Statistical Review of Some Aspects of the 2016 UK National Risk Assessment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Mathematics


The UK National Risk Assessment (NRA) is a classified biennial report which provides an assessment of the risks of civil emergencies in the UK over the next five years. The NRA is compiled by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) of the Cabinet Office, in conjunction with the Government Office for Science (GO-Science). The NRA is used by emergency planners and responders to assess and meet their obligations under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004). As such, it is a critical tool for protecting people and economic prosperity in the UK.

This Internship proposal is to place Jonathan Rougier, Professor of Statistical Science at the University of Bristol, with the CCS and GO-Science for the period Oct 2016 through Jan 2017. Many of the major risks identified by the NRA arise from natural hazards, such as floods, storms, long hot and cold spells, droughts, and volcanic eruptions. Prof Rougier is an expert on uncertainty and risk assessment for natural hazards, and was the lead editor of Risk and Uncertainty Assessment for Natural hazards (CUP, 2013, 588 pages), to which he also contributed three chapters.

While based at the CCS, Prof Rougier will review the risk assessment for for some of the natural hazards in the 2016 NRA, which is due out in August. Additionally, he will consider wider issues in the use of Reasonable Worst Case as a framework for national-scale risk assessment, and explore opportunities for incremental improvements in current practice. Finally, he will be on-hand to offer day-to-day advice on uncertainty and risk assessment across the full range of risks considered in the NRA.

Prof Rougier will distribute his findings internally through the restricted website ResilienceDirect, and also in articles published on the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute blog, which currently has about 6,000 readers a month. It is hoped that this Internship will leave a legacy of improved practice in uncertainty and risk assessment at the CCS and GO-Science, and pave the way for a closer relationship between these two organisations and the University of Bristol.


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Rougier J (2018) The global magnitude-frequency relationship for large explosive volcanic eruptions in Earth and Planetary Science Letters

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Rougier J (2019) Confidence in risk assessments in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society)

Description 1. A review of those natural hazards where the risk assessment has changed since 2014. This acquired a lower priority in the light of other issues that came to light. 2. An assessment of RWC as an approach to national-scale risk assessment. Was able to clarify aspects of this approach, which will be useful in the 2018 NRA. 3. Provision of day-to-day advice on uncertainty and risk assessment. The National Risks team in CCS handles many topics involving uncertainty and risk assessment, my specialism, and I was also able to help by providing a broader science perspective.
Exploitation Route No 'findings' in this internship. But a better understanding by both myself and the staff of the CCS of the complexity of the interface between science and policy.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

Description Our project has undoubtedly influenced the way that the 2018 National Risk Assessment is being implemented. There are lots of opportunities for further impact, both in the development of the National Risk Assessment as a more general resource for risk assessment, and in the use of UK science to inform policy on national risk and national security. I feel we have only scratched the surface of the latter topic but, for obvious reasons, changes must be carefully managed. This secondment and the additional activities that have followed it has been selected as a 2021 REF Impact Case Study for the School of Maths, U of Bristol.
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy