What is Risk and Uncertainty?

Deepwater Horizon Offshore Drilling Platform on Fire

Deepwater Horizon Offshore Drilling Platform on Fire. Image source US Coast Guard – 100421-G-XXXXL.

Risk is the potential of experiencing a loss when a system does not operate as expected due to the occurrence of uncertain, difficult-to-predict, events. Problems of risk and uncertainty are ubiquitous. They occur for example in (1) the modelling and design of engineering systems and structures; (2) the impact of human activity on the natural environment, ecosystems, civil infrastructure and society; (3) financial transactions, markets and trading of currencies, stocks and shares etc. Risk assessment requires the quantification of not only the direct cost of system failure but also the accompanying multi-faceted failure consequences that cascade across the boundaries of very different disciplines and sectors of society. This is illustrated by disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill, Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima nuclear incident and the global financial crisis, where in each case failure in technical and management systems caused an avalanche of inter-related effects in environmental, financial, and social systems.

The CDT addresses industrial and societal needs, at the local and global scales, which arise from the rapidly growing complexity of systems of various kinds, their environment and associated risks and uncertainties.

The Institute for Risk and Uncertainty

The EPSRRisk_coverC and ESRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantification and Management of Risk & Uncertainty in Complex Systems & Environments (CDT) is based within the Institute for Risk and Uncertainty at the University of Liverpool.

The University’s Institute for Risk and Uncertainty is dedicated to helping people and organisations create a safer world. It offers cutting-edge expertise and methodologies with which to quantify, mitigate and manage risk and uncertainty in many fields. The multidisciplinary research team includes experts from architecture, engineering, environmental sciences, financial and actuarial mathematics, computer science, electrical engineering & electronics, economics and finance, social sciences and psychology.