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Philip J. Ward

Philip J. Ward
Philip J. Ward

The 2019 Plinius Medal is awarded to Philip J. Ward for outstanding research on flood and drought risk assessments from global to local scales.

Philip Ward is the Head of the Global Water and Climate Risk section at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Since 2016, he is an Associate Professor at this university. He is a pioneer in developing the research field of global flood and drought risk assessment, and how it can be applied to benefit society. Ward and his research team have developed models to assess flood and drought risks at the global scale, both under current and future climate, and under climate variability, as well as methods to assess the effectiveness and feasibility of flood risk reduction strategies worldwide. Among his major contributions to the natural hazard field are: developing the world’s first global river flood risk model (GLOFRIS), a global reanalysis dataset of storm surge and tides, which is now being used to assess coastal flood risk at the global scale, and developing new global drought risk assessment methods. Ward has an outstanding scholarly record with 75 published peer-reviewed papers, of which a dozen in Nature journals and PNAS.

He is a recipient of multiple prestigious grants, such as a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to conduct research on El Niño Southern Oscillation’s influence on flood risk worldwide. In 2016, he received a NWO Vidi grant (the most prestigious scientific grant in the Netherlands for his career stage) to forward his work on examining the socioeconomic impacts of compound river and coastal floods worldwide. In this project, he is nesting local risk models within global models. He co-established a network linking a vast number of scientists to address the challenge of multiple and concurrent hazards. In addition, he leads work packages and tasks in several EU funded international research projects, such as the IMPREX, eartH2Observe, and RISES-AM.

Ward has been instrumental in developing a strong scientific and policy scientific community in the field of global risk across all natural hazards. He is active in effectively communicating science to a wider audience. Together with the World Resources Institute, he led the development of the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, an online tool for assessing flood risk for any location on Earth. His research is also included in the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery’s ThinkHazard! tool.

Ward has also been highly active in risk management projects at more local scales, for example leading a project on flood risk adaptation in Jakarta, in collaboration with Indonesian research institutes and the City of Jakarta. He also collaborates with regional water boards and national water agencies in the Netherlands to work on flood risk management strategies for the Netherlands. He is also involved in using citizen science and community mapping to improve flood and drought risk assessments across all scales, right down to the district level in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

In summary Philip Ward has, through his scientific excellence and his high-impact, cross-cutting research, made exceptional contributions to flood risk analysis, in particular at the global scale, which makes him eminently worthy of receiving the Plinius Medal.