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International Workshop in Bangkok on Groundwater Resilience

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IRDR Newsletter: November 2010

3 November 2010

From the Director

Welcome to a timely update on activities and developments in the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. This October alone has highlighted why a UCL Institute that leads an integrated research, teaching and knowledge transfer programme in risk and disaster reduction is so highly relevant. For example, we have witnessed the publication of the Government’s National Security Strategy A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty, which highlights clear national security priorities in counter terrorism, cyber security, international military crisis and national disasters such as floods and pandemics. On the other side of the world, we have also seen the devastating impacts of floods, an earthquake, a tsunami and a volcanic eruption in Indonesia.

Since its launch on 26 May this year, the Institute has been working to build its research base and to raise its profile both within and outside UCL. To this end two PhD students have been appointed and we anticipate launching our research fellowships scheme in the near future. We have continued to engage with the re/insurance and NGO sectors and the Institute submitted a report to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the use of scientific advice and evidence in emergencies. On 16 November the Institute will launch its seminar series, with an event on communicating climate risk and the implications for food security. Details of these and other activities are presented in this newsletter.

We encourage you to join the Institute to become part of a dynamic community working together to improve the ways in which we engage with risk and disasters and reduce their impacts.

Peter Sammonds
Director, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction

About the Institute

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Natural hazards such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, floods and storms destroy lives and damage economies across the globe; pandemics have the potential to bring death and suffering on an unprecedented scale; while climate change may increase the severity of both natural and health disasters.

How society sees risk, how to link understanding of the causative mechanics to statistical approaches, and how to increase resilience and reduce the risk of disasters are common themes cutting across research in natural, environmental, health and technological hazards.

Reducing global risks and disasters presents a colossal challenge that requires coordinated and collaborative action.

UCL is uniquely well-placed to lead research and teaching in risk and disaster reduction, with at least 70 academics across 12 departments and seven faculties involved in world-class research and practice in the field.

To maximise the impact and value of our activities in risk and disaster reduction, and to increase and enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and cooperation, we propose to bring together individual areas of expertise, under the umbrella of a UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, built around established centres across UCL.

We also seek to contribute to the UCL Grand Challenges of Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.


email event

1. 250 New Towns Club: Planning a Nuclear Fusion future The IRDR will be hosting the 6th November meeting of the 250 New Towns Club. The club is for everyone who wants to draw, model, or map a place to live. IRDR Director, Professor Peter Sammonds will be speaking on the subject of how society sees risk, how to link understanding of the causative mechanics to statistical approaches, and how to increase resilience and reduce the risk of disasters, and will be chairing an open discussion on the first afternoon session

To register please email Ian Abley on abley@audacity.org, and for further information please see the online programme.

2. Communicating Climate Risk and the Implications for Food Security The first event in the IRDR seminar series will be the discussion meeting on 16 November 2010 on Communicating Climate Risk and the Implications for Food Security – Looking to COP16 and Beyond. This event is to mark the run-up to the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico, and will be hosted by the UCL Institutes for Risk and Disaster Reduction, Global Health, and the Environment, in collaboration with the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King’s College London and the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea. Following several short presentations we are looking forward to a lively debate led by a panel of experts.

Full details are available at http://ucl-climate-risk.eventbrite.com

3. Haiti week UCL start-up and IRDR-affiliated NGO, Thinking Development, will host a campaign week from November 15th to 19th to highlight the growing plight of disaster affected communities worldwide, and to help raise awareness for their post-disaster rehabilitation project in Haiti.  Their itinerary includes an exhibition on Haiti 10 months on, information on the project itself, guest speakers from the humanitarian sector in Haiti, panel discussions, workshops, and fundraising initiatives.

For more information on the project and the campaign please visit www.thinkingdevelopment.org or contact thoughts@thinkingdevelopment.org



1. Thinking Development Launch On August 10th the IRDR’s Prof. Peter Sammonds formally launched Thinking Development, an NGO that formed in response to January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The event revealed the group’s first plans for a sustainable and disaster resilient community complex in downtown Port-au-Prince for a gathering of over 50 research students, academics, and members of the Haitian development community.

The team presented a field documentary from Port-au-Prince, where they spent a part of July carrying out site and community research, and connecting with their local partners and those coordinating the national recovery operation. 

Marcel Noeding and Ricardo Marten, two of the project’s seven designers, then unveiled a phased plan for securing the existing temporary facilities against the elements, and for constructing two permanent schools, an evening school, and sanitation and congregation facilities.  Included was a program for capacity-building among Thinking Development’s Haitian partners, and for capacity-building within the UCL research community.

Thinking Development is now beginning the first phase of its capacity-building program with Haiti through online design discussion with Haitian architects.  The team are also pursuing £850,000 of donor money which, once secured, will enable them to execute their plan.

If you are in a position to advise, give design feedback, or collaborate in any way, you are invited to contact the team at thoughts@thinkingdevelopment.org, or visit their website, www.thinkingdevelopment.org.

2. IRDR Natural Hazards Forum On 31 August 2010 the IRDR convened an afternoon presentation and discussion meeting on the NERC Natural Hazards thematic programme. Professor John Rees, director of the programme, gave an overview of this NERC theme, which was followed by presentations by UCL researchers and an open discussion on the opportunities and challenges researchers face in undertaking research on natural hazards and effectively communicating the findings to key stakeholders.

3. IRDR and Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre in Prague On 23–24 September 2010, Steve Edwards gave invited presentations at the workshop on Climate change, development cooperation and humanitarian aid: effective responses to an uncertain threat. The event was hosted by Caritas Czech Republic, the Czech Forum for Development Cooperation and the Czech Republic Development Cooperation, and participants came from both the government and NGO sectors.

4. IRDR and Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre at the Royal Society Disasters meeting Lucy Stanbrough and Steve Edwards exhibited the work and services of both the IRDR and the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre at the Royal Society meeting on Disasters: improving the evidence base for prevention, resilience and emergency response. The event on the 13 October 2010 coincided with the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction 2010.

5. Building partnerships for humanitarian impact Steve Edwards represented both the IRDR and the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre at this one-day symposium convened by the project Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) on 14 October 2010. The aim of the event was to explore successful collaborations between higher education and humanitarian communities and Steve chaired the session on natural hazards and informed humanitarian action

6. IRDR advises Science and Technology Committee Following on from the publication of the IRDR report on the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/rdr/publications/iceland), Bill McGuire of the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre and the IRDR coordinated and edited a submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on the use of scientific advice and evidence in emergencies. Topics covered were Icelandic volcanic ash eruptions (McGuire), the swine flu pandemic (Martin Utley of UCL), cyber attacks (Peter Trim of Birkbeck), solar storms (Christopher Owen of UCL) and space weather (Alan Aylward of UCL).

7. IRDR in Italy and on the NERC website Dr. Gerald Roberts has just visited the city of L'Aquila to film a short documentary on the 6th April 2009 M6.3 earthquake. He is part of a team funded by 2 NERC grants to study Italian earthquakes:

NERC Urgency Grant NE/H003266/1. A LiDAR and field study of surface rupture and post-seismic slip for the 6th April 2009 L’Aquila Earthquake (M6.3). Dr. K. McCaffrey, Dr. G. Roberts, Prof. P. Cowie. £67,184. (April 2009-May 2010).

NERC Standard Grant NE/E01545X/1. Testing Theoretical models for Earthquake Clustering using 36Cl Cosmogenic Exposure Dating of Active Normal Faults in Central Italy. Dr. P. Cowie, Dr. G. Roberts. Dr. K.
McCaffrey £554,466. (October 2007-2010).

He visited the city centre along with Dr. Eutizio Vittori of the italian civil protection bureau. The results can be seen a short video on the NERC website http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/features/story.aspx?id=818

Funding opportunities

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1. Fellowships The IRDR research fellowship scheme has been held up owing to delays in announcements of two key sources of external funding. Please refer to the IRDR website (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/rdr/funding) periodically for updates on this issue.

Join the Institute

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1. Become a member of the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction Reducing global risks and disasters presents a colossal challenge that requires coordinated and collaborative action. UCL is uniquely well placed to lead research in risk and disaster reduction, with at least 70 academics across 12 departments and 7 faculties involved in world-class research, teaching and practice in the field.

To become a member of the Institute complete the form at the following link http://www.ucl.ac.uk/rdr/join/


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