Understanding Risk (UR)

From 16-22 May 2016 in Venice of Italy, I attended a gathering of experts and practitioners interested and active in disaster risks, organised by UR (Understanding Risk). UR is an excellent platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation in identifying and assessing disaster risk mainly supported by the World Bank. This event was very inspiring and engaging (and free!). The five days were filled with over 50 sessions, including training events, workshops, technical sessions and plenaries. It was divided into the main conference and Focus Days. The latter allowed organizations to manage their own workshops, stakeholder meetings, training sessions or other activities. The agenda for this year’s Focus Days is here: https://understandrisk.org/ur2016-focus-days/
From the list, you can see there were a diverse range of topics to choose from. I attended a session on ‘Learning InaSAFE through open data for resilience serious game!’. The presenters guided us with hands-on experience in Geonode, QGIS, and InaSAFE (open sourced systems useful for disaster risk assessment and management), and did an exercise in serious games for decision making under uncertainty (my first experience in serious games). It was thoroughly enjoyable and informative.
The main conference’s agenda is here: https://understandrisk.org/ur2016-program/
I enjoyed the ‘Ignite’ session which included 5 minute lightning presentations by technical session leads so that the audience could quickly see the gist of the forthcoming sessions in the rest of the conference. In the evening, a session of 5×15 provided a platform for 5 outstanding individuals with 15 minutes to tell stories about ‘risk’. It was exciting to listen to all of them, but I particularly enjoyed the talk by Prof Marcus du Sautoy, who is Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University. He spoke about his latest book What We Cannot Know: Explorations at the Edge of Knowledge and talked about the uncertainty and chaos systems illustrated by a nice pendulum gadget.

A session on ‘Challenges in developing multi-hazard risk models from local to global scale’ has attracted my attention. It is clear that there is an urgent need for open, transparent and credible multi-hazard risk assessment methods, models and tools. The community should put more effort in aligned risk assessment methodologies for the different hazards with incomparable risk metrics. In addition, interactions of multiple hazards are largely neglected, with the result in some cases of strongly underestimated risk. I would like to explore this topic further in the future.

Such an exciting event is organised by ‘Understanding Risk Forum’ once every two years and I am keen to attend the next one. If you would like to know more about UR and its events, it is useful to subscribe to its newsletter and join its LinkedIn community at https://understandrisk.org/about/

Dawei Han, the University of Bristol

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Understanding Risk (UR)