Public Release:  Workshop report explores use of mass collaboration in disaster management

Report focuses on opportunities and challenges posed by social media and other collaborative technologies

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

WASHINGTON -- The growing use of social media and other mass collaboration technologies is opening up new opportunities in disaster management efforts, but is also creating new challenges for policymakers looking to incorporate these tools into existing frameworks, according to a new report from the Commons Lab at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

The Commons Lab, part of the Wilson Center's Science & Technology Innovation Program, hosted a September 2012 workshop bringing together emergency responders, crisis mappers, researchers, and software programmers to discuss issues surrounding the adoption of these new technologies.

The Commons Lab is pleased to announce the release of "Connecting Grassroots to Government for Disaster Management: Workshop Summary," a report discussing the key findings, policy suggestions, and success stories that emerged during the workshop. The report's release coincides with the tenth annual Disaster Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Department of Homeland Security to help educate the public about preparing for emergencies.

The workshop charted new territory for the field by prioritizing academic and applied research opportunities and challenges. The report points to best practices, useful tools, and practical approaches for integrating crowdsourced data with more traditional data sources.

The workshop found that concerns about accuracy and liability, the inability to translate research into operational decision-making, and policy limitations on gathering and managing data continue to stymie the adoption of these new approaches. The report further points out five pressing challenges that emerged during the workshop:

  • Creating durable workflows to connect the information needs of on-the-ground responders, local and federal government decision-makers, and researchers, allowing each group to benefit from collaboration

  • Developing methods and processes to quickly validate and verify crowdsourced data

  • Establishing best practices for integrating crowdsourced and citizen-generated data with authoritative datasets, while also streamlining this integration

  • Deciding on the criteria for "good" policies and determining which policies need to be adapted or established, in addition to developing ways for agencies to anticipate rapid technological change

  • Determining where government agencies can effectively leverage social networking, crowdsourcing, and other innovations to augment existing information or intelligence and improve decision-making (and determining where it is not appropriate)

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The full report can be downloaded: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/connecting-grassroots-to-government-for-disaster-management-workshop-summary

About the Commons Lab

The Commons Lab of the Wilson Center's Science and Technology Innovation Program seeks to advance research and independent policy analysis on emerging technologies that facilitate collaborative, science-based and citizen-driven decision-making, with an emphasis on their social, legal, and ethical implications. For more information, visit: http://CommonsLab.wilsoncenter.org

About The Wilson Center

The Wilson Center provides a strictly nonpartisan space for the worlds of policymaking and scholarship to interact. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world. For more information, visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org

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