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Personal profile

Research interests

Phil Ashworth is a Professor of Physical Geography specialising in river morphodynamics and sedimentology. His research interests span a range of scales including the largest rivers and estuaries in the world. He focusses on the field quantification of alluvial morphodynamics, the diversity of large river pattern and the application of fluvial sedimentology in characterising reservoir heterogeneity. This work has been supported by 15 NERC grants and several contracts from the petroleum industry.

Scholarly biography

Phil Ashworth commenced as Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) in September 2017. He is also Professor of Physical Geography specialising in river morphodynamics and sedimentology.

As an Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Phil reports directly to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, Professor Tara Dean. He is responsible for ensuring that the actions arising out of the new University Research and Enterprise Strategic Plan are supported and implemented effectively to maximise the scale, quality, impact and international reach of the University’s research and enterprise. Phil leads development of the new Centres of Research and Enterprise Excellence (COREs), provides strategic leadership on the investment of quality-related (QR) income (£5.7m) and manages the Research Services budget (£1.6m). He also Chairs the University's Innovation Fund that invests HEIF income. Phil is a member of the Executive-led 'Securing our Future' Group that is making recommendations on the size and shape of the university in the immediate and near-future. As part of this work, he leads the workstream making efficiency gains and savings across the Research and Enterprise remit (£9.4m). He also helps lead a review of the Education and Student Experience central infrastructure with the PVC (Education and Students) Ruth Whittaker and is a member of the Academic Operations Implementation Group that is overseeing reconfiguration of the new School leadership structure and roles and responsibilities within. Phil Chairs the Board of the Joint Clinical Research Office based in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, serves on the Strategy Board of the Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre and on the Research Design Service South East (RDS SE) Advisory Board. He works with Schools to motivate staff to produce outstanding research and enterprise and is a lead member of the REF2021 leadership team, including writing the Institutional-Level Environment Statement.

Phil is an international scholar in the earth, physical and environmental sciences with H-Index of 46 and over 5800 citations. He currently works on landscape evolution and sedimentation across a range of scales including the largest rivers and estuaries in the world. His research has been supported by over £5m of funding including 15 grants from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Phil has close links with the petroleum industry and recent projects include working on the Albertan Oil Sands in Canada.

Phil has a strong association with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) where he was one of only 14 UK scientists invited to chair all the Responsive Mode grant panels (2010-2014). He has also chaired panels for Directed Programmes, Strategic Capital Equipment, International Opportunities and Global Partnerships. Phil is currently a NERC Core member of the Peer Review College and a member of the UKRI Future Leaders Peer Review College and was Deputy Chair in Round 1 and 4 interviews. He also recently served on the EPSRC AI CDT panel. Phil was a council member and trustee of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) (2014-2017) and is a co-author of a recently published Benchmark Review of UK Physical Geography produced in association with the RGS. He was made a Fellow of the British Society for Geomorphology in 2014. Phil was appointed to the REF2021 UoA14 Geography and Environmental Studies sub-panel whose work so far has helped draft the Guidance on Submissions and Criteria and Working Methods, with assessment to come!

Phil is a keen advocate of research dissemination through different media and has outputs on ResearchGateYouTube, and Twitter and has published articles in the Times Higher Education.

Supervisory Interests

I would be delighted to supervise students in river dynamics, sediment transport and morphological change in the world's largest rivers, flooding and river-floodplain connectivity, hydrocarbon reservoir characterisation, UAVs/drone applications in river mapping. I will be starting a new NERC-funded 3-yr project in Sept 2020 on flow and sediment routing in the Amazon Basin.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Stirling

1 Oct 19831 Jun 1987

Award Date: 1 Jul 1986

Bachelor, Aberystwyth University

1 Sep 19801 Jul 1983

Award Date: 1 Jul 1986

External positions

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Sift Panel Round 5

2 Feb 20213 Feb 2021

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Interview Panel Round 4: Deputy Chair

29 Jul 2020

Member of Research Design Service South East (RDS SE) Advisory Board

Jul 2020 → …

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Interview Panel: Deputy Chair Round 1

21 Jan 201922 Jan 2019

UKRI Future Leaders Peer Review College

11 Jan 2019 → …


6 Nov 20188 Nov 2018

REF2021 UoA14 Sub-panel Member, UKRI

1 Mar 20181 Apr 2022

NERC Peer Review College Core member

9 Nov 2017 → …

Fellow BSG (10% of membership), British Society for Geomorphology

1 Sep 2014 → …

Fellow RGS, Royal Geographical Society

2013 → …

NERC Pool of Grant Panel Chairs



  • GB Physical geography
  • Rivers
  • Sediments
  • Floods
  • Channel pattern
  • Erosion
  • Deposition

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Research Output

Alluvial architecture of mid‐channel fluvial–tidal barforms: The mesotidal Lower Columbia River, Oregon/Washington, USA

Prokocki, E. W., Best, J. L., Ashworth, P., Sambrook-Smith, G. H., Nicholas, A. P., Parsons, D. R. & Simpson, C. J., 12 May 2020, In : Sedimentology.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Influence of dunes on channel-scale flow and sediment transport in a sand-bed braided river

    Unsworth, C., Nicholas, A., Ashworth, P., Best, J., Lane, S., Parsons, D., Sambrook Smith, G. H., Simpson, C. & Strick, R. J. P., 13 Oct 2020, In : Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Hydrodynamic modelling of tidal-fluvial flows in a large river estuary

    Sandbach, S. D., Nicholas, A. P., Ashworth, P., Best, J. L., Keevil, C., Parsons, D. R., Prokocki, E. W. & Simpson, C. J., 27 Jun 2018, In : Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 212, p. 176-188

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Morphology and spacing of river meander scrolls

    Strick, R. J. P., Ashworth, P., Awcock, G. & Lewin, J., 9 Mar 2018, In : Geomorphology. 310, p. 57-68 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • Quantification of bedform dynamics and bedload sediment flux in sandy braided rivers from airborne and satellite imagery

    Strick, R. J. P., Ashworth, P., Sambrook Smith, G. H., Nicholas, A., Best, J. L., Lane, S., Parsons, D., Simpson, C. J., Unsworth, C. & Dale, J., 3 Dec 2018, In : Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 20 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access