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Crisis and Risk Reduction: Mobilising, Collecting and Sharing Information in Crisis or Risk Situations

Annual Call for Projects 2006


The goal of this research project supported by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN) is to study how information pertaining to medical risks and crises is collected, disseminated and used. As demonstrated by recent events (the heat wave in France, the tsunami in south-east Asia, the Chikungunya epidemic in the Indian Ocean), the fact that information is available or being circulated does not necessarily mean that those who need it are properly informed or use it to good purpose. One of the aims of the research project is to analyse the flow of information specifically from North to South, and vice versa.

The project’s guiding questions are:

Information is circulated in various stages. The project team will consider how the information made available in situations of crisis is compiled. The information on its own is not enough, however; it must be used at the right time, in the right place, with the right people. This can be done in several ways in any risk environment, but will always involve sorting, selecting pertinent features, using control points. The concepts of mediation and translation will be used to examine the different formatting and reformatting processes undergone by one item of information before it is made available and processed by the players concerned.

In order to understand the information flows, the project will examine the linkages between geographical points. The information comes from different places in the world: it may be very local (an outbreak of avian flu, for example) or global (the spread of a pandemic). But all information, no matter where it comes from, goes through a process of transformation and adaptation so that it can be used at another level.

Lastly, the information must be understood by the relevant actors if it is to be used and be effective on the ground. Given that the information is constructed in a specific socio-cultural and occupational context and is therefore rooted in a specific symbolic environment, how is it to be understood and used by people in another socio-cultural and occupational context? What metaphors must be employed to translate it and ensure it is picked up by the media?

The project covers three complementary fields of research: health risks, the circulation of information and intercultural dialogue. The method chosen is based on the actor-network theory, which postulates that every action can be reconstructed because the actors are part of social-technical networks. The project team has therefore chosen to work on a set of actors and closely to observe their practices with a view to reconstituting the network structure they are part of. It will focus on types of information rather than on types of crises, epidemics or diseases, on the hypothesis that the circulation and collection of information can encounter the same obstacles and opposition no matter what the nature of the information mobilized and the situation in which it is used.

The project will examine three different situations of information circulation:

The project will help produce four distinct but complementary products:

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 195,000

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Project Team

Prof. Yvan Leanza , Co-coordinator, Laval University, Québec .

Ms Marie-Lou Darricau , Principal Member, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) .

Mr Craig Duncan , Principal Member, Information Management Unit, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) .

Mr John Horekens , Principal Member, International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) .

Ms Ekaterina Smali , Principal Member, McMaster University , Canada .

Ms Mireille Lador , Associated Member, (acting in an individual capacity), Doctors Without Borders (MSF) .

Related Links

> Risk In Situ: Crisis and Risk Reduction , Click here.

Related News

Related Conferences

Risk in Situ: Crisis and Risk Reduction – End of Project Seminar, Château de Penthes, Genève, 5 November 2007, 9:00 am to 5:30 pm
The goal of this research project is to study how information pertaining to medical risks and crises is collected,...
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