SRA 2014 President's Message from Ortwin Renn

Ortwin Renn discusses his goals and accomplishments during his year as president, in particular in enhancing SRA's international "footprint." The 2015 Fourth World Congress on Risk in Singapore (which will open on July 19) contributes to this purpose. 

President Renn's Message:

Being elected as the first non-US president of SRA, I felt a strong obligation to use this position to enhance the international presence of SRA worldwide. My main objective has been to initiate a reform of the SRA bylaws reflecting this new orientation towards a global representation of SRA in all continents.

First, we are in the midst of changing the regulations for regional committees. On the one hand, we want to emphasize the strong ties with SRA International, making sure that all committees share the same basic foundations and principles that symbolize our approach to risk analysis; on the other hand, we want to give the regions all the room they need for their own development and self-governance. We are very close to an agreement right now and the new structure promises to be an excellent starting point for a true internationalization of our society. Our present governance is already a strong indicator for this change: We have diversified our Council during the last few years and it now reflects the multinational composition of our membership.

Second, we have tried to expand the Society in areas where we have not been present so far. I was delighted to meet risk specialists in Africa in 2013 and they want to start an initiative for establishing a regional committee on their own. We have consolidated our efforts to support regional committees in South America, Russia, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, Japan, China and Southeast Asia. We also welcomed new subregional committees within these large blocks that focus on regional challenges in risk analysis. There are still blank dots on the world map where we are not represented but I am confident that we will succeed in offering each interested individual a regional host for SRA in the near future.

Thirdly, we intensified our efforts to reach out to other societies with similar mandates and other risk professionals that are not yet members of our society. The most visible attempt for this outreach is the organization of the next World Congress in Singapore from July 19 to 23 (probably 24 for additional workshops). This is the fourth in a series of World Congresses that are systematic, important steps toward development of the field of risk analysis, related applications and a worldwide network of researchers, community stakeholders and decision makers. In partnership with other professional societies and organizations, the Society for Risk Analysis launched the first of this series in Brussels in 2003 and subsequently has held additional Congresses in Guadalajara, Mexico (2008) and Sydney, Australia (2012). The theme for the 2015 World Congress on Risk is: “Risk Analysis for Sustainable Innovation.” By selecting this theme, SRA hopes to focus attention on risks of importance to developing and developed countries in a rapidly changing world of technological options. Technological evolution, growing interconnectedness between technology, science, economics, and society, and the need for a global balance between resource conservation, economic prosperity, and social equity have elevated the importance of sustainable innovation. National development policies and commercial strategies not only depend on scientific advances in the natural, technical, and social sciences but also their sound implementation for efficient production, effective governance, and improved quality of life. Evidence-based risk assessment and risk management are central to the process of sustainable innovation as rapid development-driven social and environmental changes often exacerbate the physical and social burdens placed on the world’s most vulnerable nations and peoples. The World Congress will address risk management from the global to the community scale. The general theme of sustainable innovation will engage risk analysts on public health, environment, agriculture, engineering, economics, communication, law and policy, and beyond. I sincerely hope that all members of the Society will make an honest effort to attend the Congress. It is still possible to hand in abstracts for oral presentations or poster sessions (see SRA Events page for details). We have already lined up a list of prestigious and fascinating speakers who constitute highlights of the entire program.

In addition to the internationalization of SRA, one of my other priorities was to introduce more interactive and communicative elements to our annual meetings. I am aware that most participants will not be funded unless they present a paper or a poster. This implies that we need space for hundreds of presentations within a three-day period. In spite of this necessity to meet the demand for presentations, we experimented in Baltimore 2013 with more interactive formats such World Cafes, Round Tables, public Forums and sessions with few papers and multiple comments. In my view this experience with new formats was encouraging and I hope we will pursue this path further. We should also include other regional or topical meetings in this development towards more interactive and dialogue-oriented formats, including internet forums and chat rooms. The new internet presence of SRA that was completed in late 2013 provides vast opportunities for more direct interaction and I am sure over time these opportunities will be used more frequently. I would also encourage SRA to get more involved in open source teaching and lecturing programs. We have so many professionals from all fields of risk analysis that we should try to condense our competence into a set of animated internet-based contributions that could serve as educational material for many interested individuals and groups worldwide and, at the same time, as an advertisement for the type of services we are able to provide.

Speaking of services, the Council has initiated a whole set of new activities, among them the initiative to develop a revision of SRA’s terminology paper that urgently needed a revival. A group chaired by Terje Aven has already produced a first draft of the revisions. The Council also approved a new specialty group on risk foundations. The mandate here is to invest more conceptual thinking and deliberations into key issues and approaches to risk analysis, including new concepts of resilience, vulnerability, uncertainty and ambiguity, and risk governance.

One year of presidency moves along faster than I anticipated. I have to admit that I did not complete all the tasks that I had in mind when I was elected. So there is more to do. I know that the new President Pamela Williams will continue our efforts to promote SRA worldwide and to bring new benefits to all members. She also has her own agenda that she wants to pursue, just as I had my priorities when I started my term. The one-year presidency was a challenge and an adventure, but it was also a unique experience. This would not be possible without the professional assistance of the Burk group, most notably David Drupa, the support and help from all Council members, and last but not least the voluntary service of all the members. Your involvement has been a great inspiration to me. Thank you all for granting me this opportunity.

Ortwin Renn, SRA President