support of decision making. These are inherently collaborative endeavors and have involved me in nurturing a variety of international, interdisciplinary research and training programs.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 64: Human Environmental Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology