The following blog article was written by Lucie Bland, SRA-ANZ Travel Scholarship co-winner for 2015
The 2015 World Congress on Risk – the fourth in the series of World Congresses organized by the SRA and its partner organizations – was held from the 19th of July to the 24th of July in the Biopolis of Singapore. The overall theme of the 2015 World Congress was risk analysis for sustainable innovation, highlighting sessions that identified how risk analysis can assist private and public policy makers facing complex and uncertain challenges. Special emphasis was placed on the role of risk analysis as a tool for policy making, as well as trade-offs in situation of limited resources and extreme challenges. The Congress also gave Singapore an opportunity to display its excellent track records in risk management, and the last day was dedicated to a Singapore-style risk management workshop.
The Congress was attended by 300 risk researchers and practitioners from a range of backgrounds, a diversity reflected in the 51 sessions of plenaries, talks and posters. Key sessions focused on the risks posed by occupational hazards, nanotechnology, infrastructure and Ebola disease, whilst a few sessions transcended single topics by focusing on risk perception and communication. Having never attended a congress by SRA in the past, it was a great opportunity to learn about different disciplines, broaden my research horizons, and find out about the most recent methods in the field. Yet at times I felt it was difficult to bridge disciplinary divides, especially when speakers launched hastily into complex concepts with cluttered slides – a feeling shared among many of the early-career researchers I met at the Congress.
The Congress was reasonably well-attended by early-career researchers, thanks to generous grants by the SRA and its partners organisations (I myself have to thank SRA and SRA-ANZ for providing me with funds to attend the Congress). However, I believe SRA could engage further with the upcoming generation, and organise special sessions and mixers for early-career scientists, as is the case in many disciplines. These special events provide excellent opportunities for long-term collaboration, building support networks, and fostering multi-disciplinary research. Whilst the SRA has not posted any statistics on career stage and gender representation, the Congress did not strike me as particularly well-balanced (maybe a cognitive bias of my own!).
The SRA-ANZ hosted its annual conference during the Congress with a session dedicated to “Managing trans-boundary risk in the Asia-Pacific region”, with four talks presented by current or former committee members. Naomi Cogger presented a talk on managing trans-boundary disease in a world of freer trade, followed by a talk by Sandra Seno-Alday on agricultural trade a regional food security. The last two talks focused on stakeholder engagement in environmental governance by Catherine Wong, and climate and food security by Tom Beer. Members of SRA-ANZ then headed off to the society dinner in Holland Village – one of the oldest areas in Singapore, well-known for its Dutch windmill and excellent restaurants.
Another personal highlight of the Congress was the course on Ecological Risk Analysis organised by SETAC and delivered by Wayne Landis and Charles Menzie. I valued the opportunity to interact closely with the course leaders and participants, and engaged in very lively discussions. Course leaders and participants also provided feedback on my poster, “Predicting the risk of ecosystem collapse with ecosystem viability analysis”. Overall, I believe I made the most out of the Congress from small-group interactions, networking, and workshops, so I am more inclined to attend regional SRA meetings in the future.