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Commentary

#UKADR2024 Day 1 Part 2

The second half of the first day at the UKADR Conference 2024 featured oral presentations and flash talks in thematic breakout sessions, followed by a funder panel discussion and the UKADR AGM.


 

Afternoon Oral Presentations and Flash Talks

 

Thaisa Cornelli chaired afternoon flash talks on conflict and migration, Harriet Thompson on natural hazards and risks, and Dr Shipra Jain on warning, resilience, and finance. The complete list of speakers can be found online on the conference webpage for Wednesday breakout sessions https://www.ucl.ac.uk/risk-disaster-reduction/ukadr-2024-wednesday-breakout-sessions 



 

Again, a phenomenal amount of truly innovative and practical research in disaster science is being conducted worldwide. This research cuts across many hazards and disciplines and has applications for policy and practice. Every single one was truly solution-focused.

 

The presentation that stood out the most for me was the work by Sue Webb on the CARE / CENDEP, USAID / BHA Shelter & settlements review, a truly inspiring programme of work that shows a genuine willingness of these organisations in the humanitarian sector to reflect and learn about what has and hadn’t worked so well and how to enhance future humanitarian responses. I am looking forward to the research findings and the series of reports that are due to come out soon. I am sure this will reveal a wealth of knowledge, transferable lessons, and critical learning for many that apply to various humanitarian contexts and disaster events.

 

During the event, Prof. Virginia Murray delivered an enlightening presentation on the Hazard Information Profiles. It was surprising to learn that many of the hazard and disaster risk scientists in attendance were not familiar with the UNDRR Hazard Information Profiles (HIPS). Reflecting on this, there may be limited awareness of HIPS within the hazards and disaster risk research community. During my initial year of PhD research, I encountered limited references to HIPS in hazards and disaster risk literature, and few papers utilised the UNDRR hazard domains and ensured consistency with UNDRR terminology.

 

As someone with experience in resilience and response across various levels and domains, I strongly advocate for precise and consistent communication to facilitate effective collaboration. I have observed challenges arising from the lack of consistent terminology in disaster-related discussions, which has hindered coordination and knowledge sharing. I respectfully encourage fellow researchers to prioritise using globally adopted terminology unless there are clear and justified reasons to diverge from it. Embracing this approach will significantly enhance clarity, accessibility, and stakeholder engagement in research. By promoting consistency in terminology, we can collectively advance our discipline and its real-world applications. Furthermore, I kindly urge hazard- and disaster-risk-related journal reviewers to play an invaluable role in ensuring greater scientific communication and consistency in dissemination. This will significantly contribute to the quality and impact of our collective efforts.

 

As a community, we can all do a lot to promote and share these and facilitate their use more widely. Over the next week, I will write about the HIPS and post a blog about effective communication in disaster science, hazard, and risk, with particular attention to the HIPS separately.

 

 

Funder Panel Discussion

 

The first day of the UKADR Conference was wrapped up with a funder panel discussion chaired by Prof. Mark Pelling, chair of the UK Disaster Research Group, featuring esteemed panellists Adrian Butcher, John Reece, and Peter Sammonds.

 

Adrian Butcher is a Senior Data Analyst at UKCDR, a collaborative of UK research funders for coherence and action in international development. Adrian has emphasised the need to improve the coordination of research activities to increase synergies and enhance the value of shared outputs. This is directly linked to the growing importance of extending research funding time horizons to facilitate greater collaboration that can make a tangible difference in policy and implementation. As seen in Europe, extending research time frames from the current 3–5-year models to long-term 10, 15, or 20-year initiatives could rapidly accelerate progress in key thematic areas related to interconnected societal and environmental grand challenges. This can lead to sustainable collaborations and progress in implementation.

 

Adrian emphasised the need for increased data and analysis on research programmes regarding monitoring and evaluation to determine suitable research investments. This is linked directly to innovative work he leads in climate change research mapping to develop an international development climate change project tracker. Adrian emphasised the need for strategic coordination in these areas and the greater convening of networks and research groups to facilitate sharing best practices, tools, and methods that support effective collaboration, as well as a growing need to act as one voice to communicate better to engage with and shape policy.

 

Dr John Reece, the British Geological Survey's Chief Scientist for multi-hazards and resilience, provided valuable insights into advancing the role of science in policymaking and supporting risk-informed, evidence-based decision-making. He emphasised the need to effectively utilise scientific outputs to make a real difference. Dr Reece also highlighted the importance of preparing for failure when applying for research funding and leveraging learning and continuous improvement. He encouraged strategic network collaboration to maximise impact while minimising duplication.

 

Furthermore, Dr Reece emphasised the significant multiplier effect of intangible benefits that arise from joint problem-solving, stressing the importance of recognising these benefits and incorporating them into research practices. He urged researchers to enhance the utility of scientific outputs through improved communication and dissemination practices to ensure they contribute towards actionable information and impactful change. Lastly, Dr. Reece promoted long-term strategic thinking, advocating for a strategic plan approach to projects of varying scopes and scales across extended time horizons. He suggested leveraging smaller funding methods to facilitate progress in longer-term projects and collaborations with significant goals.

 

Professor Peter Sammonds, who specialises in Geophysics and Climate Risks at the UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction, spoke after John's comment on the effectiveness of universities in breaking disciplinary silos. He noted that universities are more effective than strategic levels of government in facilitating knowledge exchange and having a significant long-term impact through education and research. Professor Sammonds shared his experiences establishing the successful UCL Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction and its recent official recognition as an academic department. He highlighted the importance of flexible open funding calls, multi-disciplinary collaboration, discretionary funds, and micro seed funds for start-ups and pilots in driving innovative and meaningful projects. Furthermore, Professor Sammonds encouraged funders of various types and scales to increase provisional mechanisms to support future research initiatives.

 

Professor Sammonds emphasised the importance of long-term planning with small, manageable steps to create a compounding effect that leads to tangible and intangible benefits. He also suggested being open to flexible partnerships and collaborations over time to advance initiatives and secure funding from various sources. This could involve exploring new co-laboratories, engaging in active learning partnerships through international funding opportunities, and forming cross-functional collaborations with longer-term horizons.

 

Overall, this was an informative session about understanding future priorities for funders and research practices that can facilitate long-term change. The session emphasised the characteristics needed to succeed: passion, determination, self-reflection, patience, and adaptability.

 

 

UKADR AGM Summary of Discussions

 

Following the conference's conclusion, members of UKADR were invited to attend the Annual General Meeting. Susanne Sargeant and Mirianna Budimir convened this. The agenda covered an overview and update on the new UKADR Strategy 2024-2028, setting out the priorities for action. This also included a video update from Mark-Ashley Perry, who announced that the UKADR ECRP (Early Career Researchers and Practitioners) group is looking for four new committee members to join the new UKADR ECRP sub-committee. Susanne also gave an overview of progress in strengthening partnership relations with the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management. Bilateral Groups were also invited to give updates; Mark Pelling related updates from the UKDRG, and Andrew Collins relayed updates from GADRI, announcing openings on the technical committees that support the five pillars of the GADRI Strategy. This was followed by the final updates from Virginia Murray, presenting progress updates from the UNDRR & WHO.

 

 

 

Reflections from the day

The most pleasing thing to see from this session was the absolute emphasis on pragmatic solution-focused collaboration over competition. Stressing the need to break silos and cut down barriers to facilitate more rapid and complex problem-solving through genuine knowledge exchange and resource pooling. Recognising that individual organisations can apply collective outputs, however appropriate to their context, should be seen as a benefit of shared success, not a limitation. There is an increasing emphasis on shared capabilities. This raises a question about meaningful collaboration that facilitates rather than hinders if we increase layers of complexity between many actors. Interoperability methods can help with this.

 

By way of emerging topics, Mutli-hazard vulnerability is at the top of the list and a new and emergent hot topic, particularly in the insurance industry, interested in understanding how to break down barriers in anticipatory financing mechanisms to reduce loss and damages from likely increasing occurrences of multi-hazard events. This also signals a greater awareness within the insurance industry that they have an increasingly invaluable role in facilitating future disaster management through risk reduction to support measures that address risk components, such as exposure, vulnerability and coping capacity.

 

The advice for ECR is to get involved, engage, and participate in industry and practice where appropriate. Recognising that it’s not the expertise you take in but embedding yourself into the context and genuinely seeking to understand and apply it to ensure research outcomes are tailored and appropriate, mindful that a failure to do this can mean research outputs can be easily discredited. This again reasserts the importance of solution-focused, action and implementation research centring on context to ensure appropriate outcomes. Recognise that in academia, there is an emphasis on detail and validation, but in practice and policy, there is an emphasis on conclusions, messages, learning, and recommendations, followed by validation.

 

Advice to ECRs when engaging with communities is to recognise and respect the trauma and human impact on people and communities affected. Be respectful and mindful of this at all times, and build this into your work through people-centred approaches and ethical frameworks. Ensure communities have control and retain decision-making autonomy. Treat them as beneficiaries and trusted partners to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity.

 

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