In summer 2007 a period of intense and localized rainfall resulted in flooding which devastated homes and businesses across western counties of England. Although there was no loss of life, local authorities were clearly under-prepared for the physical, economic, and societal impacts of an event of this scale. This prompted the UK government to introduce new legislation requiring local authorities to take greater responsibility for managing and mitigating the risks of flooding. For this to be effective, professional stakeholders need to understand fundamental concepts in flood science in which they may have no prior knowledge or experience. Engagement with research and flood scientists is therefore critical to developing the knowledge needed to effectively manage flood hazards. Similarly, however, researchers have much to learn about the needs of those involved in managing floods; communication is a two-way process.

To date there has been relatively little research into the communication of flood science research across the researcher-practitioner interface, and the effectiveness of different methods of engagement is largely untested. Project FOSTER is exploring good practice in flood science communication by applying and evaluating different learning and communication tools designed to encourage knowledge exchange between academic researchers and local government representatives. A programme of workshops has been delivered to local government officers and elected Council Members in three distinct formats: standard tutor-led workshops; role-playing exercises using floodplain planning and emergency response scenarios; and seminars delivered through the interactive, on-line virtual world Second Life. The effectiveness of these tools in communicating flood science has been evaluated using a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to explore participants’ learning experiences, together with perceived impacts on their knowledge levels and decision- making/communication skills. Along with key findings and recommendations, we report on the value of engaging flood scientists in the delivery of workshop materials, and reflect on some of the challenges inherent in communicating complex scientific knowledge to non-specialist professionals.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicating flood science across the researcher-practitioner interface

Alison Stokes   University of Oxford

Carolyn Roberts   Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network, University of Oxford

Kate Crowley   Catholic Overseas Development Agency (CAFOD)

Lindsey McEwen   University of Gloucester

In summer 2007 a period of intense and localized rainfall resulted in flooding which devastated homes and businesses across western counties of England. Although there was no loss of life, local authorities were clearly under-prepared for the physical, economic, and societal impacts of an event of this scale. This prompted the UK government to introduce new legislation requiring local authorities to take greater responsibility for managing and mitigating the risks of flooding. For this to be effective, professional stakeholders need to understand fundamental concepts in flood science in which they may have no prior knowledge or experience. Engagement with research and flood scientists is therefore critical to developing the knowledge needed to effectively manage flood hazards. Similarly, however, researchers have much to learn about the needs of those involved in managing floods; communication is a two-way process.

To date there has been relatively little research into the communication of flood science research across the researcher-practitioner interface, and the effectiveness of different methods of engagement is largely untested. Project FOSTER is exploring good practice in flood science communication by applying and evaluating different learning and communication tools designed to encourage knowledge exchange between academic researchers and local government representatives. A programme of workshops has been delivered to local government officers and elected Council Members in three distinct formats: standard tutor-led workshops; role-playing exercises using floodplain planning and emergency response scenarios; and seminars delivered through the interactive, on-line virtual world Second Life. The effectiveness of these tools in communicating flood science has been evaluated using a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches to explore participants’ learning experiences, together with perceived impacts on their knowledge levels and decision- making/communication skills. Along with key findings and recommendations, we report on the value of engaging flood scientists in the delivery of workshop materials, and reflect on some of the challenges inherent in communicating complex scientific knowledge to non-specialist professionals.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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