The Risk Institute Online

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved our resources and events online. Follow this page to keep up to date with what's happening in the Risk Institute.

RIO TALKS - July 2021

Wednesday 7th July

Peter Sandman: Risk = Hazard + Outrage: Three Paradigms of Risk Communication - and a critique of COVID-19 Crisis Communication

One key to risk communication is the extremely low correlation between how serious a risk is and how upsetting it is – in his jargon, between “hazard” and “outrage.” The first half of the talk will address some implications of this low correlation and the resulting three paradigms of risk communication:

  • “Precaution advocacy” when hazard is high and outrage is low – alerting insufficiently upset people to serious risks.
  • “Outrage management” when hazard is low and outrage is high – reassuring excessively upset people about small risks.
  • “Crisis communication” when hazard is high and outrage is also high – helping appropriately upset people cope with serious risks.

The second half of the talk will look at a specific example that has obsessed us all since early 2020: COVID-19 crisis communication. Dr. Sandman will cherry-pick some aspects of crisis communication that he thinks has been especially badly handled vis-à-vis the pandemic, at least in the U.S.

Dr Peter Sandman, the creator of the "Risk = Hazard + Outrage" formula for risk communication, is one of the preeminent risk communication speakers and consultants in the United States and has worked extensively in Europe, Australia and elsewhere. He received his Ph.D. in Communication from Stanford in 1971. He went on to become professor at Rutgers University from 1977-1995, where he founded the Environmental Communication Research Program (ECRP) at Rutgers in 1986 and was its director till 1992. Dr Sandman left the university to become a full-time risk communication consultant.

Dr Sandman started retiring in 2016, and by 2019 he was 95% retired. Then in January 2020 he saw the COVID-19 pandemic emerging. Having worked on risk communication aspects of bird flu, swine flu, Ebola, Zika, and other infectious diseases crises dating all the way back to the start of HIV, he unretired to help with COVID-19 pandemic risk communication. He still tries to help from the sidelines – posting pandemic-related articles and columns on his website, http://www.psandman.com (46 so far, starting January 31, 2020); doing media interviews; and giving risk communication advice (solicited or unsolicited, paid or unpaid) to public health experts and officials around the world.

RIO TALKS - June 2021

Wednesday 30th June

Todd Lithgow: Rethinking roads for healthy urban spaces

Redesigning Liverpool’s road infrastructure to improve spaces for walking and cycling and make roads safer and greener requires controlling risk. Although risk cannot be entirely eliminated, as people still have to walk or cycle across traffic lanes, when vehicles have lower speeds, and drivers can see pedestrians from further away, and pedestrians are in places that drivers expect them to be, then injuries and fatalities can be reduced.

Wednesday 23rd June

Prof Mark Colyvan: Toy Statistical Models and Legal Reasoning

A great deal of theorising about the proper place of statistical reasoning in the courtroom revolves around several canonical thought experiments that invoke toy statistical models of an idealised situation. I will argue that these canonical thought experiments are flawed in various (albeit interesting) ways. In some cases, the flaws involve subtle underspecification that leads to ambiguity about the intuitive judgement; in other cases, the flaw is that the thought experiment stipulates that we forgo freely-available and relevant evidence. The common thread is that uncertainty about the statistical model itself is left unaccounted for. The upshot is that these thought experiments do not succeed in undermining the use of statistical evidence in the courtroom.

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Prof. Mark Colyvan is professor of philosophy at the University of Sydney (Australia) and a visiting professor at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich (Germany). He holds a BSc(Hons) in mathematics (University of New England) and a PhD in philosophy (Australian National University). He is a former president of the Australasian Association of Philosophy and a former president of the Society for Risk Analysis (Australia and New Zealand). He mainly works on logic, decision theory, philosophy of mathematics, environmental philosophy, conservation biology, and ecology. He has written numerous articles on these and other topics, along with the books The Indispensability of Mathematics (Oxford University Press, 2001), Ecological Orbits: How Planets Move and Populations Grow (with Lev Ginzburg, Oxford University Press, 2004), and An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mathematics (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Wednesday 2nd June

Cristina Garcia Perez: From Biodiversity Crisis to Pandemics: How does dispersal ability shift our world?

Dispersal is a fundamental but challenging demographic stage for sessile organisms such as plants. They require to disperse their pollen grains and propagules (seeds) to suitable, and sometimes distant, places to germinate and establish. Most plants rely on pollinators or frugivores to disperse their pollen and seeds in exchange of food resources, but anthropic activities such as defaunation, forest fragmentation, and climate change impair these mutualistic interactions which threaten the persistence of plant populations and communities. Here I will review my research on plant-animal mutualistic interactions and their importance for plants from the population to the meta-community level and I will illustrate some key results draw from my recent projects.

Cristina García joined the University of Liverpool as a Tenure Track researcher at the end of 2018. She works at the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour (DEEB) where she investigates applies fieldwork, molecular markers and advance statistics to evaluate the importance of pollen and seed dispersal in shaping plant communities and the consequences global changing in impacting the dispersal ability of plants. She completed her PhD degree in Estación Biológica de Doñana (Spain) supervised by Prof. Pedro Jordano and then she received a Fulbright fellowship study the impact of forest fragmentation for gene flow supervised by Victoria Sork (UCLA) and J Hamrick (U Georgia). She got an associated research position at CIBIO where she investigated different tools to assess very rare but disproportionately important events: long distance events that underlie the expansion of invasive species or the emergence of viruses worldwide (pandemics).

RIO TALKS - May 2021

Wednesday 12th May

William Huber: Statistics in the (US) Courtroom

This talk surveys some issues that recur in my practice as a statistical expert witness: the power and role of graphical analysis; explaining rare events; the meaning of statistical significance; detecting fraud and cheating; and assessing evidence of discrimination. It will focus on the application of statistical thinking rather than on the statistical procedures used.

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Dr. William A. Huber specializes in environmental statistics and litigation support. During a 35 year career as a consultant he has testified as a statistical expert in litigation and arbitration; led research and development of data visualization software; provided statistical support for hundreds of investigations of water, soils, groundwater, wastewater, and air quality; developed custom and commercial statistical software for sampling, spatial data analysis, database querying, economic analysis, and forecasting; and published research in geospatial analysis, statistics in the law, risk assessment, and quantum mechanics. He has taught mathematics, statistics, and GIS for professional organizations and at many graduate and undergraduate institutions. Bill has also helped nurture small businesses, volunteer organizations, and online communities as an investor or elected board member.

Wednesday 19th May

Emerging Industries

Nanotechnologies and Nanomaterials

Invisible particles that fight cancer cells. Faster microprocessors that consume less energy. Batteries that last much longer. Making solar panels cheaper and more efficient. These are just some of the many applications of nanotechnologies and nanomaterials, the name given to production or use of very small ‘nano’ particles. This is becoming a rapidly growing fields of potential applications from electronics to food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The present and future applications of nanotechnologies reveal many opportunities with the potential to transform tomorrow’s world with a universe of new possibilities. Before we begin to further integrate them into other industries and our daily lives, we must question the potential effects and risks. Their effects on worker’s health, communities as well as on the environment, are largely unknown. Toxicity, lung damage and air pollution issues are some examples that been subject of discussion among researchers and policy makers. We look forward to exploring further into this matter with these two experts.

Find out more

Wednesday 26th May

Paul Han: Communicating prognostic information in life-limiting ilness: needs and challenges

Prognostic information is increasingly viewed as an essential element of high-quality care for patients with advanced cancer and other life-limiting illnesses. However, the communication of prognostic information poses several problems: it is not always desired by patients, embodies significant uncertainty, and may not always be needed. This talk will explore these problems and their implications for clinical care and research.

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Dr. Paul Han is a Senior Scientist in the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute, and maintains an appointment as a Visiting Scientist at the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Maine Medical Center Research Institute. Previously, he served as the Director of CORE and faculty at Tufts University School of Medicine from 2010 to 2020. Dr. Han is a behavioral and health services researcher and board-certified general internist and palliative care physician. He received an M.D. from the New York University School of Medicine, and an M.A. in Bioethics and an M.P.H. from the University of Pittsburgh. He completed Internal Medicine residency training at UCLA, and a fellowship in cancer prevention and control at the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Han’s research program focuses on understanding and improving the communication and management of uncertainty in health care, and his work bridges the disciplines of behavioral and health services research. His specific research projects focus on risk communication, shared decision making, and predictive modeling, and examine clinical problems in cancer care, genomic medicine, and palliative and end-of-life care. Dr. Han served as Principal Investigator of the Maine Lung Cancer Coalition, a statewide lung cancer prevention and screening program funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, the Maine Cancer Foundation, and the Maine Economic Improvement Fund. He also led MMC’s collaboration on the Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative, a statewide program of The Jackson Laboratory, aimed at advancing cancer genomic testing in oncology care. Dr. Han has authored over 150 papers in the peer-reviewed medical literature, and is actively involved in initiatives to promote shared decision making and to teach risk communication skills to medical students and physicians.

RIO TALKS - April 2021

Wednesday 28th April

Joseph George: International Disaster Management in India: the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and other disasters.

India had experienced the worst ever industrial disaster in the world, the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in the year 1984. This disaster was an eye opener for the world at large to bring in major and critical changes required for effective management of industrial and chemical disasters.Since then India has also faced a large number of chemical and industrial disasters in the last 36 years including an explosion in IPCL Gas Craker Complex at Nagothane in the State of Maharastra (1990), vapour cloud explosion at HPCL refinery at Vishakhpatnam (1997), fire in the Oil Well in Andhra Pradesh (2003) and the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. Fire tragedy at Jaipur (Oct. 2009). Apart from this, there have been a large number industrial disasters even during the Covid-19 as well, the worst among them being the Gas Leak at LG Polymers factory, in Vishakhpatnam on 7th May, 2020.The Government and other agencies have come out with a number of measures to effectively manage the industrial disasters in the country including a few legislative measures like the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 and the comprehensive Disaster Management Act, 2005. The presentation will throw light into the various lessons learned by the stakeholder from the large number of industrial and chemical disasters witnessed by the country and what needs to be done to further strengthen industrial and chemical disasters in India and beyond.

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Dr Joseph George is a Disaster Management Professional with PhD. in Social Work from RDVV- Jabalpur, a Masters from the University of Madras and BA (Hon.) from St. Antony’s College-Shillong, North Eastern Hill University. Has over 28 years of experience in the varied fields of disaster management, human resource development, education and community development in various states of India.

Over 20 years of exclusive experience in disaster management planning, capacity building, research, advocacy, awareness advisory services. Major projects directed include, disaster management capacity building programme under the Central Sector scheme- ministry of agriculture , Government of India, Institutionalization of incident command system in India, community based disaster risk reduction- a joint project of Government of Madhya Pradesh and Unicef, Disaster Management Capacity Building Programme, Government of Madhya Pradesh, NGO capacity building on disaster management programme- World Vision, CASA, Red Cross, Capacity building programmes for financial institutions NABARD, RBI, Preparation of off-site emergency management plans etc

Major subject expertise include among others, Psycho-social impact of disasters and their management, Disaster Management Planning, Disaster Research and Documentation, Incident Command System, Community Based Disaster Management, Off-site emergency management planning, Table top exercise and mock drills, child protection in emergencies, Risk Perceptions studies and Risk Communication, Participatory Learning Methods, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction etc.

RIO TALKS - February 2021

Friday 19th February

Rebecca Helm: Life between worlds: the ecosystems of the ocean’s surface”

Life on the ocean's surface connects worlds. Floating life provides habitat for diverse species, from those living in the deep sea to animals that spend their adult life in land-locked streams. In this talk, we will explore the diversity of floating life at the ocean's surface, its connectivity to diverse eco-regions, and the role food webs, life history, and ocean currents may play in its persistence. Finally, we will explore human impacts on the surface ecosystem, and ways that we, as a society, may be able to mitigate them.

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Rebecca R. Helm is an assistant professor of Biology and the University of North Carolina Asheville, and a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History. Dr. Helm studies the ecology and evolution of life in the open ocean, and this research ranges from the developmental biology of life cycles to the broad-scale distribution of species on the high seas. Recently, Dr. Helm began studying the impacts of high-seas development on marine life, and the role that policy plays in mitigating this impact.