Nerve centre will bring together environmental forecasters

The Thunderbirds had Tracy Island while Batman lurked in his Bat Cave watching over Gotham City - the fact is all good protection agencies need a nerve centre from where they can track potential problems and help co-ordinate the response.

And what the collaborative Centre of Excellence in Understanding and Managing Natural and Environmental Risk may lack in snappy titles, it hopes to make up for in hard science.

Based at Cranfield University, the centre will bring together environmental academics to work closely with Defra to assess possible risks from flooding, animal and plant diseases and climate change.

The centre’s activities will be funded by Defra, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Professor Robert Watson, chief scientific adviser for Defra said: “Scientific information plays a vital role in finding solutions to the challenges of climate change, natural disasters, and animal diseases.

“This new centre will be at the forefront of finding ways to assess the risks of issues like flooding and animal and plant diseases and will improve Defra’s ability to compare different types of risk and their impacts.

“I am delighted to be working with Professor Pollard and Cranfield University on this exciting project. The centre will be a major asset not only to Defra but to the research councils and other government departments, and will ensure that state-of-the-art risk knowledge is incorporated in decision-making.”

Professor Simon Pollard, head of sustainable systems at Cranfield will lead the work of the centre.

“Our focus will be in stimulating the good practice in risk management already within Defra, and assisting Defra colleagues with the strategic appraisal of risks across a very wide risk portfolio,” he said.

“The centre’s role will be to develop the tools and techniques to do this, and to provide leading-edge thinking on the sound prioritisation of environmental risks.”

Sam Bond

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