The Academic Network Advisory Committee includes both leading academics as well as investment practitioners that guide and support the work of the Academic Network, which has over 4,000 members globally.

Check out the programme or apply to the 2019 Call for Papers here. Contact the team here or engage with the Academic Network and Committee members. 

Rhodri Preece

Rhodri Preece

Head of Industry Research at the CFA Institute

Mr Preece leads the planning, coordination and creation of research content across CFA Institute research platforms including the Future of Finance, the CFA Institute Research Foundation, the Financial Analysts Journal and the Enterprising Investor blog. He was formerly head of capital markets policy for EMEA at CFA Institute. He is a former member (2014-2018) of the Group of Economic Advisers of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) Committee on Economic and Markets Analysis. Prior to joining CFA Institute, Mr Preece was a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he specialised in investment funds.

What are the key challenges to responsible investment?

You can distil the challenges into acceptance and application. The first challenge, industry acceptance, has been met, evidenced by rising demand among institutional investors for responsible investment strategies and products, and supported by the weight of academic research.

The challenge of application rests on the quality, consistency and comparability of ESG data and associated corporate disclosures. Currently, ESG data and disclosures are often incomplete and vary in quality and reliability. In turn, this presents challenges for the robustness of ESG integration into responsible investment processes and strategies.

The effectiveness of responsible investing approaches – whether screening, thematic investment, risk management, or quantitative approaches (such as factor‐based strategies, portfolio overlays and tilts) – ultimately depends on the veracity of the data and analytics supporting them. The investment industry, data providers and corporate issuers have all made great strides in improving the quality and amount of information available on ESG dimensions, yet more remains to be done to facilitate responsible investment practices.

What benefits can the Academic Network and the PRI’s wider research programme bring to the field of RI?

The PRI Academic Network plays a valuable role in supporting the development of research into responsible investment and ESG. Through quality research, the body of knowledge in this field will expand and improve, which in turn will inform how sustainability and ESG considerations are embedded into investment processes and strategies in the future. In short, research is crucial to support the development and improvement in responsible investment practices.

What would you like your contribution to be in this work and what would you like to bring to our programme?

I hope to be able to harness the thought leadership capabilities of CFA Institute and its global reach as the leading professional body for the investment industry to bring topical insights and industry relevance to the activities of the PRI Academic Network. This initiative can have a meaningful impact on the investment industry and I am honoured to play a part.

Brad Barber

brad 3

Marcia J. and Maurice G. Gallagher Professor of Finance

Graduate School of Management, University of California, Davis

Professor Barber has been recognised as one of the top 40 most widely cited financial economists in the world. He has served as the President of the Financial Management Association (2018), Principal Investigator for the CalPERS Sustainable Research Initiative (SIRI, 2012-2016), and Finance Department Editor for Management Science (2009-2012). He is also the founder of the Napa Finance Conference and served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis from 2015-18. 

Professor Barber’s research focuses on asset pricing, behavioural finance, and private equity, including recent projects on gender representation in finance and impact investing. He has written numerous scholarly articles, which have appeared in top academic publications including the Journal of Finance, Journal of Financial Economics, Review of Financial Studies, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Sociological Review, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, and the Financial Analyst Journal. His research has been covered extensively in the financial press, including Business Week, Time, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, NBC Nightly News, CNN, CNNfn, and CNBC.

What are the key challenges to RI?

The key challenge facing RI is the development of a globally-coordinated system of regulatory, legal and cultural approaches that ensure externalities (both positive and negative) are incorporated into the capital allocation decisions of investors. In the short term, investors can move the dial by considering these factors in their own portfolio decisions. In the long term, the greatest impact will come from coordinated efforts by investors to create a global system of rules, laws, and norms that ensure capital is allocated to its most productive use from a broad social perspective.

What benefits can the Academic Network and the PRI’s wider research programme bring to the field of RI?

Science should underpin efforts to ensure capital is allocated optimally. The Academic Network ensures that top scholars and the latest scholarship on RI is both encouraged and incorporated into practice. The broader PRI serves an important convening role, bringing together practitioners and scholars to ensure RI practices are solidly rooted in science.

What would you like your contribution to be in this work and what would you like to bring to our programme?

I hope that I can continue to elevate the profile of the PRI among academics, while increasing the engagement of practitioners with the academic community.


Valeria Piani

Valeria Piani

Strategic Engagement Lead, UBS AM

Valeria Piani joined UBS in Sustainable Investment Research and Engagement in December 2017. Valeria is responsible for coordinating and undertaking strategic engagements with investee companies on a range of ESG issues, including climate change, gender and human capital management. Prior to joining UBS, Valeria was Associate Director at the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), where she led the work of the ESG Engagements team.

Valeria was responsible for developing and managing a range of collaborative engagements on environmental, social and governance topics. One of her recent publications include a white paper on Adding value through active engagement, published in September 2018 by UBS-AM, and a Practical guide to active ownership in listed equity, published with the PRI in February 2018. Her research on the effectiveness of shareholders’ collaborative engagement activities with companies on ESG issues has also been published by the Business & Society Journal and Emerald Group Publishing, and was selected by the Editors as an Outstanding Author Contribution in the 2014 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence.

What are the key challenges in RI?

RI is becoming more and more at the centre of investing by institutional investors. While the business case is widely accepted, there are still fundamental questions to be answered on the materiality of specific ESG issues for investment decisions, the role of regulation to accelerate or impede change, the added value of shareholder engagement and role of investors collaboration.

What benefits can the Academic Network and the PRI’s wider research programme bring to the field of RI?

Academics offer robust methodologies, analytical processes and critical thinking. Investors put responsible investment into practice, collect and elaborate information and speak to companies to effect change. Creating a relationship between these two complementary worlds is fundamental and the PRI Academic Network is the perfect place to make it happen. Investors can inform research questions and provide data that will help academic investigation to advance and be relevant for practitioners.

What would you like your contribution to be in this work and what would you like to bring to our programme?

My objective is to provide input on new research projects that can be of interest and use to institutional investors committed to responsible investment. My contributions will be primarily on the field of integration and stewardship in listed equity and fixed income.


Laura T. Starks

laura starks picture

Charles E and Sarah M Seay Regents Chair in Finance

McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin

Laura is also the co-Executive Director of the Social Innovation@McCombs Initiative. She received the 2018 PRI Award for the Best Quantitative Paper for research on institutional investors and ESG, and the 2018 ICPM Research Award for research on institutional investors and climate risk. She previously served as an Editor of the Review of Financial Studies and has been published widely in top finance, accounting and economic journals.

What are the key challenges in RI?

One of the key challenges in RI is identifying the key RI metrics and being able to assess those metrics consistently across companies. At present, there is wide variation in how to judge companies’ ESG profiles as well as how to measure the metrics in building that profile.

What benefits can the Academic Network and the PRI’s wider research programme bring to the field of RI?

The Academic Network and the PRI research programme provide opportunities for advancing knowledge through deeper analysis, discussion and collaboration among researchers. Moreover, the interdisciplinary nature of the Network enhances the potential research outcomes with new ideas originating from the interactions of researchers with different perspectives. Similarly, the interaction between academics and practitioners can better inform research and practice. A further benefit of the Network and research programme is the transmission of research outcomes to students, which will further the understanding of RI.

What would you like your contribution to be in this work and what would you like to bring to our programme?

I hope to contribute to the generation of novel RI research, through my own research as well as helping enhance others’ research. I hope through this process to contribute to the transformation of important RI questions in practice to informative research.