UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction



Joanna Faure Walker
2022–2023 has been an exciting year for the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction with our research, engagement and impact, and education agendas focussed on providing evidence-based critical reflection, education and inspiration to ask and tackle the pertinent questions and challenges facing risk, disaster and humanitarianism today and in the future.

Over the past year, we have collectively published over 135 peer-reviewed research papers in topics spanning the full breadth or risk and disaster reduction from so many angles, including a paper on quantified freshwater capture in Bangladesh featured on the front page of Science. Our engagement and impact has included public events such as the IRDR Annual Conference 'Risk Without Borders' and Humanitarian Summit 'Doing Even more with Even Less', our monthly seminars, industry-focused events,  and student-focused events, media engagement, policy-focused initiatives, as well as several impact-focused projects ranging from supporting the Women of the Amazon midwives projects to have autonomy, to developing risk calculation data and tools for use by practitioners in industry. 2022-2023 has seen success for the Department in the UCL and Faculty Education Awards and we hope to build on this going forward into the 2023–2024 academic year as we move to having the full complement of taught students with our inaugural BSc Global Humanitarian Studies cohort entering their third and final year.

The IRDR Annual Conference 'Risk Without Borders' and Humanitarian Summit 'Doing Even more with Even Less', have highlighted that the risk reduction and humanitarian sectors need optimism and to keep trying if progress is to be made, for if we do not try then we will not achieve. Panellists reflected that there may be initiatives that need to stop and change, and we need to act on these. However, we may need to reconcile that it may be the right decision to continue with some imperfect initiatives if still good and able to make a positive difference. This prompts a continued need for data and evidence with appropriate analysis to allow learning from history, with independent monitoring and evaluation, to make informed decisions on practice in the present and future. Furthermore, we need to utilise technology, encourage and support engagement and collaboration with local actors, and to get through geopolitical and funding barriers. Such topics and their interdependencies are discussed, researched and taught within our PhD, Master's and undergraduate programmes. We hope our current students, alumni, staff, partners, members and all those in the IRDR community will answer the plea from one of the panellists to provide new voices and new thoughts, particularly to large national and international organisations. We can ask the right questions ready to be tackled with an interdisciplinary perspective. Thus, although the continued call to do more with less and the existence of borders and barriers does not seem to have an end date, the IRDR will continue strive to tackle these issues, learning with our partners and communities to achieve this – please join in and work with us.

To help achieve this, we have welcomed several new academic, research and professional services staff who have helped broaden and strengthen our collective expertise. Mark Pelling, Professor of Disaster Risk Reduction, and Fatemeh Jalayer, Professor of Geophysical Hazard Risks, have joined our professoriat helping to drive our research agenda and taking the lead in our impact and inclusion strategies respectively. Our new lecturers Dan Haines (Disaster Risk Response), Sarah Dryhurst (Risk Perception and Communication) and Stefan Leeffers (Disaster and Crisis Risk Finance), bring new research expertise in history, psychology and economics respectively; these new staff are adding new perspectives on our taught programmes as programme leader for the MSc Risk, Disaster and Resilience, programme leader for the MRes Risk and Disaster Reduction, and Deputy Ethics Chair. We have two new Associate Lecturers (teaching) in Risk, Disaster and Humanitarianism, Myles Harris and Caroline (Caz) Russell, who have been focussing on our taught programme assessments and digital accessibility respectively, as well helping to implement new initiatives around fieldwork safety and research ethics. We have welcomed Susannah Fisher, who holds a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in Climate Change Adaptation, and several staff on various grant-funded projects. This year we have further benefitted through a significant strengthening of our professional services team to meet the demands and aspirations of a growing department. New members include Department Manager Nidhi Rathod, Engagement, Networks and Partnerships Manager Sian Rees-Jones, Senior Research and Finance Officer Kamariyah MBamba, Senior Education Administrator Paula Ktorides, Education Administrator Jose Delgado, and Operations Administrator Dhashvini (Dhash) Ramanathan. 

Professor Joanna Faure Walker
Head of Department