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IRDR News

Arctic Panorama

IRDR 5th Annual Conference Report

Published: Jul 29, 2015 11:36:08 AM

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UCL-IRDR Third Academic Summit Report

Published: Jul 27, 2015 2:22:00 PM

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change

Published: Jun 24, 2015 11:08:00 AM



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Email: irdr-enquiries@ucl.ac.uk

Phone: 02031081101

Ext: 51101

Office location: Rm 38, 2nd floor, South Wing, UCL Main Quadrangle

IRDR News

IRDR 5th Annual Conference Report

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Arctic Panorama

The UCL IRDR Fifth Annual Conference marked five years since the launch of the Institute, and another year of sustained growth where we have continued to move from strength to strength. Highlights of the last year can be seen in our Annual Report.

UCL-IRDR Third Academic Summit Report

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UCL-IRDR held its Third Academic Summit on Wednesday 24th June 2015. The theme was "Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience - Strengthening the Links between Academics and Practitioners". Four panels of distinguished experts wwre convened to discuss the following topics: (a) making academic research more useful to practitioners; (b) improving communication between academics and practitioners; (c) training, teaching and exercising challenges, and (d) bridging the gaps with integrated research. Six main conclusions were reached during the discussion. (1) The work of practitioners, together with applied academic work on their behalf, is the crucible of ideas for academic research and the teaching that it informs. (2) Open minded, exploratory relationships between academics and practitioners can help facilitate needs assessments and projects that are mutually beneficial. (3) Practitioners tend to learn incrementally through an "apprenticeship" based on accumulated experience. This can be augmented by academic knowledge, which can help dispel misconceptions and introduce broad issues. (4) There is no simple barrier to overcome between academics and practitioners, as there are many kinds of the latter and many agendas. Relationships needs to be two-way. (5) Practitioners want academics to provide interdisciplinary research and training. Academics need to resist the pressures against this sort of work and ensure that promises of interdisciplinary contributions can be fulfilled. (6) Academics need to seek, and practitioners need to supply, feedback about what is beneficial, so that the right teaching, research and service will be conducted.

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change

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The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change was released on 23 June at the Wellcome Trust in London. IRDR's Ilan Kelman was one of dozens of co-authors on the report published in the journal The Lancet setting the stage for climate change and health research, policy, and action. Issues include:

Newly published IRDR Annual Report 2015

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IRDR Report 2015 Cover

In this report, we highlight the achievements and progress of the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction in the academic year 2014-2015 as we continue our vision for the IRDR to lead and coordinate UCL research, knowledge exchange with industry and humanitarian agencies, and advanced teaching in risk and disaster reduction.

The threat from space weather

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Space weather is a global threat to the technologically driven financial sector, on the 27th May a symposium was held at the Royal Society to examine the risk posed and the resilience of the financial sector.

Reducing risks to public health from saline water in coastal Bangladesh

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Dr. Mohammad Shamsudduha (Shams), an IRDR Research Fellow is collaborating on a research project ‘Health impacts of a climate change adaptation strategy to address drinking-water salinity in coastal Bangladesh’ which has just been funded (£360k) by the Wellcome Trust. The project is led by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR’B) and a number of institutions including UCL, Dhaka University, Stanford University and Emory University are jointly conducting this research in the coastal region of Bangladesh.

A Report on Arctic Fieldwork, Svalbard, March 2015

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In March 2015 a team from the IRDR consisting of Prof. Peter Sammonds, Dr. Ben Lishman, Sally Scourfield and Andrew Goldsmith travelled to Svalbard in order to undertake Arctic fieldwork. With much logistical support from the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), the team travelled by snow scooter to the mining town of Svea. From here it was possible to work on sea ice in the Van Mijenfjorden fjord.

New UCL research reveals key controls on groundwater arsenic pollution in Bangladesh

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Groundwater fed irrigation in Bangladesh

Groundwater-fed irrigation associated with lower arsenic in Bangladesh

IRDR Special Report on Arctic Risks

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Giant icebergs

In September 2014, the IRDR hosted a meeting on Arctic Risk Scenarios. We see the Arctic as an area of increasing risk, due to rapid changes in its geography and economy. Technological risks and disasters – think for example of Deepwater Horizonor Costa Concordia – are often complex, with multiple interlinked causes. To understand such risks, and their potential consequences, requires a breadth of expertise: technological, but also commercial, legal, sociological and governmental. Our meeting was an opportunity to bring these fields together to consider two (hypothetical) case studies: a cruise ship sinking off Svalbard, and a wellhead blowout in the Kara Sea.

Now Recruiting: Research Associate in Risk and Disaster Reduction

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UCL Department / Division: UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction
Grade: 7
Hours: Full Time

Now recruiting Lectureship in Space Environment Risk Reduction

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A new joint lectureship position has been created between UCL IRDR and the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL). The lectureship will focus on the understanding, assessment and mitigation of risks associated with the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere, either in association with space plasma events (e.g. space weather) or as an indicator of developing high-risk situations (e.g. earthquakes). 

IRDR Special Report on Transitional Recovery and Reconstruction in the Eastern Philippines after Typhoon Yolanda

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IRDR Special Report 2014-01 image of Typhoon Yolanda damage

In March 2014, four months after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), a collaborative field survey between UCL-IRDR and Tohoku University-IRIDeS was conducted in order to compare the effects of domestic and imported aid and assistance on the quality and speed of recovery and the vulnerability during the transitional phase between the initial emergency and long-term recovery and reconstruction. The team, comprised of Dr. Joanna Faure Walker and Prof. David Alexander from UCL-IRDR, Mr Joshua Macabuag from UCL-EPICentre and Dr. Anawat Suppasri from IRIDeS at Tohoku University, conducted interviews and accompanying structural engineering surveys of the respondents' dwellings for 160 households in 12 coastal barangays (districts) in Leyte, Eastern Visayas. Initial findings from the survey show:

Focus on the Positive

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Hand-tubewell at a school in coastal Bangladesh

Dr. Mohammad Shamsudduha (“Shams”), a Research Fellow in the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, has recently won a runner-up prize (£1,000) in UCL’s public engagement event Focus on the Positive for successfully pitching a research idea of installing hand-operated tubewells for vulnerable rural communities in coastal Bangladesh. The title of his pitch was “Finding Sources of “Fresh” Drinking Water for Communities in Coastal Bangladesh.” Shams was one of 4 competitors who pitched their ideas to an audience of 60 very engaged people from the University of the Third Age (U3A). The prize money will be used to install two hand-operated deep (depth >250m) tubewells in the coastal region of Bangladesh where there is a severe scarcity of ‘fresh’ drinking water as most surface water and groundwater sources are contaminated with high salinity. Shams is currently working on a UK-AID (former DFID)-funded research project (Groundwater resources in the Indo-Gangetic Basin: resilience to climate change and pumping) in Bangladesh and West Bengal of India. Under this project, Shams and his colleagues from UCL, Bangladesh and India are investigating the security of deep groundwater in the Bengal Basin in the face of climate change and human development.

UK - Japan Symposium and Workshop on Disasters

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Poster presentations and reception at the Workshop on Disaster Research

21-23 November 2013

After Fukushima: risk and resilience to disasters in Japan

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UCL Lunch Hour Public Lecture 19th  November 2013

The Japanese islands face an extraordinary range of natural hazards – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunami, lahars and tropical cyclones. In the wake of the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster, Prof Sammonds looks at the impact of disasters, recovery and the building of resilience to natural hazards in Japan.

IRDR Newsletter: October 2013 

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Professor David Alexander Delivers his Inaugural Lecture

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David Alexander Inaugural


Professor David Alexander, the IRDR Professor of Risk and Disaster Reduction, delivered his inaugural lecture on Monday 7th October on "Around the World in 80 Disasters". The lecture was not only a tour through many natural disasters, but also the way we study them. Attended by over 100 people, it was a truly engaging lecture. A summary can be found here:

IRDR IWD Gender and Disasters Event

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On 8th March 2013, International Women’s Day, the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction hosted a panel discussion on “Gender and Disasters”, in which we explored how the genders are differently impacted by natural disasters, why this difference exists, and what is being done about it. A panel of experts and an experienced chair-person all with very wide ranging experiences and backgrounds made this a very lively and informative discussion, with keen participation from the audience. The panel of experts included Paula Albrito, Head of the European Office of the UNISDR, David Alexander, UCL Professor of Risk and Disaster Reduction, and Linda O’Halloran, Director of NGO Thinking Development. It was Chaired by Ellie Lee, Reader in Social Policy. Further details of the Chair and panelists and a video of the full panel discussion can be found below.

IRDR now recruiting Reader and Lecturer

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We are now recruiting 2 positions joint with other UCL departments, a Reader in Risk, Resilience and Global Health joint with the Institute for Global Health, and a Lecturer in Statistics and Risk Analysis joint with the Department of Statistical Sciences.

IRDR February 2013 Newsletter

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From the Director

IRDR Gender and Disasters Event: Our first major public event of 2013 will be a panel discussion on Genders and Disasters to mark International Women’s Day on Friday 8th March, to be held at UCL from 6.00pm in the Cruciform Lecture Theatre 1. This will be followed by a drinks reception until 8.30pm. All are welcome. Women are more badly impacted by disasters than men and may be left vulnerable to exploitation in the aftermath. Why this gender bias exists and what can be done about it will be addressed by Paola Albrito from the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UCL professor for risk and disaster reduction, David Alexander and Linda O’Halloran, director of the NGO, Thinking Development, in a discussion chaired by social policy and gender issues expert, Ellie Lee. Further details and registration are below.

IRDR Special Report on UK-Japan Workshop on DRR and Lessons From the Great East Japan EQ

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In October 2012, the IRDR coordinated the UK delegation for a UK-Japan Joint workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction – Learning from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake hosted by the British Embassy in Tokyo. In addition to participating in the workshop, delegates visited areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The IRDR has just published a special report on this workshop and site visits, edited by IRDR lecturer Dr Joanna Faure Walker, which can be downloaded from our special reports publications page.

New IRDR Postgraduate Programmes

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The IRDR will launch two new postgraduate programmes: a MSc and a PGDip in Risk, Disaster and Resilience which, along with our current MRes and PGCert in Risk and Disaster Reduction, will admit students from 2013.  In these programmes students will explore the characterisation, quantification, management and reduction of risk and disasters, and their associated impacts from a diverse range of perspectives with the aim of meeting the growing need for experts trained to analyse and provide solutions to complex issues. To this end, all the IRDR post graduate programmes are centred around the IRDR core taught modules: Natural and Anthropogenic Hazards and Vulnerability, Integrating Science into Risk and Disaster Reduction, Emergency and Crisis Planning, and Emergency and Crisis Management. The programmes differ in the total time commitment needed and the share of time dedicated to taught modules and independent research. For details of our postgraduate programmes please visit our teaching page or download our postgraduate prospectus:

IRDR newsletter: Oct 2012

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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.

IRDR annual conference 2012 report

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After the success of the inaugural IRDR annual conference in June 2011, the UCL IRDR held its second annual conference on 21 June 2012. The conference focussed on the themes of Assessing Risk, Communicating Risk, and Natural Hazards and Critical Infrastructure, which have been key themes for IRDR research for the past year. These themes were explored through thought provoking lectures, panel discussions, discussions, and poster presentations. The event drew together dynamic participants from varying disciplines across UCL, other UK universities, and non-academic sectors including policy makers, humanitarian aid organisations, insurance industry, nuclear industry, and the media. A key aim of the conference was to get these people from different disciplines and sectors to engage with each other and discuss issues, advances and future goals in disaster risk reduction. We believe that this aim was achieved, with presenters communicating in a way that engaged interest and provoked discussion from the diverse participants.

IRDR appoints new Professor and Lecturer

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David Alexander

David Alexander has been appointed Professor of Risk and Disaster Reduction at the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction. He will join the IRDR on 1st October. David Alexander teaches emergency planning and management and has research interests in this field, as well as earthquake disaster analysis. His books include "Natural Disasters", "Confronting Catastrophe" and "Principles of Emergency Planning and Management". He is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Co-Editor of Disasters journal, and is a Founding Fellow of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. We believe that he will be a great asset to the IRDR and look forward to his arrival in October.

IRDR Newsletter: Apr 2012

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From the Director

The UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) is rapidly expanding: we are making new appointments and will move shortly into newly refurbished space in the South Wing (Wilkins Building). We had an exceptional response to our advertisement for a Professor in Risk and Disaster Reduction resulting in a strong international slate of candidates. Short-listed candidates for the chair will be making research presentations on Thursday 19th April from 10.00 to 12.00 in the Pearson Lecture Theatre (Pearson Building: ground floor, entrance from the Front Quad at the junction with the Slade School). All are welcome to attend.

IRDR Newsletter: Jan 2012

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From the Director

Last year proved to be a watershed for disasters and risk reduction. The 11th March Tohoku earthquake and tsunami were a human and economic disaster for Japan. From the sheer scale of damage that could be inflicted on an advanced industrialized country inferences were drawn, rightly or wrongly, about acceptable risks, which led directly to the termination of the German nuclear power programme. With memories still fresh of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, there was also recognition for the need to re-assess the UK’s preparedness and resilience, at the highest political levels. Lord Ashdown’s review of the UK’s humanitarian emergency response galvanized action across government. As a consequence, the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) was invited to join two bids led by industry to consult to government on risks for radwaste disposal and on transport infrastructure. While the report of the Institution of Structural Engineers’ field mission (EEFIT) assessment of the impact of the Tohoku earthquake, to which the IRDR contributed, is now being drawn on for advice to ministers. Natural hazards also developed as an important research theme and major funding awards are scheduled for 2012, with the UCL involved in a number of bids. UCL and the IRDR are therefore well placed to respond to the challenges and opportunities of 2012.

NERC Grant award to Gerald Roberts on earthquake geology

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Dr Gerald Roberts (Birkbeck Earth Sciences and IRDR) has been awarded a £888,983 NERC Grant to study "Earthquake hazard from cosmogenic 36‐Cl exposure dating of elapsed time and Coulomb stress transfer".

2011 UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction Annual Conference

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In celebration of its first year of operation, the UCL IRDR held its annual conference on 22 June 2011. The event drew together a varied and dynamic audience from across UCL and its external partners and associates to report on, explore and inform research in risk and disaster reduction through thought provoking lectures, panel sessions and discussions. The IRDR aimed to produce a conference that would be truly multi-disciplinary, bringing together natural and social scientists, engineers and architects, doctors and lawyers, researchers and practitioners, financial analysts and humanitarian and development practitioners and policy-makers. The conference focused on four of the themes that the IRDR had worked on over the past year: Risk and Uncertainty for Natural Hazards; Issues in Water Risk and Security; Communicating Disasters; Extreme Events and Health Protection. The IRDR Annual General Meeting was also held and the whole day was rounded off with an evening networking reception. Well over 100 people registered for the event. There follows a brief report that summarises each session of the day and the Director’s Report and financial summary for the Annual General Meeting may be found here. The intention is to build the IRDR conference into the must-attend annual event for all those interested in risk and disaster reduction.

Katerva award finalists

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Our TwinSat project for predicting earthquakes with satellites, a collaboration between British and Russian scientists and institutions, which include Alan Smith, Director of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London (UCL), Vitaly Chmyrev of the Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth at the Russian Academy of Sciences and Peter Sammonds, Director, UCL IRDR, was a finalist in the prestigious Katerva awards for the “best sustainability initiative on the planet”.

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