UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction


IRDR Newsletter: January 2011

10 January 2011

From the Director

Happy New Year! The New Year sees the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction (IRDR) link up with the NGO Thinking Development and CDAC (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities) to mark the anniversary of the 12th January 2010 Haiti earthquake with the publication of a collection of special anniversary articles on the 12th and a live London-Haiti panel discussion, Communicating with Haiti, on Monday 17th January at 5.00pm at UCL. (See "Events" below for details.) We are delighted to be actively engaged in the on-going campaign for reconstruction in Haiti, which involves so many UCL students, staff and graduates.

2011 will see a step change in research for the IRDR. Subject to a business plan being accepted by UCL, we expect to see a clutch of new academic/research fellow and postdoctoral appointments in risk and disaster reduction (RDR). The IRDR Executive will be discussing these at its next board meeting and we have received a number of proposals; but if you wish to influence the research direction of the IRDR, do get in touch with me. Another key development for the IRDR and UK RDR research more generally is the launch of the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC) programme, Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards in Earthquake-prone and Volcanic regions. The UK science community plays an instrumental role in global hazard research, while the integration of social science research across the programme should enhance the potential for science impacting those affected by natural hazards. IRDR researchers are involved in two of the successful scoping studies. I have been appointed NERC Strategic Advisor for the programme. We are also delighted to have negotiated successfully a new sponsorship agreement with the world's premier reinsurance intermediary Aon Benfield for the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre, a core constituent of the IRDR, and we anticipate seeing a strengthening and deepening of the relationship between Aon Benfield and UCL.

On the 9th February, the IRDR will convene an RDR Teaching Forum. (See below for details.) This Forum will allow lecturers and students across UCL and beyond to identify opportunities, formulate a postgraduate teaching strategy and determine in which direction we should be focussing our resources. In doing this, we wish to build on the existing successful MSc and PG Certificate programmes at UCL. You are cordially invited to join us.

The IRDR Deputy Director, Steve Edwards, reports below on the IRDR event, Communicating Climate Risk and the Implications for Food Security, held on the 16th November and Julian Hunt comments on the Cancun COP16 meeting. Food and water security will be a major public policy theme that the IRDR will be developing through UCL's Grand Challenges. If you wish to join this initiative, contact Steve.

Finally, I should flag the first IRDR Annual Conference, which will be held on the 22nd June, to be followed by our summer party.

We look forward to your continued support in 2011. Here's to a prosperous New Year for everyone.

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.


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1. Communicating with Haiti: Where the Response Failed, Where it Succeeded, and How we Move Forward Thinking Development, the UCL IRDR and CDAC invite you to join us on January 17th for a unique live discussion connecting a London-based panel and audience with our Haitian interlocutors at CDAC Haiti. The panel will critically examine the successes and failures of the international response to Haiti's disastrous earthquake of January 2010 with a view to informing recovery policy in 2011 and beyond.

The panel will pay particular attention to the role that communicating with the general Haitian public, and collaborating with local people and local government played over the past year, and to the role that communication and collaboration must have moving forward if Haiti is to recover successfully.

Speakers Include:

  • Imogen Wall, United Nations OCHA, Haiti
  • Mark Harvey, Director of Development, Internews Europe
  • François Grünewald, Executive Director, Groupe URD
  • Alex Joseph, Accountability officer, Save The Children, Haiti
  • Chair: Andrew Leak, UCL French, Secretary of Haiti Support Group

To register for this event, click here

2. Risk and Disaster Reduction (RDR) Teaching Forum On Wednesday 9th February 2011 at 4.00pm, the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction (IRDR) will convene a Risk & Disaster Reduction (RDR) Teaching Forum (venue to be confirmed). This first Teaching Forum is being convened to explore potential synergies in RDR-related teaching across UCL and identify new opportunities. We have immediate aims for proposing a new postgraduate programme starting in September 2012 and for optimizing student numbers on existing modules. However, we also believe there is a need to collate and distribute information for all RDR teaching by providing a web portal to potential students for all relevant UCL programmes.

Presently there are two firm RDR postgraduate teaching proposals for consideration:

  • Master of Research (MRes) in RDR. This option makes use of the generic MRes programme offered by the UCL School of the Built Environment, Engineering and Mathematical and Physical Sciences (BEAMS). It allows students to 'pick-and-mix' modules to create a bespoke MRes. The IRDR would need to develop an M-level module in RDR, which would be core. This option is attractive because it would support a centre for doctoral training in RDR, which is a key objective of the IRDR.
  • Postgraduate Certificate in RDR. This option would be aimed at the humanitarian and development sectors as they move towards increasing levels of professionalism. A complementary programme is already offered at UCL targeted at the insurance industry. A successful programme would be developed into an MSc programme, built primarily on existing modules, drawn from the broad range of provision found in MAPS, Engineering, the Bartlett, the Medical School, Social & Historical Sciences and Laws.

The Teaching Forum is open to lecturers and students at UCL, and beyond. The IRDR will invite practioners in RDR and recent graduates to stimulate the discussion. The Forum will be followed by a drinks reception. All persons interested in participating should contact Stephen Edwards (s.edwards@ucl.ac.uk), putting "Teaching Forum" as the subject.


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1. Communicating Climate Risk and the Implications for Food Security On 16 November 2010 the IRDR hosted the UCL discussion event on Communicating Climate Risk and the Implications for Food Security - Looking to COP16 and Beyond. The meeting was convened to mark the run-up to the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancun, Mexico, and involved collaboration between the IRDR, the UCL Institute for Global Health, the UCL Environment Institute, the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King's College London and the Advisory Committee on Protection of the Sea. Over 130 people from academic, business, humanitarian, development and government sectors registered for the event, which considered how the science of climate change and weather-related natural hazards is communicated and how this information is used for building resilience, specifically in developing countries. In particular it explored what food crises mean for countries in the developing world, and examined how knowledge and practices from different countries and cultures may be integrated to build greater food security and resilience to climate change. These issues were considered by the speakers Julian Hunt, Anthony Costello, Emma Visman, Elsie Owusu and Sulemana Abudulai, who then formed the panel for a lively debate.

Following the meeting, Julian Hunt attended COP16 and some of his views can be found here.

2. Volcanoscope Project Launched The Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Centre (ABUHC) has been awarded UK Research Council funding for a scoping study into Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards in Volcanic Regions. Resilience to natural hazards forms one of seven strategic science themes to be supported by the Natural Environment Research Council over the next five years and is co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The ABUHC study will focus on strategies (1) for applying existing and new forecasting models to volcanic eruptions, and (2) for identifying methods to improve how forecasts are communicated effectively to vulnerable communities. For further details, contact Christopher Kilburn at c.kilburn@ucl.ac.uk.

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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