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Strengthening links between technologies and society for european disaster resilience

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LINKS (Strengthening links between technologies and society for european disaster resilience)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-05-31

Social media and crowdsourcing (SMCS) are increasingly being used in disaster risk management for improved information gathering and collaboration across European communities. The effectiveness of SMCS on European disaster resilience, however, remains unclear owing to the social, institutional and technological diversity across Europe. The challenge faced by first responders, public authorities, citizens and other relevant stakeholders, is the absence of collective knowledge for effectively understanding and applying social media and crowdsourcing for improved disaster resilience under diverse conditions.

The overall objective of LINKS is to strengthen links between technologies and society for improved European disaster resilience, by producing sustainable advanced learning on the use of SMCS in disasters. We define sustainable advanced learning as a maintainable and evolving collection of knowledge produced for and by relevant stakeholders.

From this point of departure, LINKS set out to achieve four core objectives:
O1: Produce sustainable advanced learning on SMCS in disasters.
O2: Achieve a consolidated understanding of SMCS in disasters.
O3: Govern the diversity around SMCS in disasters.
O4: Bring multidisciplinary stakeholders together around the uses of SMCS in disasters.

To achieve these objectives, LINKS conducts research involving local partners and participants in five European cases. The cases represent different hazard scenarios (earthquakes, flooding, industrial hazards, terrorism, drought) in four countries (Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands). The research feeds into the project’s main outputs:
1) The LINKS Framework consisting of learning materials, such as scientific methods, practical tools, and guidelines, addressing different groups of stakeholders.
2) The LINKS Community, consisting of multidisciplinary stakeholders including first-responders, public authorities, civil society organizations, business communities, citizens, and researchers across Europe, dedicated to improving European disaster resilience through the use of SMCS.
3) The LINKS Community Center, the online interface for stakeholders within the LINKS Community to access and contribute knowledge to the LINKS Framework.
During the first year of the project, LINKS submitted all foreseen deliverables and completed its first milestone which included:
• Developing three key knowledge bases and methodologies.
• Establishing the work plans, strategies and first concepts for the LINKS Framework, LINKS Cases, LINKS Community Center, and LINKS Community.
• Developing a comprehensive Ethical and Societal Impact Strategy.
• Developing a Dissemination, Exploitation and Communication Strategy.

The main focus during this period was establishing the conceptual foundations for the project. This involved the development of the three LINKS knowledge bases on Disaster Risk Perception and Vulnerability (DRVP), Disaster Management Processes (DMP), Disaster Community Technologies (DCT), and the methodological approaches for studying the knowledge bases in relation to social media and crowdsourcing (SMCS). In this regard the main results achieved in this period included:

WP2 (Assessment of Disaster Risk Perception and Vulnerability) developed unique conceptual and methodological approaches for studying vulnerability and disaster risk perception (DRPV) in relation to SMCS and disasters in three deliverables (D2.1 D2.2 and D2.3). In terms of vulnerability, WP2 identified four main properties which explain vulnerability as a fluid concept: diversity, accessibility, connectivity and mobility. These concepts are useful to understand the dynamicity of vulnerability in terms of the uses of SMCS in different phases of the disaster management cycle, and the interdependencies between vulnerability and resilience. Disaster risk perception (DRP) in relation to SMCS, can be viewed through a multi-level framework that evaluates individual and environment factors including: 'Background' factors (social values, cultural context, spatial context), 'Interpersonal' factors (knowledge, information flows, awareness and trust) and 'Individual' factors (psychometric factors, affects, emotions and experience).These factors are linked to those identified in the study on vulnerability and are useful to understand its dynamicity of variables which impact vulnerability, risk perception and resilience.

WP3 (Assessment of Disaster Management Processes) developed unique conceptual and methodological approaches for exploring SMCS in disaster management process in two deliverables (D3.1 and D3.2). In the context of disaster governance, WP3 developed a DMP Resilience Wheel which can assist institutions in understanding and operationalizing SMCS in disasters across four key dimensions: decision-making processes, accessible credible information, sensitivity towards vulnerabilities (e.g rights and entitlement) and constant learning and change across the four phases of the disaster management cycle. WP3 also reviewed and produced a living registry on the current DMP policy landscape for SMCS in disasters in Europe.

WP4 (Assessment of Disaster Community Technologies) developed unique conceptual and methodological approaches for assessing the technical landscape for SMCS in disaster management processes in two deliverables (D4.1 and D4.2). The main outputs from WP4 in this period are a review of the current DCT landscape in Europe, and the development of a Disaster Community Technologies (DCT) Schema: a category system to assist stakeholders in the classification, selection and ultimately in the implementation of SMCS (and other) technologies in their work processes in disaster settings.

The next steps in LINKS will be applying the DRPV, DMP and DCT methodologies in the LINKS cases. The project will shift to a more user-centric approach, working with the partners and participants in the local cases to develop the LINKS Framework and to build the LINKS Community.
The first LINKS results suggest that there are massive differences in terms of accessibility, connectivity and mobility to digital spaces within all phases of disaster risk management. This is further complicated by disinformation and misinformation. However, we find that SMCS strategies and technologies, when taking into account diversity among European communities, can provide a window of opportunity to govern disasters more efficiently and inclusively.

LINKS’ findings culminate in the form of the LINKS Framework which will support capacity development of various actors (NGOs, local municipalities, researchers etc.) for the use of SMCS in disaster risk management taking diversity into account. Further, our work will play a critical role in pointing towards the need for SMCS to be considered in relevant legal frameworks, policies, and guidelines.

Ultimately, LINKS aims to produce and facilitate a virtual environment (LINKS Community Center) that facilitates sustainable advanced learning in the long-term on SMCS in disasters for relevant stakeholders. For that reason, LINKS maintains a grounded approach to the activities and outputs under all WP, developing strong relationships with the practitioners, researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders involved in our work. By strengthening connections and collaborations among partners and external stakeholders we ensure that the projects impacts are maximised through its end users.
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