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 - December 2021

Wednesday 08th December

Dr Pia-Joanna Schweizer: Governance of Systemic Risks

Systemic risks are characterised by high complexity, transboundary effects, stochastic relationships, nonlinear cause-effect patterns with tipping points. Furthermore, systemic risks tend to be attenuated rather than amplified in public perception. Due to these characteristics, systemic risks and create new, often unsolved challenges for risk assessment and policymaking. The presentation addresses these challenges, explores reasons why systemic risks seem to be attenuated in public perception and discusses governance strategies for anticipating, mitigating and managing systemic risks.

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Dr. Pia-Johanna Schweizer leads the research group "Systemic Risks" at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and is Speaker of the IASS research area “Global Implications of Sociotechnical Change”. The research group analyses the complex interface of science, economics, and civil society with regard to systemic risks, paying particular attention to complexity, scientific uncertainty and social ambiguity. She studied Sociology and English & American Literature at the University of Stuttgart, Germany and the University of Aberdeen. She gained a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stuttgart University with a dissertation on discursive governance. You can find out more on her website: https://www.iass-potsdam.de/en/people/pia-johanna-schweizer

Wednesday 01st December

Prof. Kok-Kwang Phoon: Nonlinear dynamics for ecosystem forecasting and management

The purpose of this keynote lecture is to broadly conceptualize the agenda for data-centric geotechnics, an emerging field that attempts to prepare geotechnical engineering for digital transformation. The agenda must include development of methods that make sense of all real-world data sensitive to the physical context of geotechnics (not selective input data for a physical model or abstract data-driven analysis connected to geotechnics in a peripheral way) and offer insights of significant value to critical real-world decisions (not decisions for an ideal world or decisions of minor concern to geotechnical engineers). These two elements are termed “data centricity” and “fit for practice” in the agenda. Given that a knowledge of the site is central to any geotechnical engineering project, data-driven site characterization (DDSC) must constitute one key domain in data-centric geotechnics, although other infrastructure lifecycle phases such as project conceptualization, design, construction, operation, and decommission/reuse would benefit from data-informed decision making as well. One part of DDSC that addresses numerical soil data in a site investigation report and soil property databases is pursued under Project DeepGeo. The purpose of Project DeepGeo is to produce a 3D stratigraphic map of the subsurface volume below a full-scale project site and to estimate relevant engineering properties at each spatial point based on actual site investigation data and other relevant Big Indirect Data (BID). Uncertainty quantification is necessary, as real-world data is insufficient, incomplete, and/or not directly relevant to derive a deterministic map. The computational cost to do this for a 3D true scale subsurface volume must be reasonable. Ultimately, geotechnical structures need to be a part of a completely smart infrastructure that fits the circular economy and need to focus on delivering service to end-users and community from project conceptualization to decommission/reuse with full integration to smart city and smart society. Although current geotechnical practice has been very successful in taking “calculated risk” informed by limited data, imperfect theories, prototype testing, observations, among others and exercising judicious caution and engineering judgment, there is no clear pathway forward to leverage on digital technologies to meet more challenging needs such as sustainability and resilience engineering.

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Prof. Kok-Kwang Phoon is Cheng Tsang Man Chair Professor and Provost, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). He obtained his BEng and MEng from the National University of Singapore and his PhD from Cornell University. Prof Phoon is particularly interested in developing statistical and other data-driven methods to support decision making in geotechnical engineering. He has edited 3 books and authored 1 book: Model Uncertainties in Foundation Design (CRC Press, 2021). He was bestowed the ASCE Norman Medal twice in 2005 and 2020, and the Humboldt Research Award in 2017, among many others. He is the Founding Editor of Georisk, appointed Board Member of ISSMGE, and Advisory Board Member for the WEF Global Risks Report. He was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Engineering Singapore in 2012. You can find out more on his website: https://www.sutd.edu.sg/About/People/SUTD-Leadership/Professor-Phoon-Kok-Kwang

RIO TALKS - November 2021

Tuesday 23rd November

Dr Olivier Menoukeu Pamen: Piecewise Binomial Lattices for Interest Rates under the Skew CEV and Vasicek Model

The interest rates frequently exhibit regulated or controlled characteristics, for example, the prevailing zero interest rate policy, or the leading role of central banks in short rate markets. In order to capture the regulated dynamics of interest rate, we propose both a skew constant-elasticityof-variance (skew CEV) model with regular coefficients and skew Vacisek model with irregular coefficients. We then construct an improved piecewise binomial lattice to evaluate bonds and European/American bond options. Numerical simulations show that the improved piecewise binomial tree is efficient and satisfactory.

This talk is based on a joint work with Guangli Xu and Xiaoyang Zhuo.

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Olivier Menoukeu Pamen is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Mathematics at the University of Liverpool. He held the position of German Research Chair in Mathematics and its Applications at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) Ghana. Prior to this, he completed an MSc in Mathematics at the University of Yaoundé I and received a PhD in Financial Mathematics from the University of the Witwatersrand. He then joined the Centre of Mathematics for Applications in the University of Oslo as a Post-Doctorate research fellow. From there, he took up a permanent position in the Institute for Financial and Actuarial Mathematics at the University of Liverpool.

His research interests lie in stochastic analysis and its applications. In the past years, he has focused on stochastic optimal control theory and their applications to finance, insurance and microfinance, (backward) stochastic differential equations ((B)SDEs) and their applications, Malliavin calculus, and dynamical systems.

Tuesday 16th November

Dr Bernhard Schmelzer: Joint distributions of random sets and copulas

In this talk it will be presented how the joint distribution of random sets can be characterized by multivariate set functions. The relationship and the differences between multivariate capacities and capacities on product spaces will be discussed. It will be demonstrated how copulas can be used to describe the dependence of random sets. After presenting the general results, the talk will focus on the special case of nested random sets and versions of Sklar’s theorem will be presented for the related multivariate belief functions and belief functions on product spaces.

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After completing his diploma studies, Bernhard Schmelzer earned his PhD in engineering mathematics from the University of Innsbruck in 2011. In his diploma and PhD theses, he developed imprecise probability methods (mainly based on random sets) for engineering problems. In 2012, he joined Novartis working as a statistical expert in quality assurance. Since 2015, Bernhard has been working as a statistical expert in Novartis Biologics development providing statistical support for submissions (non-clinical / CMC statistics) and shaping and establishing statistical concepts within Biologics development. During the past (almost) ten years Bernhard published several papers on characterizing joint distributions of random sets by multivariate set functions and copulas.

Tuesday 09th November

Craig Poku: The winner takes it all: why aerosols are key to understanding nocturnal radiation fog

Fog is a low-lying cloud that reduces near-surface visibility, leading to severe impacts on human activity, health, and safety. Its formation and development is dependent on several interacting atmospheric processes such as changes in humidity, wind speed, fog microphysics, and pollutants (aerosols). Aerosols are small airborne particles that account for initial surface visibility decrease, as well as controlling the fog layer’s thickness and life span. Increasing our understanding of aerosol impacts on fog will lead to improved fog forecasts and hence decrease the risks associated with human health and activity.

This talk will present an overview of fog modelling techniques, with a focus on aerosol physics. I’ll begin by discussing how different aerosol properties can enhance fog droplet formation. Next, I’ll present current modelling techniques used to model fog when accounting for aerosols and how it can be improved, using observations from a UK case study. Finally, I’ll discuss my recent research investigating fog development in Delhi, and how it can aid in providing solutions to cleaner air policies with the rise in urbanisation.

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Craig Poku is a trained mathematician turned atmospheric scientist, where he has focused his work in recent years to address challenging societal issues. Poku completed a degree in mathematics at King’s College London, where he obtained a 1st Class Honours. Following a year in local government, then went on to complete a PhD in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Leeds which specialised in investigating fog microphysics. Poku is now working at WACL, where he is investigating how we can apply new and novel analytical techniques to air quality monitoring sites to gain interesting scientific insights.

Tuesday 02nd November

Elfriede Derrer-Merk: MicroCOVID: using limited data to create a practical model of COVID risk

COVID-19 shook the world in 2020. Older people were especially impacted with higher morbidity, mortality plus advice to stay at home. The present qualitative studies explore how people in The United Kingdom and Colombia aged 65/60 and over experienced the COVID-19 pandemic. The ongoing analysis of the data has highlighted the importance of family relationships and how the pandemic had fostered ageism. Both studies highlighted the challenges older adults face in the time of the pandemic. The first finding suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic brought family relationships in disequilibrium and the second finding, in a cross-cultural study, highlights how the pandemic had fostered ageism.

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Elfriede Derrer-Merk, MS in gerontology, is a cross-faculty PhD (Institute of Risk and uncertainty and department of psychology) student at the University of Liverpool. She is an expert in geriatric nursing and has taught for many years at nursing schools in Germany. In addition, she is experienced in publishing nursing exam books and flashcards in collaboration with Elsevier, Germany. Her research interest focuses on the psychological experiences of older adults and risk communication from a qualitative perspective. The major aspects are family relationships, ageism, belonging, and resilience under the aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIO TALKS - October 2021

Tuesday 26th October

Ben Shaya and Dr Michael Cohn: MicroCOVID: using limited data to create a practical model of COVID risk

Even after extensive global research on the physical and biological dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 spread, much is still unknown about how to estimate COVID risk. Nevertheless, every person on the planet must make decisions that factor this risk into their everyday lives. We describe a simplified model for predicting COVID risk, along with a user interface that helps lay users apply it to real-life situations. The model has been in use for a year and currently has >2000 users per day. We'll share stories about its benefits, limitations, and both intended and unintended consequences.

Benjamin Shaya graduated from MIT with an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree in 2014. He worked on devices to detect sleep apnea in infants. He moved to Google in 2016 where he built the sound output engine for Google Home, In 2019 he had a brief stint at an electronic health record startup, but is now back at Google. At microCOVID, Benjamin leads research and modelling. He is equal parts confused and delighted to wind up giving medical advice to 2000 people per day.

Michael Cohn is a social psychologist and user experience researcher. If you've used Google Maps you may have seen some of his work -- or rather, not seen it, since his job there was to make sure that new features didn't get in the way of people's everyday direction and safety needs. With microCOVID, he helps the team translate the messy complexities of virus transmission into terms that help real-life users make choices about the things that matter to them. Michael holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan and is currently Deputy Director of Research at VoteTripling.org.

Tuesday 12th October

Professor Herek Clack: Preventing Airborne Infectious Disease Transmission: Challenges and Technical Advances

Increasing recognition of the transmissibility of the SARS-CoV-2 virus between humans as airborne aerosols, and the limited options for respiratory protection against such transmission, have drawn attention to air purification products, with their relative advantages and disadvantages being closely considered. This presentation reviews recent experimental achievements in developing non-thermal plasmas (NTPs) to potentially displace HEPA filtration and ultraviolet irradiation for rapid inactivation of airborne viruses in ventilation air. Studies considering both viral surrogates and actual viral pathogens known to cause animal disease are discussed. Unique challenges faced in conducting airborne virus inactivation studies are described along with solutions developed. Finally, performance comparisons between NTP air sterilization and the established technologies of UV irradiation and particle filtration are presented, demonstrating the substantial promise presented by NTP-based approaches.

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Herek Clack is an associate professor of civil & environmental engineering at the University of Michigan. At U-M, his group focuses on chemical and biological aerosols and their interactions with electric fields and electrical discharges. He has served on numerous National Research Council committees addressing environmental issues ranging from the implications of changes to the regulations governing power plant emissions to the safe and ethical thermal destruction of both conventional munitions and chemical warfare agents by the U.S. military. He is the recipient of the XVI Distinguished Young Alumni/ae award (MIT, 2000), the NSF CAREER Award (NSF, 2004), the Harry J. White Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Science and Application of Electrostatic Precipitation (Int’l Soc. for Electrostatic Precipitation, 2013), and the Kenneth M. Reese Outstanding Research Scientist Award (Univ. of Michigan College of Engineering, 2019). He is vice-president and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Society for Electrostatic Precipitation (ISESP); serves on the Mitigation and Control Technology working group, Awards Committee, and Representation & Equity Affairs Committee of the American Association for Aerosol Research; and is co-founder and acting CEO of the startup company Taza Aya LLC. He earned an S.B. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from MIT (1987) and an M.S. (1997) and Ph.D. (1998) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Tuesday 05th October

Hindolo George Williams: A probabilistic framework for the techno-economic assessment of Smart Energy Hubs for Electric Vehicle charging

A Smart Hub is a grid-connected electric forecourt often equipped with Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charge points, solar carports, battery and hydrogen storage, and controllable local load. It is an emerging technology in the United Kingdom predicted to be key to alleviating the impact of electric vehicles on the electricity grid, while providing the robust charging infrastructure required for the electrification of transport. However, until its business cases are fully realised, there is a critical need to model its technical and business operation, to provide investor confidence. To facilitate this process, we have developed a novel Monte-Carlo-based modelling and simulation framework for the techno-economic assessment of Smart Hubs.

The proposed framework accounts for driver preference, power losses, uncertainties and dependencies in electric vehicle charging requirements, and other realistic features of Smart Hubs. A compact and representative mathematical model, together with a novel energy management algorithm, mimics the operation of a Smart Hub. The energy management problem is formulated as a mixed-integer linear programming problem that maximises the daily net revenue accrued, while guaranteeing driver satisfaction and preserving battery life. It was used to assess a fleet management site comprising 20 assorted charge points, a 50 kg/h hydrogen generation plant, and a 2 MW solar carport. The result shows that controlled electric vehicle charging yields up to 3.1% more revenue over the 25-year life of the site than uncontrolled charging. It is found that V2G charging is financially unattractive if a site does not provide ancillary services to the electricity grid. The assessment further reveals that the self-consumption of Smart Hubs can be considerable, often with negligible export to the grid, when using an energy management system with resources of load shifting and hydrogen storage. The proposed framework is applicable to variants of the typical Smart Hub, highlighting its suitability as a decision-support tool in the sustainable design of Smart Hubs.

In this talk, Hindolo will describe the key features of this framework, with emphasis on its uncertainty characterisation aspects and wider role in the journey to global Net Zero.

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Hindolo George-Williams is a Lecturer in Energy Engineering at the Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, De Montfort University UK. He holds a dual PhD in Engineering from the Institute for Risk and Uncertainty, University of Liverpool and Nuclear Engineering from the College of Nuclear Science, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. Previously, he was a Power Systems Research Engineer in the Electrical Power Group, Newcastle University from where he joined Oxford University’s Energy and Power Group as a Postdoctoral Researcher in Energy Systems. At Newcastle, Hindolo worked on the UK’s first large-scale solar-powered electric vehicle charging demonstrator project funded by Innovate UK. His research interests include: reliability and resilience of power systems, low-cost smart grids in low-income countries, smart electric vehicle charging, power systems stochastic optimization.

RIO TALKS - September 2021

Tuesday 14th September

Prof. Stephen Munch: Nonlinear dynamics for ecosystem forecasting and management

Ecosystems are composed of hundreds to thousands of species whose physiology and interactions are mediated by habitat structure, fluctuating environments, and individual trait distributions. We rarely have data on all of the relevant state variables and generally lack fundamental theories or first principles that can be used to constrain predictions of future states or inform management actions. As a consequence, there is a clear need for data-driven approaches for sparsely observed systems. Nonlinear forecasting based on time-delay embedding offers one possible solution. Here I will describe delay embedding and some recent developments extending these tools to non-stationary systems. I will close with a re-evaluation of the frequency of chaos in natural populations.

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Stephan Munch is an Adjunct Professor with the University of California in the departments of Applied Mathematics and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, Bayesian data analysis, and ecosystem management.

RIO TALKS - August 2021

Wednesday 25th August

Charles Manski: Patient Care under Uncertainty

This talk summarises aspects of the speaker's program of research recently exposited in the book Patient Care under Uncertainty (Princeton University Press, 2019). The focus is evidence-based medical treatment choice when clinicians have only limited ability to predict patients' future illness and treatment response. To deal with this uncertainty, partial identification analysis can be applied to make credible predictions for patient outcomes. This analysis motivates the use of decision criteria with well understood properties. Particular attention is given to the minimax-regret criteria, which specifies a decision rule as uniformly close to the optimal decision rule as possible given the underlying uncertainty of patient outcomes.

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Charles Manski has been Board of Trustees Professor in Economics at Northwestern University since 1997. He previously was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1983-98), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1979-83), and Carnegie Mellon University (1973-80). He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in economics from M. I. T. in 1970 and 1973. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’ (2006) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2018). Manski=s research spans econometrics, judgment and decision, and analysis of public policy. He is author of Patient Care under Uncertainty (Princeton, 2019), Public Policy in an Uncertain World (Harvard 2013), Identification for Prediction and Decision (Harvard 2007), Social Choice with Partial Knowledge of Treatment Response (Princeton 2005), Partial Identification of Probability Distributions (Springer, 2003), Identification Problems in the Social Sciences (Harvard 1995), and Analog Estimation Methods in Econometrics (Chapman & Hall, 1988), and co-author of College Choice in America (Harvard 1983). He has served as Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (1988-91), Chair of the Board of Overseers of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1994-98), and Chair of the National Research Council Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs (1998-2001). Editorial service includes terms as editor of the Journal of Human Resources (1991-94), co-editor of the Econometric Society Monograph Series (1983-88), member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Review of Economics (2007-13), and member of the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (2010-18). Manski is an elected Member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Econometric Society, the American Statistical Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Distinguished Fellow of the American Economic Association, and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy

Tuesday 17th August

Dr Mark Bankhead: Digital Twins: A digital future for nuclear?

Digital transformation, and digital twin technology in particular, is an exciting topic within the nuclear industry. Digital Twins have the potential to address many of the challenges that impact on nuclear’ s cost effectiveness including siloed working, loss of fidelity of information during handover and a digitally aware culture that embraces the benefits of digital and drives change across business practices. In this talk we will explore some of the motivations behind digital transformation. We will look at some of the challenges and solutions we have delivered under the BEIS funded nuclear innovation programme – Project FAITH. We will share the successes and an appreciation of the gaps.

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Dr Mark Bankhead is a scientist with over 19-years of experience working in the nuclear industry. My work involves the development of complex mathematical models of chemical behaviour. I’m a technical lead with experience of leading several multi-disciplinary research projects. This ranges from modelling the behaviour of atoms, through to understanding the impact of chemistry on process behaviour. Since 2006 I’ve led projects developing of scientific computing for NNL and this for example has led me to play an active in digital for Nuclear Industry Association and the UK’s Nuclear Innovation Programme.

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).

Friday 18th 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.