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Haizhong Wang

Oregon State University

Breakout Room 2.


Evidence-based approach; human-centered approach

How can the human dimensions of disaster impacts be more accurately captured and represented in the analysis, modeling and simulation of disasters?

This is a great but tough question to ask and answer; and this is also a big question as well. We have asked a similar question but smaller in scope to ourselves many times within our research group about how we can capture the human decision-making and response behavior (individual or household) in an interdisciplinary evacuation modeling; simulation; and analysis in specifically an agent-based modeling framework. We are pushing ourselves to integrate the empirical aspects of human dimensions of disaster impacts on people and community into an interdisciplinary agent-based modeling and simulation framework to inform the choices of parameters so they are not totally hypothetical; more credible modeling scenarios; and implementable analysis results by working with community partners. To address this question; we have to be clear about what are the human dimensions of disaster impacts and how to measure the impacts and collect key data for modeling; simulation; and analysis of disasters. Human dimensions of disaster impacts are very broad; spanning from ethical; social; cultural; psychosocial; and behavioral implications of disasters. In the disaster research community; we have focused more on social; psychological; and behavioral responses by measuring the influence and interactions of human; disaster; and built environment characteristics and their contributions to social vulnerability and resilience; decision-making; and leadership. However; the emotional and behavioral impacts of disasters on survivors and responders are not traditionally included. We need an empirical evidence-based approach to capture the human dimensions of disaster impacts. Disaster risk reduction decisions should be based on evidence.

What type of data and supporting research infrastructure would be necessary to enable novel, transdisciplinary approaches to answering these and other human-centered disaster questions?

This question was also actively debated during the series of NSF-sponsored workshops on Enabling Interdisciplinary Methods for Disaster Research that I attended together with another 40 more faculty and scholars from more than 12 different disciplines from across the country on defining and understanding interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity. Enabling novel and transdisciplinary approaches requires more comprehensive datasets; integrative frameworks; and synthetic paradigms. Transdisciplinarity often requires  (1) deeper integration of knowledge with increasing depth and breadth; and (2) closer stakeholder involvement from public/private sections; academia; and/or nonprofit organizations. On the data side; we need coordinated data collection; sharing; and synthetic processing. I have participated in two post-disaster data collection trips: (1) the Mexico Puebla Earthquake in September 2017 focusing lifeline damage data and (2) the 2018 Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami focusing on the local residents’ evacuation decision-making and response behavior. While I am working on the creation of an interdisciplinary agent-based tsunami evacuation model for the city of Palu; Indonesia; we integrated the residents’ behavior datasets into the model for modeling; simulation; and analysis of disaster impacts focusing on the human life safety aspects. In some of the simulation scenarios; we need the transportation network disruptions data that we do not have but other engineering teams from other countries has collected these datasets and shared with us for research purposes and enabling international collaborations. Different teams have collected datasets on varying human dimensions of disaster impacts but data are scattered in private storages. We need to incentivize different teams’ efforts to collect and share datasets.

In what ways can US-Japan collaborations advance these questions in new and important ways?

I personally have collaborated with a colleague from Tohoku University for the SCC Track 2 proposal (competitive but not selected funding in the last round) and I am still collaborating with Japanese colleagues from multiple universities on different initiatives including papers; workshops and conferences in the past 7 years. I think Japanese researchers have done a great job and better job (in some cases at least) than their US colleagues in terms of data collection; documenting; categorization in both scale and resolution. My personal and limited observation is that the US disaster research community is doing better than Japan colleagues in terms of data sharing within the community. I think it is important to understand what are some of the areas US and Japan can learn from each other to identify new ways to collaborate. I would propose (1) to establish bridging platforms (like this workshop) for US and Japan researchers on identified and focused topics of shared interests from both sides; the platform can be a newly launched workshop series; recurring focused symposiums; or leveraging existing disaster workshops such as the annual Natural Hazards Workshop; (2) Leveraging existing or Creating a new NSF-JST jointly-sponsored enabling next generation disaster researchers that are open to both US and Japan researchers. This requires funding but the program can be held in both countries with mentors and mentees from both countries. (3) Creating a mutually and jointly supported visiting scholars and students program focusing on disaster impacts on human dimensions or more broadly on disaster research.

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