How can flood data be more useful?

In emergency flood disasters, what information is needed from scientists? How should data be presented and within what timeframe? This research project aims to gain a deeper understanding of organisations’ flood data needs, in order to produce more useable science.

A red triangluar road sign to indicate flooding overlaid with images of flooding maps

Flooding is a natural hazard that affects millions of people throughout the world every year. Fatalities from flooding occur disproportionally in developing countries, where difficulties in relief efforts are compounded by lack of information about flood and settlement patterns.

Flood data produced by physical scientists is used by a variety of organisations to coordinate flood responses in the field. Developing appropriate forms of data presentation, including maps, is a challenge because users of this data are diverse, ranging from global NGOs to under resourced grassroots NGOs. These organisations have diverse cultural, bureaucratic and technological practices. Preferred methods for visually presenting data and linguistic questions around risk are also likely to vary. Therefore, this interdisciplinary project will draw on the experience and expertise of flood data users, social scientists, cartographers and linguists.

What is being created?

This research will engage with stakeholders from organisations in the UK and globally who are working in flood relief. Through the insights gained they will develop sample maps and gain further insights into useable formats of flood data. Using discussions to inform and test flood data design principles. At the end of this process they will publish their recommendations for future data design that will improve emergency responses to disaster relief at a global scale.

You can view a demo of the map here, or delve into the corresponding code used here. This map is being continually updated as the project progresses so come back to see it evolve.

In the blog post “How can flood data be more useful? Initial Interviews” the researchers provide an update on the progress of the project and highlight key contributions.

You can view the Participant Information Sheet for more information surrounding  participation in an online research survey.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Laurence Hawker (Geographical Sciences), Beth Tellman (The Earth Institute, Columbia University, Cloud to Street) and Andrea Ficchi (University of Reading) each produce flood data. They will work with the core range of flood data including forecasting information, flood inundation maps and remote sensing.
  • Elizabeth Haines (History) researches the history of governments’ and organisations’ use of maps and will provide guidance on survey designs and the manner of data collection.
  • Shaun Harrigan (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, ECMWF)
  • Sara de Wit (University of Oxford) works at the intersection of development theories, environmental anthropology and postcolonial studies, so will aid in the design of questions.
  • Emma Mumford (MapAction) regularly interacts with flood data users by providing emergency response bulletins.
  • Emmalina Glinskis (Cloud to Street) works with users to co-produce flood products, mostly in the developing World.
  • Natalie Thurlby (Jean Golding Institute) has an interest in survey design and map integration.
  • Anne-Laure Donskoy (Sociology, Politics and International Studies) is an intern conducting interviews of flood users in NGO’s, humanitarian organisations and government agencies.
  • Leanne Archer (Geographical Sciences) is an intern investigating best cartographic practices to present flood data.