Dr Shirin MALEKPOUR, Research Leader in Strategic Planning and Futures Studies (Australia)

Dr Shirin Malekpour’s research can be positioned at the interface of Engineering, Urban Planning and Social Sciences. She studies processes of long-term planning and policy making for sustainable development, and designs interventions to assist decision makers with developing robust strategies in the face of uncertainties and complexities.


Research focus: long-term planning under deep uncertainty; strategic processes and tools to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals

Shirin started her professional career as a civil engineer in the private sector working on water and wastewater infrastructure projects in Africa and the Middle East. She soon realised that in order to achieve sustainable development, which is a complex issue surrounded by persistent problems, we would need to bridge physical and social sciences and have an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving. This drove her to do a PhD in long-term infrastructure planning and policy analysis.

Sustainable development requires transformative change in the way we plan, design and operate socio-technical systems, such as our energy and water systems. Shirin develops new approaches and tools that support new modes of planning. She has designed processes to assist decision makers with making more robust decisions in the face of increasing uncertainties and complexities. These processes can challenge implicit assumptions and biases underlying strategic decisions, explore future disruptions, reveal vulnerabilities and help with devising coping strategies. The processes Shirin has designed include, but are not limited to, new ways of scenario planning, backcasting and stress-testing. She has advised various organisations in the water and the food sector on their long-term strategies and her interventions have been incorporated into industrial and governmental strategic planning processes. She is now investigating how the knowledge in the fields of Strategic Planning and Futures could be used to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Her professional goal is to become a thought leader in the area of sustainable development and to actively inform business and government decision making on this topic. For this reason, she expects to gain further insights and deepen her knowledge during her stay in Germany.

For the jury, Shirin’s long-term scientific pursuit of infrastructure planning and policy making is very impressive. They acknowledged her success in connecting different research areas, as well as her specific focus on strategic planning and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.