Message from the SRA-ANZ President
There’s a fable that is said to have originated from the Indian subcontinent about some blind men and an elephant. There are many versions of the story, but the gist is pretty much the same. A group of men—blind from birth—heard that something called an ‘elephant’ had arrived in their town. Curious to know what an elephant was, they all reached out to touch it. One man reached out and happened to touch the trunk, and concluded that an elephant was some sort of snake. Another reached out and happened to touch one of the elephant’s legs, and concluded that it was some sort of tree. And finally, the last one reached out and happened to grasp the elephant’s tail, and concluded that an elephant was some kind of whip. A big argument ensued as to what an elephant actually was, with each of the men being partly right about its characteristics but also simultaneously completely wrong about its true nature.
Risk analysis has flourished into a rich and diverse field, with analytical approaches increasingly growing in sophistication. As a community, we certainly have much to celebrate in terms of pushing the boundaries of the analysis and management of different types of risk. The strength of the field, however, is the hallmark of its weakness: while we have explored the vast diversity of risk, we have also contributed to its fragmentation.
Have we become the blind men who have been independently trying to understand what an elephant is? Have we developed strong convictions about what we know about particular risks, but failed to see the big picture? As we continue to deepen our understanding of different risks, are we depriving ourselves of the opportunity to truly grasp its nature?
In order to push the boundaries of risk analysis, we need to bring our different perspectives and areas of expertise together. This is the only way for us to gain important insights into the complex nature of risk, and to appreciate how our work builds on and enriches each other’s approaches.
It is in this spirit that SRA-ANZ is aiming to expand its membership base to include other areas of risk analysis that have not been traditionally well-represented in the Society. It is likewise in this spirit that this year’s conference on Risk Prisms at the University of Sydney Business School brings together multidisciplinary panels aimed at analysing the same risk from different perspectives (early bird registration is closing soon!).
We need to break down our disciplinary silos. We need to talk about the elephant in the room.
Sandra Seno-Alday, SRA-ANZ President