UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction


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IRDR newsletter: Oct 2012

Publication date:

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From the Director

We warmly welcome the newly appointed professor for Risk and Disaster Reduction, David Alexander, and the newly appointed lecturer in Risk and Disaster Reduction, Joanna Faure Walker. David, who has made seminal contributions to the discipline of disaster risk reduction, joins us from the Global Risk Forum, Davos.  Joanna joins us from a glamour City firm, Risk Management Solutions (RMS). She holds degrees from Cambridge University and UCL. (Their career details, in brief, can be found on the IRDR website.) We also welcome the new students on our first IRDR taught programme, the Master of Research (MRes) Risk and Disaster Reduction.

Rosanna Smith, the Deputy Director, Joanna and I have just returned from Japan, where the IRDR had organized a joint UK-Japan Workshop on “Disaster Risk Reduction – Learning from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake” with our counterparts from the new Tohoku University International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS). This was generously hosted by the British Embassy in Tokyo. The UK delegation included representatives from other UK universities, financial services and architectural consulting. The workshop discussed the necessity for creating resilient societies as well as resilient infrastructure, in order to recover from disaster. The workshop was followed by a seminar on “Disaster Research in the UK and Collaboration with Japan”, opened by the Ambassador , and addressed by the UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, FRS, his Japanese counterpart, Dr Masuo Aizawa, and the Nobel Laureate, Sir John Sulston, FRS. The emerging theme was the importance of a multi-hazard approach, cross-disciplinary research and translation into practice. This was re-iterated at a high-level Scoping Workshop I attended at the Japan Foreign Ministry, where disaster research was included as a key action for future UK-Japan collaboration. The importance of a multi-hazard approach was strikingly illustrated during our site visit to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. The massive structural damage to three reactors was attributed to hydrogen explosions resulting from the loss of cooling; but if there had not also been a landslide which brought down the power lines, the plant may have survived both the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. (A blog of our Japan visit will go up shortly on the IRDR website.)

The summer saw a major research grant success, where following an IRDR initiative, Richard Chandler (Statistical Sciences) organized a UCL-led consortium which won a £2 million award under the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Probability, Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment (PURE) programme. As well as partners in Statistical Sciences, the IRDR, Earth Sciences and Space & Climate Physics, our consortium includes the universities of Reading, Durham, Edinburgh, Birkbeck, the Met Office and British Geological Survey, and collaborators across the financial services and engineering sectors.

And finally up-and-coming events include, the launch of the 2012-13 IRDR Seminar Series with a seminar by David Alexander on 17th October, the first IRDR Student Forum on 18th October and the IRDR-sponsored International Conference on Urban Change in Iran at UCL (8-9th November). On the 6th December, Thinking Development are holding an IRDR-sponsored screening and exhibition on progress of their Haiti education project. Further details can be found below.

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