Security, risk and resilient places

Humanity faces massive environmental challenges in the 21st century, including climate change, population growth and scarcity of resources.

The emerging risks which these present demand policy responses, technologies, physical infrastructure and governance arrangements, which are sustainable, scientifically robust, and democratic. This programme brought a variety of disciplinary approaches to bear on these shared problems, focusing on three key themes:

Understanding and improving the use of science in policy-making

Work here focused on scrutinising the use of models and other sources of scientific knowledge in governing threats to environmental and public health.

The main contribution has been to develop a new typology of governance regimes, showing how each regime type benefits from, and in turn helps to justify, particular forms of scientific knowledge. This has implications for how we build models, how we scrutinise them, and how policy-makers can and should use them.

Public understanding and engagement with sustainability issues

This work focused on individuals' understandings and beliefs in relation to sustainability and risk issues. Much of it dealt with the impacts upon individuals and communities, and acceptability to people, of environmental and technological risk within everyday life. 

A related strand explored people's perceptions about agency and responsibility in relation to environmental crises and links to fostering more sustainable behaviour.

The design and management of engineering systems

This final theme focused on the sustainable design and management of infrastructure systems and public buildings, taking a socio-technical approach. 

The idea is that the way that systems work – or fail to work – is shaped by a mixture of technical, physical, governance, organisational and behavioural factors. The research ranged from the construction of real-time decision support models, to psychological studies of crisis management in water supply systems.

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