In this paper, we outline the work of the International Society for Rock Mechanics Design Methodology Commission's work in organising the SINOROCK Symposia, in rock engineering design studies, and currently on rock engineering risk. Following a discussion relating to special rock engineering risk conditions, we describe the predictable and unpredictable nature of different projects and highlight ‘black swan’ events. This is followed by an explanation of epistemic and aleatory uncertainty, and how these are both reduced as rock excavation proceeds. An illustrative example of a tunnel driven through box folded strata is included. Uncertainty relating to remedial work for the Mullardoch Dam is Scotland provides a practical demonstration case example of uncertainty and risk. We conclude with a discussion concerning the reduction of rock engineering risk through the development of a corporate memory system together with the use of intelligent monitoring and modelling methods.

1. The Design Methodology Commission of the International Society For Rock Mechanics (ISRM)

The three SINOROCK Symposia (held at the Three Gorges Project Dam Site in 2004, the University of Hong Kong in 2009, and now at Tongji Univeristy in 2013) have been organised by the authors through the ISRM Commission on Design Methodology, together with the assistance of many co-organisers and helpers at the three Symposia venues. The purpose of the SINOROCK symposia is to contribute to the further development of the overall rock engineering design process through the sequential linkage of rock characterisation, modelling and design methods.

During the period 2007–2011, the ISRM Design Methodology Commission researched many subjects relating to the design of rock engineering structures, including the ways ahead for rock engineering design methodologies, flowcharts for the associated modelling and design, the related information required, technical auditing of the modelling and design, and applied the results to a large surface project and a large underground project. The work was significantly supported by Chinese colleagues under the leadership of Professor Qian Qihu and resulted in the book "Rock Engineering Design" (Feng & Hudson, 2011), Figure 1. During the 2007–2011 period,X.T. Fengwas the Commission President and J. A. Hudson was the ISRM President.

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