I am a Professor at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI) of Kyoto University in Japan. I came to know about the University of Iceland through Prof. Jónas Elíasson who visited DPRI on several occasions as a visiting Professor. Last year Prof. Elíasson and his colleagues invited me to give a series of talks at the University of Iceland and the Earthquake Engineering Research Center, and to discuss research collaboration. The fellowship from the Watanabe Trust Fund has made this visit possible.
During my visit to Iceland I had the opportunity to meet with faculty at the Environmental and Civil Engineering Department at University of Iceland in Reykjevik where I gave two talks. The first talk was a seminar about the International Society for Integrated Disaster Risk Management (IDRiM Society) and its activities. The IDRiM Society is an academic society with members from more than 20 countries. The IDRiM Society’s Secretariat is managed by members of DPRI at Kyoto University. The second talk was a lecture for faculty and students. In the talk, I introduced my research in the area of risk management of chemical accidents triggered by and concurrent with natural disasters. These join natural and technological disasters are known as “Natechs”. Overall, there was a lot of interest in the topic, and in particular the development of methods and tools for more comprehensive risk assessment and management of complex disasters in a territory.
The third talk and visit was at the Earthquake Engineering Research Centre (EERC) in Selfoss. During the talk I explained the mission, history and main research areas at DPRI, and presented a short film about the Institute. The talk was followed by discussion and identification of possible areas of mutual research interest and collaboration.
Overall the talks were well attended, and there was a lot of interest in establishing collaboration with DPRI in various topics related disaster risk prevention. Mr. Tatsukuni Uchida, Consul from the Japanese Embassy in Iceland attended and gave presentations at all three events. Furthermore, Her Excellency Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Mitsuko Shino also attended the meeting and presentations at the EERC in Selfoss.
Other Activities and outcomes:
I met with Dr. Kristín Ingólfsdóttir, Rector, and Dr. Fridrika Hardardottir, Director of the International Office, at the University of Iceland, to discuss possible mechanisms for student exchange and the establishment of a joint academic program. I am currently following up with colleagues at DPRI to see the feasibility of such a program in Civil and Environmental Engineering. The possibility of a joint seminar in Japan or Iceland in 2015 could be a first step in moving things forward.
An important outcome of my visit to Iceland, is the proposal by Prof. Gudrun Petursdottir and Prof. Gudrun Gísladóttir at the Institute for Sustainability Studies to host the IDRiM Conference at the University of Iceland in 2016. The offer has been informally announced to the Board of Director of the IDRiM Society. Prof. Gudrun Petursdottir is identifying funding in order to attend the IDRiM 2014 Conference which will be held at Western University in London (ON), Canada, from 30 Oct- 1 Nov in order to make an official offer. I would like to point out that the Japanese Embassy is very interested that the IDRiM Conference could be held in Iceland in 2016 for the celebration of the 60-year Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Iceland. Mr. Tatsukuni Uchida said they would make it a priority if the IDRiM Society decided to host the conference in Iceland on this date. If the IDRiM Conference cannot be moved to Iceland in 2016, a joint DPRI-University of Iceland seminar in Reykjavik would be an option.
Finally, several students have contacted me to see the possibility of pursuing post-doctoral and graduate studies at DPRI. Dr. Ásthildur Eva Bernharðsdóttir, from the EERC, will apply to the JSPS Fellowships Program for Overseas Researchers for 2015 to come to DPRI.
In addition to the academic program, I had the opportunity to meet informally with several faculty during my short stay in Reykjavik. I also enjoyed tasting some of the delicious food, and a visit to some important natural and historical sites around the Golden Circle on my last day in Iceland including a relaxing visit to the Blue Lagoon spa before my departure.
Photo 1: Meeting at the Earthquake Engineering Research Center at Selfoss with the participation of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Mrs. Mitsuko Shino and the Counsellor, Mr. Tatsukuni Uchida from the Embassy of Japan in Iceland.
Photo 2: Taken during a reception organized for Prof. Cruz at the School of Engineering at University of Iceland on 5 September 2014.