Natural hazards and critical public participation

Thursday 10 June 2010, University of East Anglia

The third workshop of the ESRC seminar series Critical Perspectives on Public Engagement in Science and Environmental Risk explored the topic of emerging forms of public engagement and participation in the context of geologic and flood hazards. The management of natural hazards has traditionally been dominated by physical scientific understandings, even though it has been recognised for some time that people’s vulnerability to disasters also depends on social, economic and political factors. Increasing attempts to incorporate these latter dimensions has led to some risk reduction strategies becoming more interdisciplinary in opening up to social science and participatory by attempting to include the voices and experiences of those most at risk. Yet while participatory practices linked to international development and community-level efforts to build resilience have existed for some time they often remain disconnected from scientific analyses of hazard and risk that inform policy. There is a need for greater critical insight into the performance of participation in these contexts.

The emergence of participation in a domain dominated by technical expertise raises important questions about power and the politics of knowledge, its possible co-production, and the extent to which assessments can be opened up to lay or community-based perspectives? In addition, how does the very nature of natural hazards, that are often localised and open to direct sensory perception, shape the forms of participation that get enacted? The global reach of these developments raises further issues about the ‘scaling up’ of participation, the ‘mobility’ of participatory techniques from place to place, and the ways in which national culture conditions participation?

The workshop report is available here UEA-report.

To read more about the seminar series see here.


10.30am Registration, Zicer Seminar Room
11.00am Welcome and Introduction Professor Jacquie Burgess (Head of School, School of Environmental Sciences, UEA) Dr Jason Chilvers (School of Environmental Sciences, UEA)
11.15am Natural hazards and public participation Views from the frontline: global reflections on community participation in disaster risk reduction Marcus Oxley (Chairman, The Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction) Creating disaster risk: social learning approaches to risk analysis and assessment Dr Mark Pelling (Department of Geography, Kings College London) Discussion
12.30pm Buffet Lunch
13.15pm Participation and flood hazards: critical reflections Competency groups: an experiment in participatory flood science Professor Neil Ward (Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, UEA) Researcher, expert, victim or policy maker? Washing away boundaries with participatory research in Hull Dr Rebecca Whittle (Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University) Discussion
14.15pm Participation and geophysical hazards: critical reflections ‘I’m a physical scientist get me out of here’: critical reflections on widening involvement in volcanic risk assessment Dr Jenni Barclay (School of Environmental Sciences, UEA) Challenges and opportunities for integrating knowledge types to deal with disasters: Island lessons Dr Ilan Kelman (The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo) Discussion Tea/Coffee
15.30pm Workshop discussion – two breakout groups
16.15pm Plenary discussion Final reflections  Professor Jacquie Burgess (School of Environmental Sciences, UEA)
5.00pm Close