UCL IRDR newsletter – October 2020
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Start of Year Special Seminar and IRDR Annual Report 2020

With the new academic year, we extend a warm welcome to the 80 new and continuing masters students who have started on the MSc Risk, Disaster and Resilience, MSc Risk and Disaster Science and MRes Risk and Disaster Reduction programmes.

For those students joining us it is a leap of faith in these uncertain times that you are choosing now to invest in your futures. But the pandemic is demonstrating society’s growing need for experts trained to analyse and provide solutions to complex issues, manage risks and reduce the impact of disasters, while at the same time understanding their socio-economic, political, environmental, ethical and cultural contexts. This welcome extends to the new PhD students who will be joining us shortly including, Brig Gen Md Main Uddin, Naif Alrehaili and Alexander Thompson. These new members will maintain the IRDR PhD student cohort at about 25. And of course applications are currently open for the BSc Global Humanitarian Studies. Unique in the UK, this multidisciplinary programme aims to educate and train future generations of humanitarian leaders in the theory and practice of humanitarian action. (See Humanitarian section below for further details.)

As our first public event of the academic year and by way of welcome to the new members of the IRDR, we are delighted to invite you all to the Special Seminar on Planning from the Future: Humanitarian Action in a Transformative Age. This will be delivered by Dr Randolph Kent, a world-renowned humanitarian, on Tuesday 13 October from 17:00–18:00 BST. This will be delivered both face-to-face in the Haldane Room at UCL (but limited to 15 current IRDR students who must book through Moodle) and also livestreamed on the IRDR YouTube channel (no booking required). Current students and staff, graduates, alumni and members of the public are all warmly welcome to join us. The seminar will be followed by a Zoom reception for staff and students. We are planning for a full year of events despite the restrictions. This term, following the Special Seminar, we will host a Humanitarian Masterclass Online on Earth Observation and Natural Hazards. We will hold an Alumni-Student Mixer event on November 24 in the evening through Zoom, where we will also present student awards. (Please see the IRDR Events section below.) 

As the IRDR continues to grow we are delighted to welcome Dr Punam Yadav and Dr Jessica Field who were appointed as Lecturers in Humanitarian Studies in June. We also welcome Lucy King who joined in September as Interim Departmental Manager, providing maternity cover. Over the summer, Drs Eija Meriläinen and Laura Peters joined us as research fellows working on community collective action to respond to climate change; Dr Susanne Luedtke as a senior clinical research fellow and Phil Baker as researcher, both in the Centre for digital Public Health in Emergencies; Dr Virginie Le Masson as GRRIPP Global M&E Coordinator and Dr Louisa Acciari as a research fellow and both as co-directors, Centre for Gender and Disaster. Applications have just closed for the Associate Professor position in Humanitarian Science and applications are open for a Social Science Research Fellow in Conflict and Migration (closing 14 October).

2020–21 will be a challenging year for university teaching and learning. The IRDR Guiding Principles in response to the pandemic have been that universities provide an intellectual environment that pushes students beyond their comfort zone, and forces them to engage with new ideas. It is this intellectual mission, delivered through teaching and research, that gives universities their unique purpose. The IRDR will place at its core personalised learning experiences and socialised learning experiences that are accessible both to students at UCL and fully online to students in different time zones. The threat that Covid-19 poses to young adults is small but vulnerable individuals including staff will need to be shielded and the IRDR needs to prepare for sudden shifts in government restrictions and local closures, to flex between in-person and fully online delivery modes. UCL is open – subject to the 25% capacity limit.

The coronavirus crisis has been particularly difficult for the IRDR. Our professional service staff were running at about 50% capacity for much of the time. There were senior academic staff absences. Difficulties have been compounded by parts of the UCL central administration falling over. Exams were delayed and masters project starts pushed back. Most students were granted long extensions for extenuating circumstances, which means that we are still actively teaching, supervising and assessing the 2019–20 cohort while starting to teach the new cohort. Academic and professional staff have worked extraordinarily long hours managing student recruitment, preparing online teaching for this year, setting alternative exam assessments and taking on roles that they would not usually be asked to do. The heroic efforts of IRDR staff, particularly early-career staff, has really been appreciated. And we have had strong support from the MAPS Faculty. We have put in as much teaching support as possible, with summer interns to support transitioning online, online teaching assistants (TAs), expansion of TA module support and appointing two PhD/TAs who will teach two months per year while studying for their PhDs.

We had a very successful year in 2019–20, even if it has been our toughest. This is captured in the IRDR Annual Report. With our close involvement with some of the world’s most vulnerable people, such as the Rohingya refugees, we are only too well aware of the impact of Covid-19 around the world. This year’s Humanitarian Summit and IRDR Annual Conference both reflected this, with the former focusing on the Covid-19 and climate crises as humanitarian crises, and the latter looking at the pandemic from a global perspective. However, so many positive things have happened in this our tenth year. We are now established by UCL Council as UCL’ s newest academic department. We are promoting our new BSc Global Humanitarian Studies programme, to start in 2021, and welcomed the appointment of two lecturers in Humanitarian Studies. The Centre for Gender and Disaster launched its global GRRIPP project. Prof Patty Kostkova won IT Innovator of the Year. Research meetings from the Spring Academy to a workshop on Identities and Education in Crisis successfully transitioned online. It was pleasing to see research not just thriving in the IRDR, but striking out in new directions – even during lockdown. Taster lectures IRDR staff produced over the summer covering a broad range of topics in risk and disaster reduction were a big hit. We responded to the coronavirus crisis with initiatives including the IRDR Covid-19 Laboratory, #MyLockdownJournal, the European-wide perceptions survey, Covid-19 Emergency, Recovery and Improvement, and My Activity Journal App! (download from:

We are going to come out the other side of the coronavirus crisis a strengthened department with a mission to develop the IRDR themed around disaster resilience, cascading crises, natural hazards, humanitarian crisis response, health in emergencies, conflict and migration, climate change adaptation, and gender responsive resilience, in order to integrate education, research, innovation and enterprise for the long-term benefit of humanity. If our vision appeals to you, we invite you to join with us.

Peter Sammonds
Director, UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction
IRDR Events
Randolph Kent
IRDR Special Seminar and Welcome Reception
Planning from the Future: Humanitarian Action in a Transformative Age

Tuesday 13 October, 17:00–20:00 BST
Open to: Students | Alumni | Staff | Members | Public

We welcome Dr Randolph Kent, Visiting Professor at the African Leadership Centre at King’s College to present the first IRDR event of the academic year. Current students and staff, graduates, alumni and member of the interested public are all warmly welcome to watch the livestreamed event on the IRDR YouTube channel.

Find out how to watch online
Students chatting on a bench
IRDR Alumni and Student Mixer
Tuesday 24 November, 17:00–19:00 BST
Open to: Students | Alumni | Staff | Members

A chance for our students, staff and alumni to meet each other online. Awards and prizes will be presented to graduating students. Further information will be posted on the IRDR website soon.
Male and female student looking at a document
Global Humanitarian Studies BSc Taster Course
Monday 2 November, 16:30–18:30 BST

Are you considering a future in the humanitarian sector, making a real difference to communities around the world? Join our online taster course to find out more about the subject and studying on the Global Humanitarian Studies BSc.

Find out more about the taster event
Other talks and events
Upcoming talk: The Deformation & Tectonics Talk Series
Let the science fly while we are all grounded

15 October, 3pm GMT/UTC 
Contact: Joanna Faure Walker
Insights into fault evolution, scaling relationships, and seismic hazard from normal fault surface data

Upcoming event: 5th Workshop for the Fault2SHA working group. All Hands on Deck: Promoting Faults in Seismic Hazard Assessment
12 and 13 November and 2 December, online
Organiser: Dr Joanna Faure Walker and Dr Francesco Visini (INGV)
Contact: Joanna Faure Walker 

UCL Conference: Beyond Boundaries: Realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
19–29 October
A two-week virtual conference, examining why and how universities should address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Find out more on the UCL website

BSc Global Humanitarian Studies
In the Global Humanitarian Studies BSc, you will learn about the political, historical and development context, but you will also gain an understanding of the emergence, impacts and response to humanitarian crises. The critical and analytical research skills you will acquire, grounded in practice, will equip you to anticipate evolving humanitarian threats and manage widening vulnerability and crisis response.

Applications through UCAS now open
Deadline: 15 January 2020
Find out more about the Global Humanitarian Studies BSc

If you missed the Climate Change and Human Migration webinar on 9 October organised by Dr Bayes Ahmed, you can watch it now on our YouTube channel.

Humanitarian Masterclass Online
Through the UCL Extend platform (tbc)
Earth Observation and Natural Hazards.
Open to: Students | Alumni | Staff | Members | Public

IRDR in the news
IRDR commentators continue to appear regularly in the media, offering their expertise and opinions on a wide range of issues. Here are some recent examples of our staff in the spotlight. 

Our staff continue to comment on the impact of the pandemic.
Ilan Kelman has contributed a number of public commentaries on Covid-19, including Pandemic by choice,  Is any disaster a surprise? and Post-Pandemic World, and appeared recently on CNN talking about climate change and the pandemic.

Patty Kostkova and the work of the dPHE team have appeared regularly, particularly about their lockdown app and the data it showed, in outlets such as the Mail Online and i News. Patty was also profiled by Science Business due to her Covid-19 research and her comments on the demise of Public Health England and subsequent launch of the National Institute for Health Protection have been quoted in national media, such as the Evening Standard and Politico.

David Alexander appeared in a Guardian article about why London might be avoiding a second wave of Covid-19.

Other appearances
Dr Jessica Field was interviewed by YouTuber The Curious Geographer, talking about humanitarianism and the Global Humanitarian Studies BSc. Watch the interview here.

Dr Katerina Stavrianaki was interviewed by 1MWIS (1 Million women in STEM), a global network who profile the stories of women studying and working in STEM to provide role models for the next generation of young women.
IRDR blog
Our blog is a great way to keep up to date with activities taking place in the IRDR. Here are some of our recent posts.
Recent publications
The IRDR Covid-19 Laboratory published a working paper, available on our website: Building Emergency Planning Scenarios for Viral Pandemics

UN's PreventionWeb website describes it as:
"Like all large disasters, Covid-19 involves cascading consequences. These need to be factored into future emergency planning scenarios. The purpose of this report is to provide a systematic if incomplete, record of the issues connected with the Covid-19 pandemic in order to improve the basis for future emergency planning. They are discussed in chapters on emergency coordination and response, health and medical aspects, critical infrastructure and information technology,  economics, social and psychological aspects, justice and crime, education and culture, and recovery.

"This report contends that the planning scenario for viral pandemics is complex but fully capable of being formulated, although it will contain a large measure of uncertainty. It is concluded that an emergency plan is only as good as its implementation.  In the event of a pandemic, the uncertainty in the behaviour of the disease means that plans must be flexible to start with and then adapted to circumstances as these evolve. This underlines the role of planning as a process rather than an end."

Bayes Ahmed’s article, Disaster risk reduction in conflict contexts: Lessons learned from the lived experiences of Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh (International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction) has been attracting increasing interest.

Ilan Kelman has been contributing to the scientific literature on the Covid-19 pandemic:
1. What is the disaster? 
2. Pandemic diplomacy 
3. Island Geographies of Separation and Cohesion: The Coronavirus (COVID‐19) Pandemic and the Geopolitics of Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland)

Myles Harris was commissioned by SAGE Publishing to write a textbook titled “Understanding Person-centred Care for Nursing Associates.” It is now available for pre-order and will be published in print on 15th January 2021. 

Punam Yadav had three articles published:
Other publications
Sgambato, Faure Walker, Mildon, Roberts (2020) Stress loading history of earthquake faults influenced by fault/shear zone geometry and Coulomb pre-stress, Scientific Reports  

Iezzi, Roberts & Faure Walker (2020) Throw-rate variations within linkage zones during the growth of normal faults: Case studies from the Western Volcanic Zone, Iceland,J. Struct. Geol., 133, 103977

Sgambato, Faure Walker & Roberts (2020) Uncertainty in strain-rate from field measurements of the geometry, rates and kinematics of active normal faults: Implications for seismic hazard assessment,J. Struct. Geol., 131, 103934 

Yore & Faure Walker (2020) Early Warning Systems and Evacuation: Rare and Extreme Hazards among the Frequent and Small-Scale. Case Studies from tropical cyclones in the Philippines and Dominica, Disasters 

Porter, Striolo, Mahgerefteh and Faure Walker (2019) Addressing the risks of induced seismicity in subsurface energy operations, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment, 324 

Yore & Faure Walker (2019) Microinsurance for disaster recovery: Business venture or humanitarian intervention?... International J. Disaster Risk Reduction 

Iezzi, Roberts, Faure Walker & Papanikolaou (2019) Occurrence of partial and total coseismic ruptures of segmented normal fault systems… Italy, J. Struct. Geol., 126, 83-99 

Mildon, Roberts, Faure Walker & Toda (2019) Coulomb pre-stress and fault bends are ignored yet vital factors for earthquake triggering and seismic hazard, Nature Communications 10, 2744 

Meschis, Roberts, Mildon, Robertson, Michetti, Faure Walker (2019) Slip on a mapped normal fault for the 28th December 1908 Messina earthquake (Mw 7.1) in Italy, Scientific Reports, 9 6481 

Faure Walker, Visini, Roberts, Galasso, McCaffrey, and Mildon, (2019) Variable Fault Geometry Suggests Detailed Fault-Slip-Rate Profiles and Geometries Are Needed for Fault-Based Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Assessment (PSHA), BSSA 109 (1), 110-123 
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About the IRDR
The Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR) leads research, advanced teaching, policy engagement and knowledge exchange with industry and humanitarian agencies, in risk and disaster reduction across UCL. We welcome new members, who can access a number of benefits, including member-only events.

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