SRA 2013 President's Message from George Gray

George Gray discusses SRA's role as "the voice of risk analysis" around the world, comments on recent accomplishments and current challenges, and charts the course ahead of us. 

President Gray's Message:

Members of the SRA Council, including myself, recently received a note from a PhD student at the University of Dundee, Scotland, wanting to confirm the SRA definition of “risk.”[1] The SRA risk glossary, first posted on our website ten years ago, was an effort to help the broader world understand the work we do. The fact that this resource is relied upon is just a small reminder of the importance and impact of SRA. We are the voice of risk analysis to the public and our profession. The run-up to the Annual Meeting is a great time to reflect on the way SRA makes, and serves, a diverse community of members and how we can continue to strengthen the Society.

Our society is a wide-ranging group from different disciplines, sectors and countries united by the belief that careful thought, analysis and communication can help advance the decisions we make as individuals and as societies. Each research project, each application of risk analytic tools, is a small advance. It is when we come together as an organization, however, whether in our journals, committees, local chapters or annual meetings, that we really move the field forward.

Our flagship journal Risk Analysis is the glue that binds us together. Along with regional publications, the journal facilitates the sharing of new research and applications, broadening knowledge and advancing our disciplines. This year we welcomed a new Editor-in-Chief, Tony Cox. Tony’s goal is to continue the journal’s upward trajectory, maintaining its status as the key journal in the field and the first choice for the best new research. Working with Tony is the journal’s managing editor Karen Lowrie. Karen provides continuity from the tenure of Michael Greenberg as Editor-in-Chief. Michael and Karen helped increase the journal’s size, reach and impact factor. One of our recent efforts to highlight the work in Risk Analysis is the development of news releases to call attention to papers in the journal, broadening awareness of our members and their work.

The annual meetings of our regional organizations and of SRA International are terrific opportunities to share, learn and network. The annual meeting of SRA-Europe brought together over 200 participants, and our SRA International Annual Meeting in San Francisco hosted almost 700 risk analysis practitioners and researchers, one of our biggest meetings to date. The SRA Secretariat, dozens of fellow SRA members, and President-Elect Ortwin Renn have worked hard to assure this year’s SRA International Annual Meeting in Baltimore will be a similar success. The program includes over 100 technical sessions, specialty group meetings and plenary sessions focused on the theme of “Risk Analysis for Better Policies.” We have also begun planning for the next SRA World Congress to continue our mission of developing the field of risk analysis and its applications worldwide.

As you know, the benefits of belonging to SRA are not limited to journals and meetings; they include support for special projects, professional development resources, interactions with specialist colleagues, and opportunities for students and young professionals.

Several new efforts were started or have come to fruition this year. Highest profile is the launch of our newly redesigned website. Tremendous effort by dedicated members of the communications committee resulted in a faster, more intuitive and better-looking website. The site features events, news, jobs (my postdoc just got her first assistant professor job through our site!) and special members-only content. We are exploring ways to increase the opportunities for Federal Advisory Committees to access our members and their expertise – both increasing the range of advice the government receives and giving our members more opportunities to engage in public service. This year SRA supported a special initiative in an important and developing area. Jo Anne Shatkin and Christine Hendren have organized an Advanced Workshop on Nanoscale Materials at the Annual Meeting focused on the use of “big data” to inform risk management decisions. These and many other efforts are designed to increase the value of SRA to its members and keep us at the forefront of new techniques and applications of risk analysis.

We continue to work to serve the SRA membership in traditional ways, too. Our specialty groups focus in on specific aspects of risk analysis through workshops, webinars and the always-popular receptions at the Annual Meeting. We work hard to support our student and young professional members with services like the career fair and mixer at the Annual Meeting and reduced fees for workshops and short courses (and now for the Annual Meeting, too!).

We are an intellectually vibrant and committed group, submitting roughly 500 abstracts for this year’s Annual Meeting, serving on committees, contributing to specialty sections and serving on the SRA Council. While submissions to Risk Analysis and participation in the annual meetings remains strong, our overall membership has not grown, so we are turning our attention to attracting new members. While the economy may provide a slight headwind with respect to this goal, this makes it even more important for us to be engaging with potential new members. We recognize the need to make the benefits of membership more concrete and to continuously strive to increase the value the society provides to members. Our cost of membership (including a subscription to Risk Analysis), at just over $100 USD, makes joining very affordable. More members will sustain the health of the society, bring in new ideas, push the reach of risk analysis, and continue to make it the place that practitioners and researchers from around the world look to as the leading voice of risk analysis. I urge you to recruit your colleagues to join us.

George Gray, SRA President

[1] Our definition: "the potential for realization of unwanted, adverse consequences to human life, health, property, or the environment; estimation of risk is usually based on the expected value of the conditional probability of the event occurring times the consequence of the event given that it has occurred.”