UK and Chinese scientists partner on earthquake research programme

5 May 2016

A research partnership between the UK and China will develop new expertise on increasing resilience to natural disasters.

Aftermath of earthquake in China

The programme is jointly supported by NERC and the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), which have invested £3 million including support from the Newton Fund, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), which is providing matched equivalent funding.

The Increasing Resilience to Natural Hazards in Earthquake Prone Regions of China programme will be delivered by UK and Chinese scientists as a strategic research partnership, facilitated by RCUK China. Projects include research into mapping risks using new data, enabling communities to plan for disasters and manage risks and investigating how science can best inform governance and policy around risk-reduction and managing disasters. The programme will develop new expertise on disaster resilience that can be shared in the UK and China.

NERC Chief Executive Duncan Wingham said:

The economic and social costs of earthquake-related disasters are immense, affecting the lives of millions globally. They impact on long-term health, housing and education and cause huge disruption to local and regional economies. We are pleased to be working with Chinese partners to deliver a programme of research with the potential to increase resilience to natural disasters around the world.

NSFC's Vice President Liu Congqiang said:

Natural hazards continue to cause enormous human and economic losses across the world. China in particular, has experienced some of the most devastating earthquakes in human history. This strategic partnership between NSFC and the Research Councils is supporting international, multidisciplinary research that will look to understand the hazard chain leading to disasters; improving our ability to build the level of resilience to hazards, as well as to enhance recovery.

Find below details of the awards:

  • Active tectonics and seismic hazard assessment in Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia Provinces, China
    UK principal investigator Professor Philip England, University of Oxford. Chinese principal investigator Professor Peizhen Zhang, China Earthquake Administration.

  • Community-based earthquake disaster risk reduction in China: integrating local and scientific knowledge for planning and preparedness
    UK principal investigator Professor Alex Densmore, Durham University. Split award with Newcastle University. Chinese principal investigator Professor Yida Fan, National Disaster Reduction Center of China.

  • Resilience to Earthquake-induced landslide risk in China (REACH)
    UK principal investigator Professor Tristam Hales, Cardiff University. Chinese principal investigator Professor Runqiu Huang, Chengdu University of Technology.

  • Pan-Participatory Assessment and Governance of Earthquake-induced multi-scale disaster risks in Ordos area (PAGER-O)
    UK principal investigator Professor John Young, Overseas Development Institute. Split award with University of Oxford. Chinese principal investigator Professor Guiwu Su, China Earthquake Administration.

  • Probability and Uncertainty in Risk Estimation and Communication
    UK principal investigator Professor Ian Main, University of Edinburgh. Split award with University College London. Chinese principal investigator Professor Chen Xiaofei, University of Science and Technology China.

  • Resilient Economy and Society by integrated Systems modelling (RESIST)
    UK principal Investigate Professor Dawei Han, University of Bristol. Chinese principal investigator Professor Ningsheng Chen, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS.

For full details and abstracts visit the Grants of the Web programme page - external link.

Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC media office
01793 411939
07710 147485


1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more. NERC is a non-departmental public body. We receive around £330 million of annual funding from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

2. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funder of research on the social and economic questions facing us today. It supports the development and training of the UK's future social scientists and also funds major studies that provide the infrastructure for research. ESRC-funded research informs policymakers and practitioners and helps make businesses, voluntary bodies and other organisations more effective. The ESRC also works collaboratively with six other UK research councils and Innovate UK to fund cross-disciplinary research and innovation addressing major societal challenges. The ESRC is an independent organisation, established by Royal Charter in 1965, and funded mainly by the Government.

3. The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) is widely respected as the most transparent research funder in China, it implements a rigorous and objective peer review system to support basic and frontier research, foster talented researchers and develop international cooperation. NSFC is RCUK's primary funding partner. RCUK's relationship with NSFC has developed significantly since the China office was set up. RCUK and NSFC signed a joint agreement in December 2013 to establish Biennial Strategic Meetings to optimise resources and explore more effective mechanisms for bilateral cooperation. This is the first of its kind for both the Research Councils and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), and has been a vital step in solidifying the partnership.

4. RCUK China was the first overseas team set up outside of Europe by the UK Research Councils. Since 2007, the team has built excellent relationships with all the major national funding agencies in China, pioneering the facilitation of UK-China research partnerships across areas of natural, physical and medical sciences, engineering, social science, arts and the humanities. To date, RCUK China has facilitated over £160 million in co-funded programmes supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries. RCUK China currently has six members of staff and is co-located in the British Embassy in Beijing.