Newsletter - February 2015
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Fresh from the terrorist outrages in Paris and Copenhagen, the British Government has sought to impose in legislation passed by Parliament, what some have argued are draconian obligations on universities to monitor non-violent subversives on campus and prevent them being drawn into terrorism. Powers to restrict the freedom of speech on campus can be made by the Home Secretary, through court orders if the universities themselves fail to ban extremist speakers. The aim is to increase security and make the UK more resilient to terrorist outrages. But does Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” trump all other rights, including the rights, which are so important for universities, of freedom of opinion and expression from Article 19? This is not a new issue, but the framing of the arguments in terms of resilience opens the questions, how to increase resilience and for London, its universities, businesses and government, what does this mean?

In our first public event of 2015 we aim to tackle this challenging issue with an IRDR Panel Discussion meeting on “Security, terrorism and human rights – making London resilient”  on Thursday 5th March at 6.00 p.m., which includes panellists from the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, London First, a non-profit organisation aiming to make London a safe city for business and experts on international terrorism and on resilience. We have also invited a government minister. The meeting is open to UCL staff and students, members of the London business community, the Greater London Authority and the London boroughs, and members of the general public. (See right hand side for event details.)

Continuing the human rights theme, at the UN ISDR World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, the IRDR will be hosting a Symposium on Human Rights and Disasters led by David Alexander, UCL professor for Risk and Disaster Reduction. The recent decision by the UN Human Rights Council to look at human rights in post-disaster situations is part of a growing awareness that human rights need to be built into plans to increase resilience and to all phases of disaster management – prevention, risk reduction, response and recovery.

And yes, we are really pleased to have David Alexander back after being taken seriously ill in Japan last November. For those of you who are aware of the situation I can confirm that David has made a recovery and is back to his old self. I should thank our colleagues at IRIDeS, Tohoku University, who looked after him so well. We are delighted to welcome the appointment of Robert Wicks, from the University of Maryland and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, to a lectureship in space environment risk reduction held jointly with the Department of Space and Climate Physics (aka Mullard Space Science Laboratory). This comes at a time we are developing innovative space weather impact scenarios with MSSL in partnerships with organisations at risk in the UK. Mumtaz Abdul Ghafoor has been appointed as the new IRDR Administrator. Zehra Zaidi joins us as an IRDR Research Associate working on cascading crises and will assist with building the Academic Network on  Risk, Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience. David Cope, formerly director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, has been appointed as Visiting Professor to the IRDR and will join the UCL team at the UNISDR WCDRR in Sendai, and Bjorn Erlingsson, from the Iceland Meteorological Office, has been appointed as an Honorary Researcher.

Andrew Goldsmith has taken up a PhD Impact Studentship on Arctic engineering risks with us, supported by the NTNU, Trondheim, SAMCoT consortium. Michael Duong (Statistical Science) and Enrico Mariconte (Computer Science) are new PhD students who have the IRDR as their secondary affiliation.

Finally, we have re-organised the IRDR Executive Board, replacing the former Deans’ Oversight Committee and the Advisory Board. From UCL, Georgina Mace, FRS, professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Julian Hunt, FRS, professor of Climate Modelling, Richard Chandler, professor of Statistics and Richard Taylor, professor of Hydrogeology join the board. We also welcome Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas.

Peter Sammonds
Director, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction
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 aim 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.
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. The Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, responding to the UCL Grand Challenges, brings together this wealth of knowledge and expertise, and through research, teaching and knowledge exchange aims to overcome the barriers to understanding risk and reducing the impact of disasters.

To find out more about risk and disaster reduction research at UCL - or to register your own activity - please visit Our Page. Here you have the option to stay involved through different mailing lists, and to become a member of the Institute.
IRDR Careers and Opportunities Forum
Tuesday 3rd March 2015 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the UCL North Cloisters and Chadwick G08 Lecture Theatre
The event will include exhibitor stalls, talks and discussions on opportunities in the field of risk and disaster reduction. The opportunities presented will include job opportunities in the commercial, humanitarian and government sectors, volunteering and internships, postgraduate study and involvement in student societies. Register and find out more here
IRDR Public Discussion Meeting on: “Security, terrorism and human rights – making London resilient”
Thursday 5th March 2015 from 6.00 to 7.30 p.m. in the Anatomy JZ Young Lecture Theatre at UCL
This will be followed by a reception in the Haldane Room, North Cloisters. The panel includes Noemie Bouhana, from the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, Robert Hall from London First, Zehra Zaidi from the IRDR, Bill Durodie from the University of Bath, and a Minister of State (tbc). Our discussion meetings take the format of a short keynote address, followed by a panel discussion and questions from the audience. The meeting is open to UCL staff and students, members of the London business community, the Greater London Authority and the London boroughs, and members of the general public. Register and find out more here
UNISDR World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction:  Symposium on Human Rights and Disasters
Monday 16th March 2015 at 5.00pm, Sendai, Japan
For further information please contact:
IRDR Annual Conference 2015:
Thursday 25th June 2015
This will be a one-day event of thought-provoking lectures and discussions, followed by our summer party. Conference themes include Arctic risks from oil exploration and the ebola crisis. Professor Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Advisor, will give the Keynote address on, “Communicating Risk and Hazard to Policy Makers”. This promises to be a lively day and we extend an invitation to all in the UCL community, our associates and partners, and to those from outside just interested in engaging with risk and disaster reduction, to join us. Register and find out more here
New UCL IRDR research reveals key controls on groundwater arsenic pollution in Bangladesh.
Mohammad (Shams) Shamsudduha, (UCL IRDR), Richard Taylor (UCL Geography) and Richard Chandler (UCL Statistical Science), have published a new general model of arsenic in shallow groundwater in Bangladesh in Water Resources Research. This research shows that reduced concentrations are associated with areas of increased groundwater-fed irrigation and has far-reaching implications for water management in the Bengal Basin of Bangladesh and other Asian Mega-Deltas. Find out more here. Shams will now be the Project Manager for a major new UCL-led consortium project on Groundwater Futures in Sub-Saharan Africa (PI: Richard Taylor), funded by the NERC, ESRC and DFID. For more information, please contact Shams at
UCL IRDR Special Report on Arctic Risks
In September 2014, UCL IRDR hosted a forum on Arctic Risk Scenarios, where they considered two hypothetical case studies: a cruise ship sinking off Svalbard, and a wellhead blowout in the Kara Sea. This forum brought together wide-ranging expertise, and resulted in outcomes that were first published as evidence to the House of Lords Arctic Subcommittee in October 2014 and then published as IRDR Special Report 2014-02 in December 2014. Find out more
Recent media appearances have included Joanna Faure Walker on the BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show on 29th January discussing tectonics and earthquake magnitudes in the UK.
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