Contributed by Siobhan Dolan, University of Reading.
The Centre for Natural Hazards and Disaster Science (CNDS) held a summer school at their department at Uppsala University for early career researchers (ECR) who had an interest in learning more about ‘Natural Hazards in the Anthropocene’ and disaster risk reduction (DRR). This summer school was held on 20-24th August and had 36 ECRs attending, including myself. I am a doctoral researcher from the University of Reading and one of the 13 NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) and DFID (UK Department for International Development) funded Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience (SHEAR) PhD students focusing on flash flooding and landslides using global forecasting models. To go to this event, I applied for the European Geosciences Union (EGU) who were sponsoring the event. I have only just begun my journey having started my PhD in January this year. I did not really know what to expect from attending the summer school, having the previous experience of only one other summer school (University of Pavia and IRPI summer school on multi hazards in an alpine environment in June 2018). However, any expectations I did have were soon exceeded and the CNDS summer school turned out to be one of my highlights of the year!
The school was organised by Johanna Mård, who did an amazing job – the layout, the breaks and the lectures were all well received, well thought-out and intuitive which lent itself to creative learning and discussion as our spirits, hydration and blood sugar levels were kept at an optimum level over the week. It was co-hosted by Giuliano Di Baldassarre whose paper ‘An Integrative Research Framework to Unravel the Interplay of Natural Hazards and Vulnerabilities’ written with many of his co-workers at the CNDS, was the indicative reading for the summer school and set the scene for understanding DRR and the new framework for novel approaches that can be used to solve the ‘puzzle’ of natural hazards and vulnerabilities.
During the summer school we had talks from a wide variety of guest lecturers, some of these based on collaboration from Daniel Nohrstedt, vulnerability from Giuliano Di Baldassarre and industry talks from those in the position of being advisors to the government like Fredrik Bynander from the Swedish Defence University. These lectures also included some from Hannah Cloke who introduced the ensemble forecasting system to those who don’t work in the hydrological area of research. Hannah’s slides contained accessible images and flow charts with case studies for the class to follow through the talks. This meant that the concept of a gridded climate forecasting system, the forecasting idea and definition, and how it all links through the ‘warning system’ of a flood risk management system was clear for all students. This was a success in science communication, with scientists from all areas of study enjoying the discussion and being able to understand some of the more complex ideas in hydrological science. For example, a tweet (below) from one of the social scientists present at the summer school, Lauren Dent (University of North Texas) explains this point perfectly. The importance of science communication for HEPEX-ers is apparent from talking to those in academia, as the complex methods, models and predictions that we use every day are hard to communicate to others.
More than the impressive scienc-y things she’s doing, I’m impressed with @hancloke ‘s ability to explain it to such a diverse group of students. Making spaghetti models meaningful, even for social scientists! #CNDSsummer @CNDS_Sweden
— Lauren Dent (@ProfLaurenDent) August 21, 2018
Why is it important for ECR’s to come to summer schools, and, why is it important for those students to discuss DRR in relation to their research and development goals? This should be a question which is obvious. DRR, for researchers who are researching natural hazards, risk and vulnerability, is the basis for their research to have some impact on the end-users who will be influenced (even if indirectly) from the research taking place. It allows students of many disciplines to collaborate and share different views on the topic which will increase the researcher’s horizon and broadens their knowledge. This is important for ECR’s as sometimes it can be a narrow view of the researcher’s own methodologies, data and project while this gives them a fresh perspective. It also increases the skill of good science communication as it forces the student to explain their research in a variety of different ways.
Talking to other students from different backgrounds, study areas and scientific methodologies was the best part of the summer school. Collaboration through the group work set out made each of us think about how we can describe our methods and research to those not directly in our field, and helped us acknowledge the benefit of different sciences on a similar problem. The group work set out at the summer school was to work with 5 other students on a ‘mock’ research proposal. At the end of the 5 days the groups had to create a 20-minute presentation and a 500-word proposal summary to hand in to the organisers. The other participants then had a scoring matrix and guidelines in which to give a group some overall marks for the proposal, just like a real submission.
My group (Magik Traktors, pictured below) won the proposal competition and have agreed to keep in touch and potentially polish the proposal and submit it for consideration in a future funding programme. This path was encouraged by the organisers from the very beginning as the future of research is in the hands of those learning now, and being given the opportunity to work interdisciplinarily on a global problem creates the more novel, interesting and practical approach to research and science. The hydrological side of this potential future project was to use ensemble flood forecasting and reanalysis to create risk maps of future flooding in order to help policy makers and future decisions on creating short term infrastructure for people who have been displaced, or services that had been disrupted. The project also had various other aspects surrounding the problem of short term solutions becoming long term problems. I would strongly encourage ECRs to go to summer schools in the future, to fully engage in programs where there is an increased chance of interdisciplinary collaboration and to start thinking and investing into the future impact of their science and potential research opportunities.