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Knowledge management in the field of natural hazards and risk management in Switzerland. An empirical analysis of knowledge communication between science and practice

abstract The management of natural hazards (such as avalanches or floods) plays an important role in Switzerland. Within the last two decades enormous efforts have been undertaken to improve the management of natural hazards: A strategy for dealing with natural hazards has been developed which focuses on the risk-based management of such hazards.

This strategy requires the involvement of all stakeholders within a risk dialogue. To this end, numerous science-based risk management methods have been developed and deployed in practice. While numerous researchers have focused on developing methods and instruments which enable the risk-based planning of protection measures, practitioners have struggled in using these methods. In fact, preliminary analysis revealed that these science-based methods are insufficiently applied in natural hazards practice.

These challenges provide the motivation for the research project, in which we investigate the reasons for the inadequate transfer of research findings into practice as well as how this problem can be overcome.

To do so, we adopt a knowledge-based perspective and apply concepts from the realm of knowledge management: We examine the knowledge-intensive processes within the natural hazards risk management which lead to an application of science-based concepts. This is thus one of the first research projects to integrate the two areas of risk and knowledge management.

In the project, those empirical research methods of the social sciences will be applied which are best suited for root cause analysis and context understanding, as for instance document analysis, visual focus groups, and qualitative interviewing. Qualified informants for the empirical studies will be selected from a large network of experts (from research and from practice). The triangulation of data from these sources will enable us to map the crucial knowledge intensive processes and identify knowledge communication barriers.

Based on this problem analysis through mapping, knowledge communication solutions can be envisioned and pilot tested. The expected results are thus not only of high importance for the fields of natural hazards, risk management, and knowledge management, but also for public policy and practice.

This research project is necessarily situated in a context which is highly interdisciplinary, combining experts in natural hazards, risk management, and knowledge management, as well as communication. In addition, the project is transdisciplinary in the sense that it involves practice and science perspectives in the co-creation of knowledge.
   
keywords knowledge communication, knowledge management, risk management, risk communication, natural hazards, interdisciplinary research, knowledge visualization
   
homepage http://www.knowledge-communication.org
partner University of Berne
ETH - WSL
type fundamental research project
status ongoing
start of project 2009
end of project 2012
principal Martin Eppler
additional informations Cross-divisional Swiss National Science Foundation Project
topics knowledge communication, knowledge visualization, risk dialogue, risk management, risk communication
methods knowledge-intensive process mapping, visual focus groups, interviews, knowledge flow audits
contact Martin J. Eppler