UiS professor to head the world's biggest risk organisation

Professor Terje Aven of the University of Stavanger has been chosen to head the Society for Risk Analysis, the world's largest and most respected organisation in the field of risk.

Terje Aven. Terje Aven, Ph.D., is a professor of risk assessment and risk management at the University of Stavanger.

In December, Terje Aven will take over as President of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), the world's biggest and most respected organisation in the field of risk.

SRA covers the areas of risk assessment, risk characterisation, risk communication, risk perception and risk management, and the organisation has several thousand members all over the world. Its headquarters and most of its members are in the USA.

Passionate about the field of risk

Terje Aven's vision is for the field of risk to be fully recognised as a discipline in itself, and to become a subject in schools and universities around the world. He says that we have come a long way in Norway, with specific professorships and studies at university level in risk, but the situation is different in other countries, including the USA.

"Risk is not available as a subject in itself, but is combined with other subjects, such as engineering, sociology and psychology. This we have to do something about ", says Aven.

He emphasises that boosting the field of risk is important in terms of recruiting young talents, developing the field and obtaining financial funding for development projects. "The breakthrough will come, but it may take some time. We must also develop the field as a science", he says.

Aven is an active and influential researcher in the field of risk. His research is read by many people, and his articles are among the most downloaded in numerous journals. He also uses videos to get across the results of his research.

Aven's thoughts on risk spread quickly. He examines our fundamental understanding of risk, how we can and should approach risk, and how we need to communicate and inform people about risk in order to take the right decisions.

"In order to understand risk, we must start to think more in terms of knowledge, the strength  of this knowledge, and the fact that we can be surprised by this knowledge. Knowledge is someone's justified beliefs; they can turn out to be wrong", he says.

Promoting UiS in the USA

Aven is a professor in the Department of Industrial Economics, Risk Management and Planning at UiS, where he teaches and supervises students in the field of risk.  He has been an active member of SRA for many years, and previously served as a council member for three years.

"I have made many trips to the USA during these years. Several of my UiS colleagues and PhD students also joined me to have presentations, which has garnered a lot of attention for UiS."

Organising the conference

Aven will take over as President of SRA in December – now he is President-Elect and will be in charge of planning the big SRA conference in Arlington, Virginia, USA in December.

He is also Chairman of the European Safety and Reliability Association (ESRA), a position he has held for more than two years. Prior to that, he was Vice-Chairman for four years. ESRA is the biggest association within the fields of safety and risk in Europe, and also has members from many non-European countries.

"ESRA has a more technical profile than SRA, but specialists with a background in social science also participate in ESRA", he explains.

Text: Karoline Reilstad