He has served one term as Rector (2002-05) of the University of Oslo and one term as Vice Rector (1993-95). He currently serves as member of the boards of Ullevål University Hospital and the Norwegian School of Management (BI). He chairs the board of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and serves on the international advisory boards of European Journal of International Relations, International Negotiations, Global Environmental Politics, and International Environmental Agreements.
Arild Underdal began his academic career as a student of international negotiations. He still keeps an active interest in that field, but most of his more recent research has focused on international cooperation and governance, with particular reference to protection of the environment and management of scarce natural resources.
He has been actively involved in global environmental change programmes, for a couple of years as Chair of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP).
More marginal contributions have been made to the study of foreign policy decision-making and more recently to the study of university governance.