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Commentary

UKADR / DRG Joint workshop part 6/6: Final Summary, pre & post event

Updated: Nov 8, 2023



Prior to the event, I decided to spend some time working through the agenda and workshop questions. The idea being to put down my own thoughts beforehand from a series of different perspectives;


  • an early career researcher about to embark on a doctorate

  • a practitioner & professional end user of science

  • a passionate member of the public, idealistic humanitarian advocating for a sustainable fair equitable society where we can all thrive under a shared collective purpose of sustainable development and human conti


nuity in harmony with nature, and total disaster nerd

  • as co-chair for disaster science


I thought that perhaps putting these ideas down in advance would allow me to better and more coherently articulate thoughts, insights and ideas to better contribute to the table discussions. On reflection, this allowed me to approach the conversations with a greater sense of curiosity. I found I was more open minded, and eager to hear ideas from others, rather than feel a need to express and affirm my own opinions. This allowed me to challenge my assumptions and biases, and find common ground with others.


So, in advance of the day here we’re my thoughts to each question and my own initial recommendations


Discussion Question 1: How can UK researchers / research maximise influence with major global reviews?


Initially I approached this with a question of my own, from the early career researcher perspective: does the question apply and take consideration of both funded and un-funded researchers? The informal and aspiring researchers and end users with a direct research need - who are not connected, trained, enabled, up skilled and given access to formal research funding?


From a consumer and UK practitioner perspective: the engagement methods - consider how we are communicating and disseminating research findings. Alongside the what, and the how those results are presented from it. By that, I mean in terms of creating meaningful solutions and change for societal resilience. In other words - Why do we not utilise social amplification and attenuation theory and practice when it comes to the translation, communication and dissemination of research? Why are we not leveraging the communication language and methods of the intended recipients, and end users? Why do we continue to reinforce and perpetuate our own arbitrary barriers under some misplaced ideal of impact over effect?


The UK is supposedly a significant leader in global development, civil contingencies and an early major contributor to Sendai, UNDRR, the sustainable development goals, climate change science and international humanitarian development - why can it not do it domestically?


As a genuinely concerned citizen perspective: If you want to be global leaders, shapers and influencers. Why do we not have disaster science and sendai here in the UK? Why do we not have an official UK scientific technical advisory group (UK-STAG) for Sendai and an interconnected framework for systems policy. Why does the sector still not have a pool of experts on call with seats at SAGE. How do we address the disconnect between science, policy and practise, when the two seem so mutually incompatible at present and barriers so pervasive? – The irony of these points is that after the event I did some more digging specifically, into UKADR & DRG, who and what they are. The irony being they are in effect these groups. They are the informal and unbeknown to the rest of us. From an outside perspective, it appears that the architecture of UK Disaster science has evolved organically to piecemeal effect, as such we lack the infrastructure, interconnectivity and opportunity to leverage the great work of these researchers and integrate it into UK practise. Signifying a lack of joined up approach between policy and practise. In no way what so ever is this meant to be a criticism of these two organisations, reading the 10-year anniversary booklet of the DRG, the work they have done is frankly incredible. But it sits in isolation to UK practice. Research and high-level policy documents are wonderful, but now they need to be applied to practice. This means creating the missing architecture and infrastructure necessary to link science, policy and practise. The irony again is that most of it already exists, it just needs re-structure and formalisation to facilitate coordination, integration, communication and collaboration in application.


Why does the UK continue to deny disaster discourse in policy and practice? Why should the UK be accepted the UK as a credible source of authority and global leader in something it doesn’t do and, on a subject, it can’t demonstrate efficacy in?


As co-chair for disaster science: Disaster science as an umbrella term could potentially elevate our sector if we transferred and replicated what behavioural science has done to elevate and amplify itself across policy and practice at all levels.


Solidify the research to reduce the ambiguity, uncertainty and discord in the base arguments for investment. Establish genuine indisputable credibility. For example, the formula for the very £ invested saves X in loss and damage - be more transparent with the formula this is based on. Show the evidence better to demonstrate authentic credibility. If people in our own sector are still second guessing its credibility and failing to understand it, how do we expect the end users to?


One voice, one message, on point, channelled from the collective with clearly defined leadership. There is strength and power in unity. Establish a clear line of leadership, coordination, communication, accountability and governance to many disparate organisations all competing for the same spaces, diluting attention, impact, reach, resourcing and efficiency.


3 recommendations for researchers


  1. Self-organisation under a shared and transparent collective purpose

  2. Representation and participation- ensure you have the right people in the right places to strategically shape and influence national policy and practice

  3. Major improvements are required to research communication, dissemination and engagement. The buck can’t stop at publication.


3 recommendations for funders


  1. Address the barriers to effective funding and research delivery and efficiency in the long term

  2. Making disaster science our equivalent of behavioural science and pushing it to market can create a new industry for change it will fuel job and industry creation with a new economy of scientific services - this is good for the public economy. Presently we are an industry without industry.

  3. Agile funding to accommodate flexibility and adaptability to enable practical solution-based research and evidence, based on real world problems, choose efficacy of impact. Enable it better, for a better return; red team ourselves, challenge thinking and research.



Question 2: what are the systemic challenges for collaboration & coproduction?


From an early career perspective: disorganisation, reputation, visibility, access, shared knowledge and skills. A lack of platform, hub and spoke both virtual and physical, where is the infrastructure and industry to enable, facilitate and coordinate?


From a UK practitioner perspective: no engagement, no influence, no two-way conversation or partnership, un-translatable research out puts, no access to the science, pervasive systemic language and engagement barriers. No domestic translation or reinterpretation.


From a person of the public perspective: no visibility, no awareness, no access, no alignment to need, no transparency, no domestic application.


3 recommendations for researchers


  1. Be clear in what your trying to achieve and how your working with others to get there - improvements in communication and engagement

  2. Remove barriers, overlap, duplication to enhance efficiencies, support and enable the sector as a collective- practice what you preach and take a whole system, whole cycle, whole of society approach and stop working in isolation

  3. Awareness and visibility to all stakeholders; transparency, accountability, governance, leadership


3 Recommendations for funders;


  1. Provide the adequate research infrastructure. Fund the research platforms, providers and staff effectively to do the research effectively, so your research sector, programmes, and operational models are grounded your own research outputs I.e. utilising and demonstrating effectiveness and leadership in the principles of leading practice and theory

  2. To have genuine impact the research life cycle needs to be effectively followed and expanded across time scales, to turn theoretical science into applied science with true value for money, real world impact. It must be funded in manner that is flexible and agile to accommodate transdisciplinary and transboundary needs through a better - investment the outputs and the communication and interpretation of them. Research must be more than just a journal article behind a paid fire wall

  3. Simplify and standardise the funding, train people on how to find funding and how to apply, facilitate fair and equal opportunities for research. funders engage better with the end users and researchers to address needs, opportunities, barriers, risks and threats



Question 3: lessons for research programming


Pre-thoughts As co-chair for disaster science, a practitioner and an early career researcher;


My question- what is the research ‘programme’? what is the 5/10year strategy and delivery plan for UK disaster science both national and internationally and how does it demonstrate principles of whole system, whole cycle, whole of society? presently our infrastructure, strategy and programme is unclear.


Standardisation and professionalisation with flexibility and agility for the sector should be a priority. We need coordination and delivery of training, a competency framework, training needs analysis, foresight, lessons learning. Who can become that professional, standardised training provider and certifying accrediting body for the collective sector and bring together research, policy and practise?


Disaster research is a silo, awareness, visibility, opportunities need better communication, outreach and coordination. Again, owing to a lack of direct funding and supporting infrastructure.


UK disaster science needs to industrialise itself, make enterprise and economy for itself. Monetisation will ultimately enable a mobilisation of greater resources and reinvestment, and this need not be at the expense of research quality.


The collective knowledge and skills of the sector is an invaluable asset that ought to be leveraged. It must be shared and passed on and not lost to turnover, burnout and churn. Enact our own contingency and continuity planning to the benefit of expanding the expertise in pursuit of the collective agenda. Mentoring, peer to peer learning,


Wellbeing, psychological support and safety, and personal resilience should be a key priority. At the heart of all of this is people and they should be the priority.


Presently, there is a lack of collective resilience. Measures must be put in place across strategic, tactical and operational levels of all areas of the DRR/R community to enable wellbeing and greater resilience.


What potential is there to leveraging research and innovation in the sector to solve complex problems. In fact, this should be our modus operandi. In house research, testing and development; research the researchers to drive improvement and address need and complex world problems; I.e.: trial, implement and research 4 days weeks, universal basic income, psychological safety, bottom up, agile working, business continuity, stress testing, red teaming, participatory approaches etc, integrated transdisciplinary & transboundary research, applied science, collaboration, partnership, co-creation, co-production and applied outputs. Act to enact the recommendations from research and policy reports produced by our industry and apply them in practise to strategy, culture and working practices across the UK DRR/R spectrum.


3 Recommendations to researchers

  1. Collective efforts to deliver change to restructure and reshape the current research infrastructure, culture and environment to remove systemic and pervasive barriers to efficacy

  2. Create a culture of mutual reciprocity- pay it forward and pass it on - expand, enable, support and facilitate industry growth and upskilling

  3. Enact our own research outputs and recommendations.


3 Recommendations to funders

  1. Long term not short term

  2. Invest in the infrastructure of research to create an industry of science and scientific services, job creation, efficacy, efficiency, quality and credibility

  3. Develop a Strategic approach to a national disaster science research programme: a strategy to 2030 and delivery plan for bolstering the sectors research and impact whilst contributing to overall sector professionalisation and standardisation and development of end user driven practical applied science



UKADR: final thoughts on reflection post event


  1. A brilliant event, engaging event that got me genuinely questioning the status quo and considering different approaches, and perspectives.

  2. Would have loved more networking time after and a break between Discussion I &II.

  3. More opportunities for other stakeholders to feed into those discussions. Especially practitioners. Research cannot be in isolation and the future of research cannot be adequately determined in isolation- it flies in the face of its own recommendations for collaboration and coproduction through fair and equitable partnerships. Enable and facilitate greater participation

  4. I stand by the thoughts I had in advance of the meeting I believe they still stand

  5. Until 3 months ago I had never heard of UKADR there are too many hidden organisations and network’s operating with a lack of visibility and transparency. This demonstrates the sectors own lack of joined up approach and inability to implement its own recommendations.



Concluding remark


UK science in our sector of disaster risk reduction and resilience on the whole has a huge opportunity right now nationally and internationally. To become something more, something richer and something greater. But that’s only if we can self-organise and mobilise under a strategic framework for disaster science, with resilience and emergencies practice. Because, presently we lack the necessary architecture and infrastructure to deliver on the principles of whole system, whole cycle, whole of society. We lack the integrated ability to unify, codify and align the industry and sub-sectors to the common goal and take this forward with clear lines of leadership, governance, transparency and accountability.

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