RKSHOP MEETING ON COMMUNICATION OF GEOSCIENCE INFORMATION
Organised for the IUGS commission on Geoscience for Environmental Management's working group on Communciation of Environmental Geoscience , and the Geological Society Geohazards working group
Held at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG on Wednesday 6th September 2006
Communicating Environmental Geoscience - a new working group of the IUGS Commission "Geosciences for Environmental Management".
David Liverman (Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's, Canada) and Ken Lawrie (Salinity Mapping and Hazard Assessment, CRC LEME, Canberra, Australia)
The effectiveness and impact of scientific research is often compromised by the difficulty of communicating this science to those who might make best use of its conclusions. Recent examples on the international to national to local scale have emphasized that environmental geoscience is by no means immune to this problem. Environmental geoscience has direct and important applications for policy and decision-making. There are numerous examples of where scientific work has clearly indicated a direction in planning and policy, yet this has been ignored. This ranges from the global scale, where some countries resist scientific advice on climate change; to the local, where people live in places that are highly vulnerable to landslide, earthquake, flood, or other hazards. Policy makers frequently ignore the natural variation in earth systems when making decisions, and lack the long-term perspective that palaeoenvironmental research can offer.
The proposal to the IUGS for establishment of a commission "Geosciences for Environmental Management" (GEM) expressed the problem succinctly:- "it remains true that scientists in many parts of the world still have great difficulty in convincing policy makers that environmental geosciences are of great importance to sound, safe, and economic decision making."
There is a widening gulf between scientists and those who could be using science in planning and decision-making. The British novelist and writer CP Snow outlined the "two cultures" of science and humanities nearly 50 years ago (Snow, 1993). Although Snow's argument was aimed at delineating the lack of mutual comprehension between scientists and those with an arts and humanities background, years of increasing specialisation has made the divide between scientists, and those that might use their science wider. The language and methods used have diverged to the extent that scientists can rarely understand the work being done in other scientific disciplines, or even by specialists within their own discipline. Even though the general public, policy makers and politicians may have some science education, this can be inadequate when science is presented without consideration for its audience.
Cavazza and Sassi (2004), writing on behalf of the organizing committee of the International Geological Congress in 2004 wrote as part of their "Strategic vision for the Earth Sciences"- "skepticism as well as outright hostility towards modern science and/or its technological applications have been expressed recently by a wide range of groupsÉ It is therefore vital that geoscientists communicate effectively their knowledge to the public and to policymakers in order to increase the understanding of science, to inform policy decisions, and to make new findings accessible to those who might need them. More efficient bridges need to be built between policy, management, and science, as well as between the public and private sectors."
Most researchers in environmental geoscience know of examples where they are puzzled or bemused by planning decisions that apparently fly in the face of scientific advice. The difficulty lies on both sides- policy makers lack the scientific background and skills to understand what scientists are telling them, and scientists lack the ability to present their science in a form that is comprehensible. The public frequently has difficulty understanding scientific assessments of environmental problems. The solution to many environmental problems is often thought to be more scientific research, or to fund more detailed scientific studies. In many examples, however, adequate science exists, yet does not seem to be taken into account in decision making.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, floods cause considerable economic loss that has to be borne by a comparatively small population. The flood in Badger in 2003 is estimated to have caused $12 million damage, a significant economic impact on a province with a population of only approximately .5 million. Floods in Stephenville in 2005 are estimated to have caused close to $20 million damage. Flood hazard mapping was undertaken in the 1980s and 1990s, covering many communities in the province, including Badger and Stephenville. Analysis of these flood disasters indicates that development continued in high-risk flood zones after the publication of the hazard maps, increasing the impact of the subsequent flooding events.
An understanding of the natural variation of trace elements on the earth's surface is essential in drafting environmental guidelines and standards. The Canadian Council for the Ministers of the Environment set standards for safe levels of trace elements in soils, and provide direction as to action if these guidelines are exceeded. In some cases, however, natural levels of such trace elements commonly exceed the guidelines. The recommended value for arsenic in soil for residential development is 12 ppm. The typical arsenic level in tills sampled over volcanic rocks in central Newfoundland, and elsewhere, is greater than 50 ppm, leading perhaps to large areas of pristine landscape being classified as contaminated sites! The 12 ppm guideline is based on health considerations as developed by researchers and has a solid scientific basis. The problem is in the application of these guidelines to policy, where there has been a failure to recognize that these guidelines can frequently be exceeded in areas completely unaffected by human intervention. Although the health implications of such natural levels are unchanged, appropriate response needs to be based on the difference in approach to a site that has been contaminated by human activity as opposed to natural levels.
The flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina in the USA was predicted with uncanny accuracy by research well in advance of its occurrence. The research had been well documented in articles in the popular science press, including detailed description of the likely impact of a major hurricane on the Gulf Coast. For example the following appeared in Scientific American - "A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands. Human activities along the Mississippi River have dramatically increased the risk, and now only massive reengineering of southeastern Louisiana can save the city" (Fischetti, 2001). However the US was still apparently poorly prepared for the disaster of 2005; the reasons for this are complex and subject to considerable investigation and research.
Although Indian Ocean tsunamis were known to be unusual events they were by no means unprecedented, and the lack of preparation for the events of December 26 2004 may be ascribed in part to a failure of scientists to communicate the importance of rare but high impact events. Tsunamis had affected wide areas on the margins of the Indian Ocean in 1883, the Krakatoa explosion caused a devastating tsunami in Java and Sumatra (36,000 estimated fatalities), but its effects also were seen in Sri Lanka and India, mostly in areas affected severely in 2004. There were other documented tsunamis in the area prior to 2004, yet no warning systems or evacuation plans existed in vulnerable areas.
On the global stage, it can be argued that the failure of several major first-world countries to take immediate action on carbon-dioxide emissions since scientific consensus on anthropogenically induced climate change emerged well over a decade ago is in part a failure of communication. Shackley and Wynne (1996), for instance argue that discussion of uncertainty in climate model predictions - an accepted part of scientific discourse - has led to undermining of scientific authority when applied to policy. Boykoff and Boykoff (2004) ascribe the reluctance of the US Government to address climate change issues in part to disjuncture between a scientific community that deals in a language of uncertainty and probability and a political culture that requires certainty before action. Climate change offers further challenges in communication, as the process of change is slow by human time scales; in general it is harder to initiate responses to hazards that develop over long time scales as opposed to rapid onset events.
Many examples exist of effective use of environmental geoscience in developing policy and making enlightened decisions but are less well known, simply because they result in sensible decisions that are not generally newsworthy. However, understanding how scientists were successful in such cases provides others with possible methods and tools to get their own science used effectively.
Geoscience education- a different approach
There are many local, national and international initiatives that aim to improve geoscience education. The wholly admirable objective of these efforts is to raise the level of geoscientific literacy in the general community. The IUGS Commission on Geoscience Education, Training and Technology Transfer (COGE) was established in 2004 to examine and develop programs to assist developed and developing countries to maintain, expand or introduce better earth science education, outreach and technology transfer within their country. The objectives of the International Geoscience Education Organisation (IGEO) are to promote geoscience education internationally at all levels, to encourage developments raising public awareness of geoscience, particularly amongst younger people, and to work for enhancement of the quality of geoscience education internationally. The organization hosts GeoSciEd, a major international conference every four years. These efforts are matched by many organizations on the national and local scale. Geoscience education generally aims to improve the geoscientific knowledge of the non-scientist. There is, comparatively, little effort made to educate the scientist in techniques and methods of effective communication. There are some excellent communicators in the scientific community, and their work provides useful models of effective communication. A Canadian example of such an initiative is the GeoScape project, a series of community focused products designed to provide residents important information on hazards, and other local geological features (Turner et al. 2002). However, such examples are rare.
Thus there appears to be a need to educate scientists on how to ensure their scientific expertise is used effectively by improving their communication skills.
Approaches and solutions
The first stage in effective communication is recognizing that methods other than those generally used by the scientific community (peer-reviewed papers and reports, presentations at scientific conferences) are required. A communication plan is increasingly used in project planning in government science but it is often unclear as to who has the responsibility for communication, and whether those assigned to communicate have the skills to do so. One school of thought suggests that communication to the public should be performed by those trained exclusively in communication rather than the scientists conducting the research. This requires, however, that the person responsible for communication has an adequate understanding of the science, which again puts the onus on the scientist to communicate effectively.
Scientists should take responsibility for informing the wider audience of their work; they tend to be trusted figures by the public, and understand their own work better than any third party. They thus need to develop the skills; and use appropriate venues and methods to communicate effectively with the audience targeted, whether it is the general public, planners or policy makers.
Useful research risk in the health disciplines has been done in the general area of communication of risk. Natural hazards have been a major focus of study in geography, particularly in understanding response and perception, and how this affects planning. The results of much research in the social sciences are highly relevant to communication of environmental geoscience. However, the relatively narrow focus in training of most earth scientists; and the scarcity of true interdisciplinary conferences, meetings and scientific publications means that environmental geoscientists are not as aware of such studies as they might be.
One vital element in effective communication is identifying and understanding the target audience. Often efforts are focused on the "general public", which in many cases if less effective than targeting those who might be able to use scientific results to influence and change policy. The target audience in many parts of the world is itself changing as local or community bodies are becoming increasingly involved in decision making. In Australia for example researchers working in the field of soil salinity gave up some time ago trying to reach the public at large, and now focus on the 'leading farmer/agronomist' groups, and other target audiences.
The objectives of the IUGS Commission "Geosciences for Environmental Management" state:- "GEM provides guidance to geoscientists on how best to integrate geoscience into environmental policy and to communicate the concepts to potential interest groups such as policy makers, politicians, environmental organisations, scientists from other disciplines, and the general public." To address this objective, GEM has established a working group "Communicating Environmental Geoscience".
The working group will attempt to develop and improve the tools and skills environmental geoscientists need to communicate effectively with non-specialists - politicians, policy makers, regulators, educators, and the public at large. The main task of the group is educating, training and assisting scientists in the following areas:-
The working group will have a steering committee of 4 to 6 members with an international representation and ideally crossing disciplines, which will be established in the next 3 months. They will direct a programme of workshops, training courses, meetings, publications and the establishment of a newsletter and web site to communicate the efforts of the group. The group will hope to build on existing efforts, as to effectively reach a world-wide community of environmental geoscientists will be challenging and the group will need to marshal as wide a range of resources as possible. Approaches will need to be adaptable so as to be effective in based on the economic circumstances, method of government, and decision-making structure in the area of concern.
Boykoff, M. and J. Boykoff. 2004. Bias as Balance: Global Warming and the U.S. Prestige Press Global Environmental Change. Volume 14, p 125-136.
Cavazza W. and Sassi F.P. 2004. A strategic vision for the Earth Sciences. 32nd IGC Informs (conference newspaper), No. 9, August 28, 2004.
Fischetti M. 2001. Drowning New Orleans. Scientific American, October 2001.
Shackley S., and Wynne B. 1996. Representing Uncertainty in Global Climate Change Science and Policy: Boundary-Ordering Devices and Authority. Science, Technology, & Human Values, Vol. 21, p 275-302
Snow C.P. 1993. The Two Cultures. Cambridge University Press, 181 pages.
Turner, R.J.W.; Clague, J.J.; Vodden, C.; Wynne, J.; and Franklin, R. 2002. The geoscape Canada project: Raising public geoliteracy across Canada. Geological Association of Canada and Mineralogical Association of Canada Joint Annual Meeting, May 27 - 29, 2002. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Programme and abstracts.
Advances in geoscience communication techniques
Ricky Terrington, Andrew Gibson and Katherine Royse (British Geological Survey)
Many developments are on difficult ground, underlain by soft soils, high groundwater levels, and where there is a legacy of industrial contamination. Failure to appreciate fully the geological ground conditions can lead to project overrun resulting in escalating costs. Effective forward planning decisions can only be made when the potential impact of such factors is known. If sound decisions are to be made, then clearly those organizations involved in planning and development need easy access to all relevant information.
Rapid developments in three-dimensional (3D) modelling software are now providing challenging and exciting possibilities for constructing high-resolution geological models of the shallow sub-surface. Using this new technology (supported by our geological and geotechnical archives), we can predict not only the type of rocks that lie beneath our feet, but also their likely engineering behaviour and hydrological properties. The data can then be imported into standard GIS packages and queried along with other complementary geographical information, resulting in a powerful tool to assist in strategic planning and sustainable development. The aim will be to make this information available through the world wide web.
Improving environmental geoscience communication - a policy perspective
Joy Jacqueline Pereira
The governance of environmental issues at international and regional levels, is conducted via an intricate web of agreements, treaties, conventions and institutions. Crucial environmental issues are addressed through global or regional policy instruments such as Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), which provide for actions and initiatives by countries that are parties to these agreements and share their objectives. Sovereign nations have various governance systems to manage environment and development within their borders. At the national level, many countries have institutionalised environmental policy. A range of policy instruments is employed at various levels and sectors, across spatial and non-spatial scales to improve environmental management. Such instruments may be legislative, regulatory, procedural, economic or voluntary in nature, or a combination, depending on its purpose and the level, sector or scale of operation.
Environmental geoscience provides expertise and tools to map physical resources as well as assess and monitor them for pollution and mismanagement in a systematic and integrated approach. In addition, environmental geoscience can also contribute to assess the vulnerability of society to catastrophic and insidious environmental hazards. The three dimensional spatial and temporal approach of environmental geoscience allows for an appreciation of the "big picture" where the environment is concerned. Thus, environmental geoscience has an important role to play in developing novel knowledge and approaches that can support various policy instruments to promote sustainable development.
To contribute effectively in the policy arena, environmental geoscience information should be communicated in the right form, at the right time to the proper channel for a specific purpose. In this regard, the role of the IUGS Commission on Geoscience for Environmental Management (IUGS-GEM) is to develop approaches and provide guidance to environmental geoscientists on how best to integrate environmental geoscience into policy and to communicate its importance to potential interest groups such as policy makers, politicians, environmental organizations, other science disciplines, and the general public.
Environmental information for planners: use of the world wide web for decision support
David Bridge (British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham, NG12 5GG.)
The increased emphasis on Ôsustainable' development places greater responsibility on planning authorities to take a longer-term view of the likely impacts of decisions involving the environment. For example, the question of whether to allow development on floodplains must take account of the effect of global warming, which is predicted to give a rise in sea level of up to 0.88 m over the next 100 years placing at risk over 12 000 km2 of low-lying land.
To inform such decisions, the planning system requires tools that link relevant science with the practical requirements of determining planning policy.
A proof of concept system, the Environmental Information System for Planners (EISP), was designed with this aim in mind. The system, supported by funding from Central Government and the Natural Environment Research Council, was developed in collaboration with five local authorities. It makes available to non-specialists, models and information covering a wide range of relevant scientific disciplines, using the worldwide web as the access vehicle. Underpinning the system is an environmental GIS that contains the most up-to-date data, information and models relevant to each of the environmental disciplines considered.
The EISP has being designed to support three principal planning functions carried out by Local Authorities:
Making geology relevant: Can geologists do it?
Jenny Walsby (British Geological Survey - email@example.com)
How many people understand a geology map and use it to assess the ground they live on or plan to develop? How many town planners, house owners, insurers know that geology can identify areas prone to flooding, radon gas emissions, landslides and clays that swell and shrink? Concerned about these questions, geologists and GIS professionals at the BGS have created data sets that make information about geological hazards easy to use and understand.
Utilising the vast data holdings and geoscience knowledge of BGS and building on past thematic mapping activities, a series of national geohazard data sets have been developed. In simple terms, the 1:50K scale digital map data (DiGMapGB-50) has been combined with topographic data and BGS database information, then classified in terms of different geohazards using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) technology. The geohazards are described in lay-terms and provided in different formats to meet different needs.
Geohazard is an emotive term and many people think of natural hazards as being large-scale disasters such as tsunami and major earthquakes. In order to explain the relevance of the usually less dramatic British geohazards, that is the potential cost and health implications, appropriate terminology is required. For example, for a house built on an area of swell-shrink clay the data is labelled with advice not to plant or remove trees or shrubs near to buildings and that there could be a higher insurance risk in droughts. Similar GIS data sets with "English" descriptions have been created for radon potential, natural gas emissions, landslides, compressible and collapsible deposits, soluble rocks, running sands and groundwater flooding.
For local planning and environmental health officers the data can be incorporated into their own GI Systems and combined with their own information to aid decision-making and reporting. For members of the public and consultants the GIS data can be output in paper or PDF reports written in plain English and available from BGS or one of the many organisations that incorporate BGS data into their own reporting systems. Geological information is thus able to meet a wider audience and reveal to the British Public how geology can be used in conjunction with other information and why it is relevant to their lives.
Communicating geoscience information to the legal profession: the American example
Roy J. Shlemon
Most professional geoscience organizations have "Outreach Programs" that provide news to the media either periodically or following a catastrophic event. In the United States, this is exemplified by the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey and various universities whose spokespersons made technical "pronouncements" following the devastating Katrina hurricane in 2005. This information from ostensibly unbiased scientists usually satisfies national newspaper and television media. Commonly, however, years after landslides, floods, bluff failures, differential subsidence, or other ground failures ("earth movement" in legal parlance), litigation often pits aggrieved homeowners against builders, approving governmental agencies and geoscience professionals who made the original technical recommendations. Accordingly, in typically American fashion, attorneys representing plaintiffs, defendants, and various cross-complainants will seek out "verbally skilled," licensed geotechnical experts to provide expertise, initially as consultants, then as "expert witnesses" subject to court acceptance and ultimately to cross-examination. Communicating accurate, technical information to a retaining attorney is often not easy, for the lawyer will invariably "bias" information and professional opinion to support his client's position. Similarly problematic is that most jury members have little scientific training, and thus are more readily swayed by communication skills than by technical fact.
In American litigation, the geoscience professional must communicate in several ways. First, he provides technical information to his counsel, whether favorable to the litigation or not. This is usually done orally to avoid creating a "paper trail" subject to disclosure to other parties. Second, when subject to deposition, he often tries to answer "yes or no," revealing as little information as possible, to the consternation of opposing counsel. This is a skill honed by experience, and is particularly challenging when the geoscience professional has a teaching background and inherently desires to explain complex issues to the layperson. Third, after court designation as an expert witness, the geoscience professional responds to direct questioning (usually friendly) by speaking to the jury or judge, and providing simple but technically correct answers. Here, communication is enhanced by use of props (exhibits) to bolster the testimony. These may range from maps, photographs and physical models to animated computer simulations, depending on the scope, cost and potential economic benefits of the litigation. And fourth - perhaps the most difficult - the geoscience professional must respond to cross examination. At this point, every flaw in thinking or communication will be brought out by the opposing attorney whose sole function is to denigrate the expert in front of the jury. Whereas a scientist is trained to identify and evaluate uncertainties in his conclusions (working hypotheses), the attorney is trained to exploit these as weakness in testimony. Ideally, litigation outcome is based solely on the facts, but in reality, many American litigation-decisions stem from the sought-after, communication skills of the geoscience experts.
Communicating Environmental Geoscience - Australian communication pathways.
Colin J. Simpson
Effectively communicating the role of geoscience in environmental, sustainable development, and/or sustainable resource management, issues is not a straightforward process. For example it requires different approaches depending on the audience being addressed. The different audiences can be broadly classed as: scientists, governments, and the general public. The communication process is often complicated further by the difficulty that geoscientists/scientists can have in identifying the appropriate communication pathways to use if their endeavours are to be successful. Such pathways are not generally taught or explained during the formal scientific education process and as a consequence it may require considerable experience for individuals to understand the processes involved. As an example of the types of understanding required this paper outlines the designated/established geoscience communication pathways that exist in Australia for communication of geoscience both internally and internationally. The IUGS Commission on Geoscience for Environmental Management (GEM) has an International Working Group on Communicating Environmental Geoscience (CEG) (www.mun.ca/canqua/ceg/). CEG is keen to assist in promoting better understanding of the various geoscience pathways to be followed in individual countries to achieve successful communication. It is hoped that this Australian example may stimulate geoscientists in other countries to record and publish (in simplified formats) the appropriate pathways required to be followed in their country.
Geoscience in public administration - some comments from the UK
Brian R Marker
Geoscientists are well aware of the importance of their information to land management and development. However many key decisions on legislation, regulation, policies and development are made by individuals who have limited awareness of the relevance. The "evidence base" is often dominated by economic and social considerations. Recognition of the need for sustainable development, has given much more emphasis to environmental factors but mainly in terms of conservation of habitats, protected species and biodiversity. Increasing public consultation on proposed measures gives geoscientists a better opportunity in the process. But the relevance of comments may not be appreciated if these are not presented in the right way. Too often, geoscientists are seen as a group who emphasise why things should not be done, rather than how they might best be done.
Successful influence depends on early involvement in the policy/decision chain but the geoscientist is often called in only after adverse events have taken place. The introduction of requirements for sustainability appraisal of plans and environmental impact assessment (EIA) of significant developments has encouraged earlier engagement. But most small-scale development is not subject to EIA although site investigation is normally required. Public authorities are often poorly equipped to assess the adequacy of the resulting documents. Moreover sound assessment and investigation require ready access to high quality information.
A key issue is, therefore, how to increase awareness of important information amongst:
Use of plain, rather than scientific, language helps. But, for effective communication, those presenting information need make it specifically relevant and available to each audience. That requires understanding of how audiences think and work. Some examples will be given to illustrate approaches that have been taken with varying degrees of success.
Natural hazards and climate change in the stakeholder communication process
Natural hazards are finding their way into national and regional development strategies since approximately the 1990's, as authorities seek to respect specifically harmful hazards in, e.g. land use plans. Multi hazards concepts are so far very rare this context. Climate change is taken up by national strategies mostly from the mitigation perspective, even though financial actors and scientists call for more adaptation oriented approaches. This presentation discusses applications derived from EU funded regional development projects, one identifying and mapping hazards relevant for spatial development and applying those in policy recommendations, the second one on a Decision Support Frame (DSF), which supports stakeholders in the identification of climate change adaptation strategies.
Negative communication effects in a lead contaminated mining area in southeastern Brazil
Gabriela M. Di Giulio, Newton M. Pereira and Bernardino R. Figueiredo - University of Campinas (Brazil) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Scientists and professionals who deal with environmental and public health issues recognize the importance of displaying the results of their research projects to the local population in an appropriate form, especially when they indicate risk situations. This process is known as risk communication and includes strategies to facilitate understanding of relevant data and their implications by the public. One important benefit of that strategy is promoting public involvement in decision processes to solve or attenuate risk situations.
In this context, risk communication has intensely been discussed in many countries where participation of the community in the risk management process was achieved as a consequence of correct information. Unfortunately, this subject has not been debated in Brazil, as it should be. On account of this, environmental and public health researchers continue to face difficulties to establish an appropriate dialogue with local communities.
The present study focuses on the actions adopted by scientists from the University of Campinas for disseminating their results on lead contamination and human exposure in the mining district of Adrian—polis, southeastern Brazil. At the first moment, several families received the assistance of health authorities and some environmental intervention actions were planed for the area. Notwithstanding, due to the media sensationalism about the case and the lack of efficient communication, Adrian—polis residents have suffered stigmatization for their health problems and this negative effect has been a determinant factor to become some of them unwilling to cooperate in future research. (On going research financially supported by FAPESP Grant 05/52239-0).
The Multinational Andean Project: Geosciences for Andean Communities: New directions and innovations in geohazards and risk management
J. Villarruel Toro (1), R. Page (2) C. Hickson (3), M. Ellerbeck (3), M. M. Jaramillo (3), O. Krauth (3), F. Mu–oz-Carmona (4), R. H. Hermanns (3)
(1) INGEOMINAS, Bogota, Colombia, (2) SEGEMAR, Buenos Aires, Argentina, (3) Geological Survey of Canada, Vancouver, Canada, (4) Consultant, MAP:GAC, Chandler, USA email@example.com/ fax + 571 2220587/phone +57-1 222-0713
The Multinational Andean Project: Gesocience for Andean Communities (MAP:GAC) is a cooperative project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the seven participating Andean nations of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The 6-year (2002- 2008) project aims to strengthen the national geoscience agencies of the Andean region, positioning them to undertake complex and demanding projects directed towards the needs of land use planners and natural hazard mitigation agencies, emergency managers, communities and other clients who require up-to-date, high quality geoscience information on natural hazards (landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes).
MAP:GAC's philosophy is that geohazards occur in a physical, social and human context which should be understood if adequate actions for hazard and risk management are to be implemented. It is also understood that interactions between the different players in the geologic hazard context - frequently built and intensified during a disaster or catastrophic event- need to be better articulated.
In order to ensure that geoscience be appropriately applied, MAP:GAC places strong emphasis on: 1) improving scientific investigations and products by placing them into a social context and producing information in a format which can be understood and used by land use planners; 2) implementing hazard communication not only as an information and educational process but as a means for transformation, helping to facilitate relations between the various actors dealing with geohazards, and 3) developing information technology systems in support of the various players in geohazard and risk management.
To date the project has developed regionally agreed-upon scientific terminology, methodology and classification systems for landslides. It is anticipated that this will facilitate the sharing of information, thus helping the understanding of landslide phenomena at a more global level in terms of triggers, mitigation efforts and other types of remedial action, by bringing out the commonalities and differences in slope failures. Also, standardization of digital data formats as well as seamless geospatial and non geospatial data interchange through the use of an on-line application called Geosemantica is almost complete. Case studies have been completed in a number of areas where the community, local authorities, and geological surveys took part in a participatory process from the hazard analysis to the mitigation options and the implementation of these measures.
By focusing on producing high quality geoscience information, developing technology support systems, and communicating with the affected communities, MAP:GAC is improving the capacity to respond to geohazards that challenge the economic and social development of regions and communities in Canada and in the developing world.