In this issue of the journal we publish papers on climate change, uncertainty and the benefits of flood warning. In different ways, each of these points towards a particular challenge that engineers and scientists face as we manage flood risk in an ever-changing world. We now know that nonstructural flood risk management measures are likely to be just as important as structural measures in the future. As has already been established, timely flood warnings open up a range of opportunities for mitigating the damage caused by flooding through planned active interventions. Yet flood forecasting will only lead to effective mitigation actions if stakeholders become engaged in risk reduction strategies. This is a particularly difficult challenge when engaging the public.

Risk is not generally perceived by the public in the same way that it is perceived in scientific circles. Many members of the public find risk difficult to conceptualise, failing to account for the separate strands of probability and consequence. Moreover, risk is perceived differently in different societies and cultures. In some, risk is not important because local culture treats the future as inevitable. In others, society demands certainty about the future, so the need to notionally reduce risk to zero becomes very pressing. The traditional structure and language used by engineers and scientists to map and manage risk do not work well in the wider community context. Here the language of social scientists becomes more important.

If nonstructural measures are to realise their full potential, then understanding what drives emotion, trust and perception must become an important skill for flood risk management professionals. Scientists and engineers will have to embrace the world of the social scientist, psychologist and communication expert. Looking back over the last few years of this journal, there have been some notable contributions from these areas. Sadly, however, they are rather few and far between. Occasionally, we have had some promising ideas submitted as draft manuscripts, only to have them refused publication because of a lack of rigour. The field of flood risk management needs more contributions from outside of the narrow scientific and engineering disciplines that have traditionally supported structural management methods. This is vital if we are to effectively manage future flood risk against the global megatrends of population growth, climate change, carbon and resource depletion.

  • Prof. David Balmforth

  • Editor-in-Chief