Dr Davide Natalini

Senior Research Fellow

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Global Risk and Resilience

Research Supervision:Yes

Davide is an interdisciplinary environmental social scientist. He studies complex social-ecological systems, systemic risk, and sustainable development, with specific focus on environmental security and conflict. He implements both quantitative (eg computer simulation) and qualitative (eg multi-stakeholder engagement) methods in his projects.


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Davide joined the Global Risk and Resilience theme of the Global Sustainability Institute as PhD researcher in 2013 working on the Global Resource Observatory Project, where he developed an agent-based model to simulate how scarcity of natural resources, prices and political fragility can trigger conflict around the world. The model is used to test the possible consequences of future food and fuel production shocks in terms of food and fuel riots. Meanwhile, Davide was Research Assistant on the UK-US Taskforce on the Impact of Extreme Weather on US/UK Food Security which was sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Davide is a permanent member of academic staff and co-leads the Global Risk and Resilience theme with Dr Zareen Bharucha.

Davide has also been involved in science communication activities and collaborations between arts and science as part of the Pint of Science festival in Cambridge and in collaborations with Cambridge School of Art and a group of artists from the Cambridge e:collective.

Spoken Languages

Italian, English, Spanish

Research interests

Davide is currently leading one of the work packages of the EU H2020 MEDEAS project, which is aimed at simulating policies for the transition to a decarbonised energy system in EU by 2050. His role on the project involves the development of a 2050 decarbonisation scenario (quantitatively and qualitatively); models’ cross-comparison; qualitative and quantitative analysis of the outputs and validation of the models; support colleagues in undertaking semi-structured interviews with energy experts, academics and policy-makers and implementing knowledge in the models’ runs.

Davide is also co-leading the ‘Chaos Map’ project, which will highlight global pressure points for ‘chaos’, measured by a wealth of data points on conflict events attributed to scarcity of natural resources and environmental causes. Davide co-leads the project with Prof Aled Jones and brings his expertise in environmental security and conflict.

More broadly, Davide’s research interests revolve around three main research streams:

  • environmental security, in particular how scarcity or abundance of natural resources can drive conflict and the dynamics involved. This stream also involves the study of synchronous failures, ie the emergence of synchronised crises in different social-ecological systems that can lead to conflict and fragility
  • complex social-ecological systems. i.e. the complex relationships between humans and nature and the systemic risk that is involved
  • energy transitions, in particular the development of models and policies that can achieve 
Davide approaches these topics with two methods, sometimes in combination:
  • computer simulation and econometric modelling
  • participatory methods to engage with different stakeholders. He has developed, run and facilitated several workshops involving a wide range of stakeholders (eg policy and decision makers, academics and practitioners). The methodologies he uses are innovative and include co-production, role-playing and serious gaming. 

Areas of research supervision

Davide is happy to supervise students who would like to write their dissertation on the following topics, using either quantitative or qualitative approaches.

  • Environmental/climate security - how scarcity of natural resources impacts global security.
  • Food/fuel riots - either causes or consequence.
  • Global/national political fragility - further investigation on what makes country politically fragile and how to measure it.
  • Systemic failure - interconnections between different crises.
  • Any dissertation that implements computer modelling, in particular agent-based modelling.


Davide lectures on our MSc Sustainability and has led the System Pressures module since 2018. He lectures on Synchronous Failures, resilience of complex social-ecological systems and computer modelling using an ‘active learning’ approach. Davide regularly provides guest lectures on short courses such as the biannual INDO-UK Management Development Program on “CSR, Sustainability & Sustainable Development – National & Global Perspectives” Co-organised with the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs and he teaches on the European Social Simulation Association summer school.


  • PhD in Sustainability - Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University, UK
  • MA in Political Science – Environmental Economics and Environmental Policies, University of Torino, Italy
  • BA in Political Science – International Relations, University of Bologna, Italy

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Member, GSI Departmental Research Ethics Panel 

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

February 2018 - Davide co-leads the ARU-funded ‘Chaos Map’ project with Prof Aled Jones. The project consists in the development of the first database of environmental conflict and unrest and will generate interactive maps to visualise the events. The project funded a 4-month full-time Research Fellow position on the project and part of a PhD student’s time. 

August 2017 - Awarded €2k from H2020 SHAPE-Energy project to coordinate ‘Social and Ethical Context of European Decarbonisation’ internship project. This funded two 4-week PhD internships that contributed social science expertise to the MEDEAS project.

July 2016 - Awarded £2.5k from Balance Network (EPSRC-funded project) for project ‘Three Cafes’ in collaboration with two artists. Aim: explore the impact of technology on wellbeing and work-life balance through science-art collaboration through a series of artistic interventions and co-production workshops. Attendance: academics, artists, members of public.

January 2016 - Awarded £2.5k from Cambridge School of Art to organise Symposium on collaborations between arts and science titled ‘Cultures and Practices of Belonging: A Multidisciplinary Symposium on Sustainability’ in collaboration with Dr Sergio Fava and artists from e:Collective.

January 2013 - Fully-funded PhD studentship under the Global Resource Observatory Project, funded by the Dawe Charitable Trust and Anglia Ruskin University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering (stipend and fee waiver for 3.5 years, ~£58k)

Selected recent publications

Doctoral thesis

Journal articles

Conference papers

Selected conference presentations and seminars

  • Natalini, Davide. "What do energy models tell us? Overview of the MEDEAS model and participatory simulation”. September 2017. Seminar at Club of Rome Summer Academy 2017, University of Florence.
  • Natalini, Davide. “Simulating food and fuel riots: an agent-based modelling approach”. September 2017. Conference presentation at Social Simulation Conference 2017, Dublin.    
  • Natalini, Davide. Agent-Based Modelling workshop “Cross-scale Resilience In Socio-Ecological Simulations”. May 2017. Invited delegate and poster presentation at Lorentz Centre, Leiden, Netherlands.
  • Natalini, Davide. “Global food security and food riots - An agent-based modelling approach”. November 2015. Conference presentation at ‘Global Food Security: Adaptation, Resilience and Risk Conference’. UCL, London, UK.
  • Natalini, Davide. "Destabilising Nations". September 2015. Research Seminar at Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden.
  • Natalini, Davide. “Towards the development of an ex-ante evaluation tool for policy makers”. January 2015. Conference presentation at Global Sustainability Institute 2nd International Conference. Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK.                      

Recent presentations and conferences