Cabot Institute blog

Find out more about us at www.bristol.ac.uk/cabot

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Cabot weekly roundup – 1 June 2012

A very long and tiring day on Tuesday 29 May, but well worth it because our joint event with AXA - Volcanoes and Society - was a huge success.  Here, Kathy Cashman was awarded £500,000 by the AXA Research Fund to study ash cloud dangers.  

We had a fantastic turn out of volcanologists, businesses and post grads and other interested parties.  All the talks were very interesting and the whole event was filmed.  We will put this on the website once editing has been completed and we will be holding a follow up event later in the year, so stay tuned!

Also watch out on the Cabot website as we will soon be releasing case studies about NERC funded research in Cabot related areas. 

There will be no weekly roundup next week, but I will be back on Friday 15 June to update you on what happened at the Cabot Steering Group meeting

Friday, 25 May 2012

Cabot weekly roundup - 25 May 2012

The External Advisory Board went very well on Tuesday. Ties came off in the heat and we learned some very interesting things from Prof. Mark Eisler whose work in farm animal health relates to Cabot’s wider remit in food security. 

Philippa Bayley went to London to the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Adapting to Climate Change meeting. She met with people from around the world who are trying to do similar work to Cabot and are struggling with the same issues as us, e.g. how to get a critical mass of people working on the problems we face whilst maintaining a breadth of research areas.

Paul Bates has posted a blog on the successful trip to Japan, read here. I have uploaded all the presentations from the workshops at Kyoto DPRI. There are some really interesting presentations on natural hazards including wind, tsunamis, floods, landslides, storm surges, volcanoes and earthquakes. These presentations are a mix of science, maths, engineering and social science, showing the importance of interdisciplinary research to tackle the challenges that natural hazards produce globally.

Next week...

I will be tweeting live from the Volcanoes and Society event all day Tuesday 29 May.  Join me @cabotinstitute


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Successful trip to Japan: workshop on probabilistic hazard assessment


DPRI Kyoto and Cabot Institute
Over the last two days a group from the Cabot Institute has been holding a workshop with colleagues from Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute (or DPRI) on the topic of probabilistic hazard analysis.  On the face of it Japan and the UK are very similar: highly urbanised and complex island societies with high population densities and therefore the potential for serious disruption if natural hazards occur.  Mind you, the earthquake, tsunami and volcano hazards do put Japan in a different league when it comes to potential impacts.  In both countries, robust hazard analysis, planning and decision making is therefore essential to protecting society.  Both countries have a lot to learn from each other, and our recent paper on lessons for the UK from the Fukushima disaster is a case in point. 

Cabot members Wendy Larner, Colin Taylor, Susanna Jenkins, Jeremy Phillips, Katsu Goda, Philippa Bayley and myself (Paul Bates) spent two days working with around 30 Japanese colleagues, with Skype presentations from the UK delivered by WillyAspinall, Jonty Rougier and Tamsin EdwardsA full programme of the meeting is on our website, and includes pdfs of the presentations for download.  We learned a huge amount about hazard research in Japan and have hopefully begun a large number of research collaborations that will be important for Bristol University for many years.  Our profound thanks go to our Japanese hosts Prof. Eiichi Nakahita and Prof. Hirokazu Tatano, and to the Director of DPRI, Prof. Nakashima.  The photos here give a flavour of the wonderful time we had.

Possibly the most important theme to emerge from the workshop was that whilst probabilistic analysis of hazards (where we give the chance of an event occurring rather than a definite yes/no prediction) is now commonplace in science, there is still a major issue in educating decision makers, governments and the public in how to use such forecasts to take decisions.  Indeed the Daily Mail in the UK has recently been giving the Met Office a hard time for wanting (very sensibly) to move to a probabilistic forecast of rainfall. This shouldn’t be such a big problem, but the fact that it is tells us an awful lot.  Intrinsically people deal with probability information all the time: betting and insurance, for example, are both examples of probabilistic contracts that are well understood by the public. So why do we resist being told about other risks in a similar way.  My gut feeling is that it is to do with the question of responsibility. A probabilistic forecast of risk forces the decision maker (be they Ministers, civil servants or the public) to deal with uncertainty in predictions, whilst insistence on a deterministic forecast puts the responsibility for this onto the scientists who can then be blamed if things go wrong.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Cabot weekly roundup - 18 May 2012

This week has been the busiest week I’ve had whilst working for Cabot, especially with Philippa Bayley and Paul Bates out of the office on business.  Their business this week has been visiting the Disaster Prevention Research Institution (DPRI) in Kyoto, Japan.  The DPRI, with Cabot, are holding a joint workshop called ‘Probabilistic Hazard Risk Assessment and Beyond’.    

Those involved from Cabot are:  

The workshop themes revolve around several key areas:
  • climate change impacts
  • decision-making and disaster risk reduction under uncertainty
  • new mathematics and models, defining and using worst case scenarios, interconnected hazards
  • human and social dimensions of a disaster.
This should be a great relationship building event and also a fantastic opportunity to exchange interdisciplinary knowledge on issues that are very important to our world today.

Meanwhile, back in the office I have been completing the organisation of the Volcanoes and Society event to be held on 29 May at M Shed.  Name badges…done.  Hotels and catering…booked.  Press release… checked.  Flyers… printed.  Finances…sorted.  Phew!

Next week....

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Global Risks?

Cabot had an interesting presentation from Krish Sankaran of the World Economic Forum on 3 May 2012.  This link leads to a video showing the three main risks that the World Economic Forum sees the world facing today.

What do you think?

http://www.weforum.org/issues/global-risks