Date:  Oct. 18, 2011




U.S. Science Academy and Global Reinsurance Broker Spark

Collaborations to Improve Management of Extreme Events


WASHINGTON and LONDON — On the heels of a summit on managing extreme events held last month in Washington, D.C., leaders of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Willis Research Network, part of Willis Group Holdings, a global insurance and reinsurance broker headquartered in the U.K., pledged to continue exploring activities aimed at increasing the physical and financial resilience of populations to extreme events.


Although 2011 has been a notable year for the high human and financial costs of disasters in many parts of the world, plans to hold the summit began late last year when leaders of the National Academy of Sciences and Willis recognized that governments, businesses, universities, and societies need to work together to better anticipate and cope with extreme events.


In September, more than 100 renowned researchers, federal agency heads, emergency-management officials, insurance and reinsurance leaders, and other experts from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors gathered in Washington for three days to discuss how to better prepare for and recover from natural disasters, terrorist attacks, financial system breakdowns, energy and food shortages, and other extreme events, including those that may be triggered by climate change.


"In this age of globalization and interdependence of markets, it has become clear that no one sector of society is able on its own to best anticipate and respond to extreme events," said Ralph J. Cicerone, president, National Academy of Sciences.  "We need to leverage our resources and work collaboratively, which is why we are pleased to partner with Willis Research Network in an effort to bring together different sectors to share knowledge and find common ground, with the overall goal of improving our understanding of extreme events and effectiveness in confronting them."


"Managing extreme financial, environmental, and security risks lies at the heart of ensuring the resilience of our institutions, markets, and society," said Rowan Douglas, CEO, Global Analytics, Willis Re, and chairman, Willis Research Network.  "Resilience provides the foundation for confidence, investment, and sustainable growth.  These common challenges unify public, private, and academic sectors with a unique opportunity for shared alignment and collaboration."


"We all rely upon science, analysis, and modeling to overcome these challenges and we are privileged to work with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to bring leaders of science, government, reinsurance, and other sectors together, combining expertise and resources in a practical way," Douglas added.  "Meanwhile, society relies upon the unifying concept of insurance, underpinned by science, to manage and share the cost of extreme events at local and global scales via public and private mechanisms; it is the ultimate community product."


Participants at the September summit identified and discussed six primary elements of managing extreme events:


In response to the summit, some participants are expected to form work groups that will forward concepts for further investigation in order to develop activities that could increase resilience to extreme events.


Cicerone and Douglas led the summit of leaders, including the following speakers:


                        John P. Holdren, assistant to President Obama for Science and Technology, and director, White 
                        House Office of Science and Technology Policy

                        Jane Lubchenco, undersecretary for oceans and commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce, and 
                        administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

                        Marcia K. McNutt, director, U.S. Geological Survey

                        W. Craig Fugate, administrator, U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency

                        Admiral Thad W. Allen, U.S. Coast Guard (retired), and senior fellow, Rand Corp.                  
                        Jack Dangermond, founder and president, Environmental Systems Research Institute

                        Trevor Maynard, head of exposure management and reinsurance, Lloyd's

                        Rodolfo Wehrhahn, senior insurance specialist, International Monetary Fund

                        Louis Gritzo, vice president of research, FM Global

                        Andrew Hitchcox, chief risk officer, RJ Kiln Group

Jamie France, loss mitigation manager, State Farm Insurance

Stephen Weinstein, general counsel, RennaissanceRe

                        Ken Senser, senior vice president, Global Security, Aviation, and Travel, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

                        Daniel Gerstein, deputy undersecretary, Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of 
                        Homeland Security

                        Gus Felix, head of operational risk, Citigroup

                        Frédéric Sgard, Global Science Forum, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

                        Greg Holland, National Center for Atmospheric Research

                        Herman "Dutch" B. Leonard, George F. Baker Jr. Professor of Public Management, Harvard
                        Kennedy School

                        Kerry A. Emanuel, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts Institute 
                        of Technology

                        M. Granger Morgan, Lord Chair Professor of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

                        Major General William Grisoli, Deputy Commanding General for Civil and Emergency  
                        Operations,United States Army Corps of Engineers


The summit was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, Willis Research Network, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Environmental Systems Research Institute.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the public good.  An Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 at the height of the Civil War, calls upon the NAS to provide independent advice to the government on matters related to science and technology.  Additional information can be found at and

The Willis Research Network (WRN), part of Willis Group Holdings, is the world's largest collaboration between science and the finance and insurance sectors.  Through its partnerships with more than 50 of the world's leading universities and research institutions in North America, Asia Pacific, Europe and Latin America, the WRN delivers leading edge solutions to corporate sustainability and financial resilience.  The scientific research it supports is steered and translated via Willis's analytics and broking teams to support its core business of risk identification, evaluation, management, and transfer. Through the WRN, Willis participates in a number of global public-private partnerships dedicated to informing public policy decisions and devising shared solutions that respond to the mounting challenges posed by extreme events.  Additional information can be found at


Media Contacts: 

William Kearney, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Media Relations

Office of News and Public Information

U.S. National Academy of Sciences

202-334-2138; e-mail


Tricia Holly Davis, Director of Communications,

Willis Global

+44 2031248633; e-mail


# # #