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Natasha Fox

Oregon State University

Breakout Room 4.


LGBT+; community-engaged research; participatory methods

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

What is missing from models and simulations of disasters are the lived experiences and humanity of people in places impacted by them. These are not easily captured by computer simulations; which; while powerful tools for analysis and prediction; can only tell part of the story. People’s experiences of disasters; including the roles that they did or did not have in preparing; experiencing; and recovering from them; add a layer of richness and depth that is critically important to understanding disasters’ true human dimensions. There are many ways in which this type of data can contribute to tools of analysis. In our experience this is best achieved by intentionally including people who are typically marginalized from the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge. For example; inviting diverse community members to “ground truth” models and simulations prior to a hazard event’s occurrence may reveal a number of blind spots in the analysis that someone with lived experience as a member of that community would notice immediately. Similarly; after a disaster occurs; it should be considered best practice for any post disaster research and data collection to document the experiences of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and diverse identities; especially those who experience marginalization in everyday life. Because it is these individuals who typically encounter barriers to accessing assistance in both the immediate aftermath and longer term recovery; it is critical that these experiences can more accurately figure into disaster analyses; models and simulations.

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?

More opportunities are needed for truly collaborative research partnerships both within and beyond academia. Many researchers in the social sciences rarely have a chance to work collaboratively with structural and civil engineers; for example; yet in a real world disaster scenario these disciplinary boundaries hold no meaning. Similarly; urban planners and people who are typically understood to be disaster planning experts are trained to focus on the hazard threat itself; such as the potential threat to built environments and infrastructure; with little consideration for the specific experiences and needs of the people being impacted at all phases of the disaster. A growing body of research highlighting how people in different communities actually experience disasters shows the inadequacies of these siloed approaches. Qualitative data is absolutely critical to improving hazard assessment; mitigation; adaptation—including comprehensive planning; policy making; and engineering—through targeted; co-produced knowledge in sustained collaboration and partnership with hazard-prone communities. In order to meaningfully and ethically undertake such community-engaged research; however; effort must be made to build relationships—between researchers in different disciplines; as well as with community members; first responders; and local officials and other stakeholders. These types of relationships take time in order to develop the level of trust and reciprocity necessary to be fruitful. Funding agencies and institutions that support disaster research should take the development of such relationships into account in their timelines and deadlines.

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

This type of collaboration is urgently needed in both Japanese and US contexts. For example; along the Cascadia Subduction Zone; essentially a geologic mirror of Japan’s 2011 earthquake; local communities are preparing for the likely event of a similarly powerful megathrust earthquake and tsunami to strike the region. Accordingly; a new collaborative research project focusing on growing LGBT+ community resilience along the Oregon coast operationalizes knowledge from LGBT+ people’s experiences of Japan’s 2011 disasters. The project entails building partnerships between researchers and community members to create the pathways to share knowledge on inclusive disaster planning. LGBT+ communities in disaster-impacted Tohoku were less likely to benefit from disaster recovery and reconstruction programs and funding than the general population. A US-Japan LGBT+ community collaborative approach to applied disaster research can illuminate why such barriers arose in Tohoku; and how to reduce the likelihood of a similar outcome in the event of a Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Furthermore; Tohoku LGBT+ community members facing future disasters also stand to benefit from a collaborative approach to learning about disaster resilience in LGBT+ communities in the US. The Cascadia LGBT+ research project will generate many important considerations for planners; policymakers; community organizers and members of the public facing future disasters; which can be translated and applied in Japan. This type of US-Japan collaborative approach could prompt new questions and new approaches to disaster research; and enable more people to have a voice in determining the ways in which disasters will impact them.

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