Probability, Uncertainty & Risk in the Environment (PURE)

Flooded town

The Probability, Uncertainty & Risk in the Environment (PURE) action consists of a research programme - the PURE programme, and a research and knowledge exchange network - the PURE network. The action has a budget of £6·8 million and directly relates to the delivery of the NERC Natural Hazards science theme.

The aim of the PURE programme is to improve the assessment and quantification of uncertainty and risk in natural hazards by developing new methods and demonstrating their applicability to enhance the uptake of natural hazards science.

The aim of the PURE network - external link - is to stimulate good practice guidance and standardisation of the assessment and quantification of uncertainty and risk across the natural hazards community.

The PURE network and programme will make a significant contribution to the Global Uncertainties programme (now the Partnership for Conflict, Crime & Security Research).

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The Probability, Uncertainty and Risk in the Environment (PURE) action directly relates to the delivery of the NERC Natural Hazards science theme and aims to transform the way that the risks and uncertainties of a range of natural hazards are dealt with - from floods and ash clouds, to droughts and earthquakes.

PURE will help the UK government and industries as diverse as finance, energy and aviation prepare for such threats. The potential benefits are enormous, both financially and in terms of increased societal resilience.

Natural hazards claim thousands of lives every year, and cause damage worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Hurricane Katrina cost the US government an estimated $105bn, while the Fukushima disaster cost around $309bn. Closer to home, more than five million UK citizens live in properties thought to be at risk of flooding, putting assets worth some £200 billion at risk.

The number of major disasters resulting from natural hazards has risen dramatically since the 1970s, and is still increasing. Global losses from natural disasters in 2011 were the highest in recent history.

The assessment of risk from natural hazards is fraught with uncertainty. Scientists, governments and businesses have recognised this for a long time, and it is common practice to quantify those uncertainties that are believed to be well understood and then assign a large margin for error to the remainder. However, accurate risk assessments require a much more structured approach.

PURE will bring together the expertise needed to develop such an approach, creating greater consistency and rigour, and making risk assessment more transparent. A key aim will be to demonstrate how a range of users can apply this approach across hazard areas.

PURE is a follow-on activity to a Scoping study on the Analysis, Propagation & Communication of Probability, Uncertainty & Risk in NH (SAPPUR) carried out by a team of University of Bristol scientists affiliated to the Bristol Environmental Risk Research Centre, on NERC's behalf. For more information on the SAPPUR scoping study please see the SAPPUR Scoping Study Report.


2012 - 2016

Can I apply for a grant?

No, the closing date for consortium grants was 11 October 2011.


This programme has a budget of £6·8 million.


Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded applications - external link

Funding awards allocated for NERC PURE Associates (Harnessing science for improved risk assessment) in October 2013 can be found in the document below. Case studies and further information about these projects can be found on the PURE network website, see related links.

PURE Associates funded awards - October 2013 (PDF, 131KB)


The NERC action on Probability, Uncertainty & Risk in the Environment is governed by a Programme Executive Board.

The Programme Executive Board is responsible for the delivery and strategic direction of the programme, ensuring it achieves its stated objectives and meets the strategic needs of the funding partners (NERC, EPSRC and EA). The funding partners are the decision making executives, with other executives operating in an advisory capacity.

  • Beth House, Natural Environment Research Council (Chair)
  • Ross Burton, Technology Strategy Board
  • Lynne Porter, Natural Environment Research Council
  • Stefan Laeger, Environment Agency

Programme Executive Board Terms of Reference (PDF, 37KB)

The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.

SAPPUR Scoping Study Report (PDF, 321KB)