Reflecting on risk & uncertainty

2016 Theo Murphy High Flyer Think Tank

Hugh Possingham holds up a finished report from the 2016 Theo Murphy High Flyer Think Tank on living in a risky world.

Hugh Possingham holds up a finished report from the 2016 Theo Murphy High Flyer Think Tank on living in a risky world.

A critical aspect of environmental decision making involves dealing with risk and uncertainty, and much of CEED’s research revolves around incorporating these elements into decision frameworks. Given this, it’s not surprising that CEED researchers played a leading role in the 2016 Theo Murphy High Flyer Think Tank.

Each year the Australian Academy of Science hosts the Theo Murphy High Flyer Think Tank. It brings together a varied group of early- and mid-career researchers from a wide range of disciplines – rising high flyers in their respective disciplines – to focus on an emerging area of challenge and get them to solve a series of related problems. The 2016 event asked think tankers to formulate an interdisciplinary approach to ‘living in a risky world’.

CEED’s Director (at the time), Hugh Possingham, convened the event while CEED members Gwen Iacona, Alienor Chauvenet, Jonathan Rhodes and Lucie Bland took part as think tankers, joining around 60 other participants coming from a range of disciplines (from physicists to social science). The assembled thinkers were set four challenges to explore: (1) risk in international security, (2) risk and resource allocation for the environment, (3) antimicrobial resistance in a connected world, and (4) uncertainty, ignorance and partial knowledge.

The CEED participants contributed primarily to the problem of risk and resource allocation for the environment. This group was composed of experts in environmental sciences, social sciences, economics, law, and history. Such a diversity of disciplines created a rich and challenging discussion. Invited experts and members of the Academy were also available for guidance and discussion (including CEED’s Mark Burgman). Each group came up with 2-3 recommendations associated with their topic, focusing on what major risks and uncertainties we should be aware of, and what potential solutions might exist.

“The format challenged us to work as a group and to quickly and clearly identify (and articulate) the most important points for policy makers,” says CEED’s Gwen Iacona. “There was deep discussion, many interesting chats and a lot of hard work. However, by the end of the workshop I think it’s fair to say we also had a lot of fun.”

2. DPoint #100 high res pdf (for stories)_Page_15_Image_0003The findings of each group were released earlier this year and are now available to government, stakeholders and the public at https://www.science.org.au/files/userfiles/events/documents/think-tank-risk-recommendations.pdf

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