Interdisciplinary Data

This week in class we listened to an interdisciplinary panel of researchers who look at hazards and their impacts. There were different approaches to defining and understanding hazards and their impacts. The similarities and differences in these approaches have the potential to impact collaboration across disciplines when it comes to discussing disaster resilience and risk management.

Dr. Cowell researches how communities, cities and regions prepare for disasters, and focuses on economic development, looking at how disasters change the economic base. She was drawn to this research because of her experience with threats to the local economy in her hometown while growing up. For her research data collection consists of using interviews, surveys and focus groups to learn about communities ability to create places where people want to invest, work, and live in, as well as people’s connections to institutions.

Dr. Zobel looks at the disaster resilience triangle, and initial, short term and long term impacts, focusing on supply chains. He looks at the different aspects of people exchanging goods or services, with an emphasis on commercial and humanitarian supply chains. such as who to give what and when, and the logistics of how to get it there. He looks at the organizational and economic impacts that supply chains have. For him data collection consists of interviews, surveys, scenario  reactions, empirical data, IT, twitter, 311, event studies for companies and regression models.

Dr. Zhang looks at the long term impacts, when media coverage of the effected region has ended. He looks at how people are recovering, with regard to housing, reconstruction, and the hazard’s impact on the capacity of the community to develop plans. He investigates the time compression concept where conflicts in decision making are amplified when the time to make them is compressed, such as shopping at Kroger before a large storm when supplies are quickly being grabbed from the shelves. For him primary data collection includes surveying or interviewing homeowners, with secondary data being obtained from tax office data or property values.

Dr. Irish looks at the direct damage of hazards with regards to floods from storm surges, as well as how hazards can impact the potential to evacuate. She studies beach dune erosion, barrier island overwash and breaching. She points out that some of the things she studies, such as erosion are their own hazard caused by another hazard, so she essentially studies cascading hazards. Her goal is to help people be more aware and put themselves in less danger. For her data collection consists of computational models to simulate real world events, physical measurements she takes in the field, some in field inferences made that access building damage, laboratory work, LiDAR and photos.

While all of these researches look at hazards, they all look at different aspects of hazards, at different times with reference to the hazard. Since each researcher focuses on different parts of hazards, they might feel like the other researchers don’t have much to add to their individual research. However, together these researchers contribute to a larger body of knowledge about hazards, with multiple different ways to assess hazards. While Dr. Cowell might not have much to add if working with Dr. Irish on assessing the coastal damage from a storm surge, and Dr. Irish might not have much to add to evaluating the storm’s impacts to the economic base, together they both contribute to evaluating the hazard and the recovery. It’s really important that they acknowledge their different areas of expertise and work together to use their individual skills to contribute to the larger picture of protecting and educating the public- something they both said was their goal and their personal motivation for research. It’s also important that these interdisciplinary teams work together and communicate clearly with each other what each individual’s definitions and understandings of hazards are, what kind of data they need to work with, and how each individual will use their background to contribute to the team.

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