Terje Aven, SRA Member, Founds New Specialty Group

Aven tackles a broad spectrum of risks, from engineering to terrorism and finance – and now has founded one of SRA’s newest specialty groups, Foundational Issues in Risk Analysis.

Terje Aven serves as Professor of Risk Analysis and Risk Management at the University of Stavanger in Norway, where he has led the risk group since 1987 and teaches courses related to reliability, risk and safety.

His most remarkable characteristic is difficult to pin down. Is it that he followed a technical career focused on risks in the petroleum industry with an academic one as a risk specialist, published 170 peer-reviewed scientific papers – or played soccer most Saturdays for the past 25 years?

Aven is also the author of 14 books on risk-related topics, 9 of them in English and the rest in Norwegian. Recently elected an SRA Councilor, he has been rated one of the most active researchers in Norway for the period 2006-2012. He has been a member of SRA since 2005 and an active contributor to its journal Risk Analysis. His Ph.D. is from the University of Oslo.

In founding the new specialty group, Aven argued that in spite of the maturity of practice in the field of risk analysis, the field still struggles with establishing a solid foundation.

“We need to revitalize the focus and enthusiasm for fundamental issues in the risk field,” he continued. “We need a forum where we can discuss questions like, what is the meaning of the concept of risk? How should we describe and characterize risk and uncertainties reflecting the knowledge available? How should we approach model uncertainties in a risk analysis context? How should we confront deep uncertainties? And how should we deal with surprising events (black swans)?”

Aven is convinced that the new speciality group can be such a forum and will be an important contribution to the further development of the risk field. 

According to Ortwin Renn, Professor at the University of Stuttgart and SRA President-Elect, Aven has been “a pioneer in forging interdisciplinary links between safety engineering and conceptual risk analysis, including the social science perspective.”

At Baltimore’s SRA Annual Meeting 2013, the new group is sponsoring a three-part Symposium on Foundational Issues in Risk Analysis on Monday, December 9, from 1:30 to 5 p.m (Parts I and II) and on Wednesday, December 11, from 1:30 to 3 (Part III).

“After the conference,” Aven says, “I will go to Miami with my PhD students and colleagues and play golf,” one of his favorite forms of recreation. While Aven confesses that “working is a lifestyle” and a hobby in itself, he also enjoys his three grandchildren and keeping up with his Saturday soccer schedule.

Susanna Priest, SRA News Editor