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Sometimes the risks that receive the most attention in hindsight are actually less likely than what we realise. But there are important reasons for finding effective ways to respond to high-profile risks. Thinking through risk and taking a rational approach to mitigating it, or becoming more resilient to it, may mean looking at risk in terms of applying regulations that reduce threats of harm from the start (as in the case of reducing risk through positive reinforcement), or better understanding how populations respond to risky behaviours like smoking.
Instead of analysing the risk, people often respond to the emotion or feeling a particular risk will incite. Risk of a large earthquake, nuclear meltdown, or lung cancer from smoking cigarettes are all risks that may produce emotional responses, what Professor Paul Slovic, a leader in psychological research of risk perception has called ‘the feeling of risk’, also known in psychology as the affect heuristic – the positive or negative feelings we associate with experience. Affect is used as a kind of mental shortcut in order for people to make decisions or solve problems quickly, it is also better known as ‘gut feeling’. Read the rest of this entry »
There seems to be a paradox in how some risks are mitigated. For instance, there is a tendency to believe that implementing safety regulations will in effect reduce the risk of harm
. While implementing safety regulations helps reduce the levels of risk people are exposed to they can also redistribute the risk, eliminating some risks, but increasing others by decreasing the level of perceived risk. This has been given several names by researchers including ‘risk homeostasis’, ‘risk compensation’ and ‘offset hypothesis’ and there are good reasons to think that it could help to better inform policies and regulations for making people’s lives safer, but it is also controversial amongst scientists and practitioners working in public safety.
Scholarships and bursaries are available for the Risk Masters programmes based in the Department of Geography and the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience at Durham University.
Civil Society Leadership Awards
The Civil Society Leadership Award provides a fully funded master’s level scholarship for the MSc Risk and Environmental Hazards and MA Risk and Security programmes within the Geography department. The program aims to support individuals who demonstrate both academic and professional excellence and have the potential to become civil society leaders in their home communities.
Eligible countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus; Cambodia; Egypt; Ethiopia; Laos; South Sudan; Sudan; Syria; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Reflections from the interface between seismological research and disaster risk reduction
Dr Susanne Sargeant, British Geological Survey
Monday 10th February 2014, 1 – 2 pm
W010, Geography, Durham University
Friday, 31 January, 7.30 PM at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle
In a world stressed by climate change and population growth, the issue of GM crops is again rising to the top of the socio-political agenda. Agri-business, as supported by some scientists, promotes GM as the only way forward.
The Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle in collaboration with Durham University’s Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, is holding a film led debate with experts across multiple disciplines to help the community appreciate what is at stake. The discussion will be led by Executive Director of IHRR Professor Sarah Curtis, Professor John Gatehouse, Dr Susana Carro-Ripalda and Dr Philip Garnett. Read the rest of this entry »
From humanitarian aid to disaster risk reduction the word ‘resilience’ is involved in nearly every aspect of people’s ability to recover and adapt after a catastrophic event. Many researchers from various fields along with emergency practitioners, who are depended on during times of disaster throughout the world, use resilience in their everyday language, and even incorporate it into their operations in the field. Although its meaning remains elusive, researchers and practitioners have opportunities to learn from each other about resilience.
There is no one way of defining resilience yet this does not seem to have prevented it from growing in popularity (See The rise of the word resilience). On the contrary, it may have allowed it to spread far and wide in the first place. Within the context of disaster resilience reminds us that even the most damaging, traumatic experiences may reveal how vulnerable communities are able to adapt to unusual situations or environments. In recent academic and practitioner literature resilience is continually evolving.
An emergency is a sudden danger that requires immediate attention. It may be limited in scale, involving many injuries and deaths over multiple sites. Emergency planning focuses on the most effective ways possible to manage incidents that have large numbers of casualties. Normally it is limited to a series of plans relating to certain types of events, especially emergencies that are well-known and happen quite frequently. However, these may not cover operations for all potential incidents, particularly unprecedented incidents – low probability high impact events – which make emergency planning especially challenging. When you have only scarce resources available for planning, what do you do to plan for such rare events?
Using computer-based tools that model emergency response can help make management and resilience planning more effective in the event of unusual, more serious disasters. Research from the REScUE project based at Durham University has produced an emergency response simulator that can assist fire, police, ambulance and other services in responding to mass casualty events. The agent-based modeller and simulator allows responders to prepare for unique emergencies. Read the rest of this entry »
Governance struggles and policy processes: A comparison of earthquake risk
reduction in Nepal and Bihar, India
9 December, Monday 1pm-2pm
Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University
In this presentation we share some preliminary findings on the national level governance landscape of earthquake risk reduction in Nepal and Bihar State in India. Located along the Himalayan Arc, Nepal and Bihar are both highly susceptible to earthquake hazard and were both affected by the 1934 earthquake. Despite the shared earthquake hazard, and some similarities in terms of ethnic and caste based inequalities and conflict, they have very different political and economic histories. Nepal is emerging from a recent conflict and receives relatively high levels of development aid while Bihar has a strong state system and is now making rapid economic progress after decades of stalled development due to weak governance. They therefore make for an interesting comparison in earthquake risk governance. In-depth interviews with over 40 stakeholders were conducted and focus groups were held to map out stakeholder relationships, interests and challenges of earthquake risk governance. Read the rest of this entry »
A little over a month ago I gave a talk at the Vajont 2013 conference on the topic of landslides and large dams. At the time I committed to making the Powerpoint file available online, so here it is:
The file is located on slideshare – you should be able to download the powerpoint file from there. The piece is also written up in an article for the conference paper – reference below. The paper can be accessed, for free, from the conference website. The other talks and papers can also be accessed from the conference website.
In this work I looked at the Durham Fatal Landslide Database to try to understand fatality-inducing landslides associated with large dams over the last decade. My analysis of the dataset suggested that in total there were exactly 500 deaths in 37 landslide events in the ten years between 2003 and 2012. Surprisingly, with one exception these were not landslides associated with the collapse of reservoir flanks (although interesting there was an event of this type in China earlier this year). Most of the landslides were either failures at the construction sites of large dams or at the sites of workers camps. Read the rest of this entry »