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Knowledge sharing in interdisciplinary disaster risk management initiatives: cocreation insights and experience from New Zealand

Tyler M. Barton, School of Earth and Environment, University of Canterbury
Sarah J. Beaven, School of Earth and Environment, University of Canterbury
Nicholas A. Cradock-Henry, Landscape Policy & Governance, Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research
Thomas M. Wilson, School of Earth and Environment, University of Canterbury


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Decision making in complex contexts such as disaster risk management requires collaborative approaches to knowledge production. Evidence-based disaster risk management and pre-event planning relies on robust and relevant disaster risk knowledge. We report on a case study of Project AF8, a “cocreation” collaboration involving local- and central-government disaster risk management agencies and groups, critical infrastructure organizations, and scientists from six universities and Crown Research Institutes. Participant observation and interview data are used to document and analyze the processes used to generate, share, and apply multidisciplinary disaster risk knowledge. Project AF8 was conceived as a cross-jurisdictional and multiagency initiative to plan and prepare for a coordinated response across the South Island following a large magnitude earthquake along the Alpine Fault, one of New Zealand’s major natural hazard risks. Findings show that (1) practitioners at all levels operate in highly uncertain environments and therefore have specific knowledge needs at different times and for different purposes, (2) disaster risk knowledge was perceived to be most effective when scientifically credible and focused on identifying likely impacts on the capacity of communities to function, and (3) disaster risk knowledge outputs and the processes used to cocreate them were perceived to be equally important. Using cocreation to combine researcher credibility with practitioner relevancy enhanced the legitimacy of Project AF8 processes, the collective disaster risk knowledge they facilitated, and the wider project. In hindsight, a greater focus at the outset on developing a formal coproduction structure may have increased the pace of cocreation, particularly in the early phases. Future interdisciplinary disaster risk management initiatives could benefit by adopting contextually relevant aspects of this example to strengthen the science-practice interface for more effective pre-event planning and decision making.

Key words

coproduction of knowledge; disaster impacts; disaster risk management; hazard research; interdisciplinary; science-practice interface

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087