Increasing resilience to natural hazards through crowd-sourcing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Mee, K.; Duncan, M.J.. 2015 Increasing resilience to natural hazards through crowd-sourcing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 50pp. (OR/15/032) (Unpublished)

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In this project we aim to demonstrate how volcanic environments exposed to multiple hazards tend to be characterised by a lack of relevant data available both in real time and over the longer term (e.g. months to years). This can be at least partially addressed by actively involving citizens, communities, scientists and other key stakeholders in the collection, analysis and sharing of observations, samples and measurements of changes in the environment. Such community monitoring and co-production of knowledge over time can also build trusting relationships and resilience (Stone et al. 2014). There are more than 100 institutions worldwide that monitor volcanoes and other natural hazards, contribute to early warning systems and are embedded in communities. They have a key role in building resilience alongside civil protection/emergency management agencies. In this report, we propose that such institutions are involved in big data initiatives and related research projects. In particular, we suggest that tools for crowd-sourcing may be of particular value. Citizen science, community monitoring and analysis of social media can build resilience by supporting: a) coordination and collaboration between scientists, authorities and citizens, b) decision-making by institutions and individuals, c) anticipation of natural hazards by monitoring institutions, authorities and citizens, d) capacity building of institutions and communities, and e) knowledge co-production. We propose a mobile phone app with a supporting website as an appropriate crowd-sourcing tool for St Vincent and the Grenadines. The monitoring institution is the key contact for users and leads on the required specifications based on local knowledge and experience. Remote support is provided from the UK on technical issues, research integration, data management, validation and evaluation. It is intended that the app facilitates building of long-term relationships between scientists, communities and authorities. Real-time contributions and analysis of social media support early warning, real-time awareness and real-time feedback enhancing the response of scientists and authorities. The app has potential to facilitate, for example, discussions on new or revised hazards maps, multiple hazard analysis and could contribute to real-time risk monitoring. Such an approach can be scaled up to facilitate regional use – and is transferable to other countries. Challenges of such an approach include data validation and quality assurance, redundancy in the system, motivating volunteers, managing expectations and ensuring safety. A combination of recruiting a core group of known and reliable users, training workshops, a code of conduct for users, identifying information influx thresholds beyond which external support might be needed, and continuing evaluation of both the data and the process will help to address these issues. The app is duplicated on the website in case mobile phone networks are down. Development of such approaches would fit well within research programmes on building resilience. Ideally such research should be interdisciplinary in acknowledgement of the diversity and complexity of topics that this embraces. There may be funding inequality between national monitoring institutions and international research institutions but these and other in-country institutions can help drive innovation and research if they are fully involved in problem-definition and research design. New innovations arising from increasing resolution (temporal and spatial) of EO products should lead to useful near-real time products from research and operational services. The app and website can ensure such diverse products from multiple sources are accessible to communities, scientists and authorities (as appropriate). Other innovations such as machine learning and data mining of time-series data collected by monitoring institutions may lead to new insights into physical processes which can support timely decision-making by scientists in particular (e.g. increasing alert levels).

Item Type: Publication - Report
Funders/Sponsors: ESRC, NERC, DFID
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed but not externally peer-reviewed
Date made live: 05 Oct 2015 11:50 +0 (UTC)

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