Young researchers develop innovative natural hazard communications

31 May 2018

NERC sponsored ten young researchers to develop innovative solutions to communicate natural hazard risks, as part of the World Bank's Understanding Risk Forum in Mexico.

Understanding Risk Forum presentation

Natural hazards pose direct risks to human lives and livelihoods. Events such as flooding, earthquakes, droughts and landslides cause significant loss of life, economic disruption, as well as displacement of people and communities. Despite a growing body of data and expertise in understanding and predicting natural hazards, this valuable information does not always reach the communities and organisations who are affected. Communicating natural hazard risks in a way that is understood and enables action is a key challenge for reducing the impact of these events. Scientists can play a key role in this challenge, in collaboration with other disciplines and actors, such as policymakers and non governmental organisations (NGOs).

NERC, working with the World Bank's Global Facility for Disaster Reduction & Recovery (GFDRR), NASA Disasters Programme and FM Global, brought together 35 young researchers and professionals from 13 countries, and from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, to work on the challenge of risk communication. Organised by the Water Youth Network, the 24-hour 'pressure cooker' event brought together young people from different disciplines to offer new innovative insights and creative perspectives to develop effective risk communication strategies tailored to users' needs.

NERC Associate Director of Innovation & Partnerships Sophie Laurie said:

It is important to provide researchers with the opportunity to develop skills in working with different disciplines and stakeholder groups so that more people can benefit from world-class research. NERC is proud to be working with these global partners to support the next generation of disaster risk communication professionals.

One participant, Joanna Pardoe, a post-doc researcher working on the NERC-DFID funded Future Climate for Africa programme at the London School of Economics, said:

This interdisciplinary event, that cuts across science policy and practice, has been extremely useful and is definitely something that academia would benefit from more of.

Understanding Risk Forum workshop

Focusing on real communication challenges in the Mexican municipalities of Iztapalapa, Mexico City and Dzilam de Bravo, Yucatan, the participants worked in interdisciplinary groups to understand the natural hazards affecting communities, identify target audiences and develop risk communication outputs tailored to their target groups. Throughout the day, the groups received expert knowledge and feedback from specialists including BBC Media Action, Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Iztapalapa Municipality Department of Civil Protection, the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency, before presenting their risk communication strategy to a panel.

Invited by the Iztapalapa Municipality Department of Civil Protection, the group saw at first hand an innovative approach to understanding and communicating natural hazard risk, being piloted in a part of the city particularly vulnerable to earthquakes, floods and soil fracturing. The group visited the control room which receives data from satellite and seismic monitoring stations to provide early warnings of earthquakes and hurricanes, and the risk communication outreach truck which was used to raise awareness within the community.

NERC hopes that the event will encourage environmental scientists to work across disciplines and with policymakers, businesses, NGOs and affected communities to use their valuable knowledge to better understand and communicate natural hazard risks.

You can see the teams working in the below video.

Subtitles (closed captions) are available once the video is playing.

Further information

Ruth Hughes
Senior Programme Manager - Innovation