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    Willis Research Network Wins Google Research Award

    Prestigious Visualisation Win Comes Days After WRN Supports Launch of National Centre of Earth Observation

    LONDON, UK, March 17, 2009 - Willis Research Fellow Dr Aidan Slingsby, along with colleagues and fellow Willis Research Network (WRN) members Dr Jason Dykes and Dr Jo Wood from City University London, have won a prestigious Google research prize for their work on visualising seasonal climate forecasts using Google Earth as part of Google’s KML in Research Competition. KML is the first broadly accepted standard for the visualisation of geographic information.

    The entry, in collaboration with WRN Senior Academic Dr David Stephenson and PhD student Rachel Lowe at University of Exeter in the UK, allowed 10 years of seasonal climate forecast data in South America to be explored.

    Among a large international field of entries from the top echelons of the geovisualisation community, the judges agreed that the City University team's entry "represented a novel and compelling representation of science using Google Earth and the KML language." Willis aims to lead modern mapping and GeoVisualisation techniques for application within the global insurance industry.

    Dr Aidan Slingsby commented, "I hope our entry will help stimulate creative thinking across the academic and insurance industries, and help re/insurers think about new and innovative ways to visualise their portfolio data. Cross-disciplinary collaboration was an essential part of this entire project -in this case, between data visualisers and climate scientists -and I would like to acknowledge the significant contributions of Jason Dykes, Jo Wood, David Stephenson and Rachel Lowe. We would also like to thank the Willis Research Network and the EUROBRISA Project for helping to fund and facilitate this work, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts for generously allowing us to use their data."

    Further details can be found at http://www.google.com/educators/kml_contest.html and at http://www.gicentre.org/climatekml/

    Meanwhile, WRN Chairman Rowan Douglas joined Lord Drayson, UK Science Minister, and other speakers to launch the US$50m National Centre of Earth Observation (NCEO). The Natural Environment Research Council-funded centre links 26 UK Universities and overseas institutions, including many WRN members, to access and integrate data from NASA, the European Space Agency and other nations' satellites currently in orbit and scheduled for future launches.

    Speaking to an audience of 300 at the Royal Institution, Douglas said, "Satellite observation has transformed our understanding of the scale, frequency and impacts of natural hazards from hurricane tracks to bushfires and floods. Remote sensing also extends our understanding of exposures and post-event response. The next 10 years will witness a revolution in our ability to integrate satellite data into insurance applications."

    The WRN's involvement with the NCEO puts it at the heart of this key area for risk management.

    More information on the NCEO can be found here http://www.nceo.ac.uk/

    The Willis Research Network (WRN) is the world's largest partnership between academia and the insurance industry. Willis has so far teamed up with 20 leading institutions across a full range of disciplines from atmospheric science and climate statistics, to geography, hydrology and seismology, to the impacts on the environment via engineering, exposure analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Additional information can be found at www.willisresearchnetwork.com

    The WRN is funded by Willis Group Holdings Limited (NYSE: WSH) a leading global insurance broker, developing and delivering professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly 120 countries, with a global team of approximately 20,000 Associates serving clients in some 190 countries. Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.

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