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The 18th Mallet-Milne Lecture: Interrelationships between practice, standardisation & innovation

Event organised by Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics

31 May 2023

This event has now ended


The Mallet-Milne lecture is a biennial event organised by the Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED). The lecture is named after two nineteenth century pioneers in the field of seismology: Robert Mallet (1810–1881) and John Milne (1850–1913). The intention of the Mallet–Milne lecture is to capture a lifetime of experience from eminent professionals who have spent their careers working in the field of seismology or earthquake engineering.

The 18th Mallet-Milne lecture was delivered by Prof Alain Pecker, who was nominated as the preferred speaker for this event by the SECED Committee in recognition of his long and distinguished career and his significant contributions to the theory and practice of geotechnical earthquake engineering.

The lecture will examine the unique characteristics of large civil engineering projects. Any such project has the peculiarity of being a prototype. While experience gained from previous works is undoubtedly useful and fundamental, each new project must take into account technical factors, such as the environmental conditions in a broad sense, but also specific non-technical factors, which can have a profound impact on the design.

The situation is even more critical in seismic areas because very few similar structures, if any, have suffered from earthquakes. Facing this situation, the designer may feel helpless because, on the one hand, seismic (building or bridge) codes do not cover their problem and, on the other hand, precedents are unavailable, and research has not yet progressed to a point where its results can be used.

In this situation, innovation can come to the rescue of the designer. Innovation must not be confused with research: research is a long-term process, often conducted by academics, while innovation comes from a unique idea promoted by one person, or a small group of persons, usually practitioners. Nevertheless, practice, innovation and research do not belong to different worlds. They are interrelated, and they benefit from a close collaboration between the different communities.

To be accepted by all communities, innovation must obey certain rules related to scientific soundness and simplicity. It must recognise uncertainties and be open to collaboration between stakeholders. It should also consider constraints related to programme, safety, to a lesser extent, economy.

Based on few examples encountered during Prof Pecker's professional career (the Rion Antirion bridge, an administrative building in Fort de France, and the Atlantic bridge in Panama), the lecture will attempt to highlight these different aspects and illustrate the domain of application and interrelationship between standardisation, innovation and research.


The Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics

The Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics

SECED promotes the study and practice of earthquake and civil engineering dynamics, including blast, impact, and other vibration problems.


Alain Pecker

Alain Pecker

Ecole des Ponts ParisTech


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Alain Pecker

Prof Pecker graduated from Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in 1972 and obtained a Master of Science degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1973. Until 2015 he was Chairman and Managing Director of Géodynamique et Structure, a French engineering consulting firm he founded 40 years ago. Upon retiring he became an independent consultant.

He has contributed to several major worldwide civil engineering projects in seismic areas. He is the Past President of the French Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, Honorary President of the French Association on Earthquake Engineering, and a member of the executive committee of the European Association for Earthquake Engineering.

He was elected to the French National Academy of Technologies in 2000. He is a member of the drafting panel of Eurocode 8 and President of the French Committee for seismic codes. He is currently a Professor at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech and at the European School for Advanced Studies in Reduction of Seismic Risk (IUSS of Pavia, Italy).

He has authored more than 150 technical papers, been invited as a keynote speaker at several conferences, and received several awards for his work, most notably twice from the French National Academy of Sciences.

For more information please contact:

Shelly-Ann Russell