Learning from Earthquakes: First person reports


Moratorium on Social Science Research, Anne Wein, U.S. Geological Survey

March 16, 2011 by
Filed under EERI Team Field Blog, Social Impacts

Due to the state of emergency in Christchurch, the National Controller placed a moratorium on social science research until May 1, 2011 to funnel resources towards the overwhelming response needs and to protect the victims. Enquiries were made about the activities of the social scientist traveling with EERI LFE. Following conversations with those concerned (David Johnstone (GNS) and Sarah Beaven (University of Canterbury)) the social science research statement was revised from recommending delaying social scientist visits to recognizing that social scientists are embedded in the EERI LFE team for the purpose of observation and context. However, it became apparent that a visit to Wellington to meet with New Zealand disaster researchers would promote collaboration between visiting and resident social scientists. New Zealand’s disaster researchers were conveniently convening in Wellington for a doctoral seminar and Summer Emergency Management Institute training. I promptly changed plans to fly up to Wellington the next day. I mingled with disaster researchers at a BBQ and connected with Vivienne Bryner is who undertaking interesting research about the prevalence of geoscience information in the media and connections to the 4 Rs (readiness, response, recovery, reduction). I joined the Emergency Managers Summer Institute Tour the next day which yielded many opportunities to meet other researchers and clarify the current role of visiting social scientists with David Johnstone, director of the Joint Center for Disaster Research. At this stage (2-3 weeks after the devastating earthquake), social scientist expertise is needed in the form of informal and formal research collaborations and critical information addressing questions arising as emergency management moves from response to recovery. The November Research Update at http://disasters.massey.ac.nz lists all graduate student disaster research projects, providing a useful reference for identifying collaborators. Before returning to Christchurch, I met with Julia Becker (GNS), a lead of one of the four social science Darfield/Christchurch earthquake working groups with Tom Wilson (University of Canterbury) and Susan Jolley (MSD)., namely Community Resilience (preparedness, response, recovery, psychosocial issues). The three other groups are 1) Business and insurance sector response and recovery (John Vargo and Erica Seville (University of Canterbury), Felicity Powell (Opus), Shona Van Zijll de Jong (NIWA)), 2) Emergency response including emergency management response, welfare provision (Jon Mitchell (Canterbury CDEM), Kim Wright (GNS), Jared Thomas (Opus), and 3) Recovery policy and practice including land use planning, debris disposal, built environment reconstruction, (Charlotte Brown (University of Canterbury), Bruce Glavovic (Massey University), Wendy Saunders (GNS)). A spreadsheet of working group research activities and proposals is maintained at a New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering Inc. wiki site.

Although, initially I felt uncomfortable with the social science research moratorium, the timing has presented the opportunity to contribute to research activities that will reactivate by May 1.

While in Wellington, I observed solidarity for Christchurch in many stores and at the airport.

Café on Aro Street in Wellington collecting for the Red Cross. Anne Wein, U.S. Geological Survey

Café on Aro Street in Wellington collecting for the Red Cross. Anne Wein, U.S. Geological Survey

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