Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Future of GeoNet Revisited - Part 2: The GeoNet Community

In my last blog in this series I summarised where GeoNet is at, and indicated I would explain what GeoNet can offer in future in coming blogs. In my GeoNet 2023 blog series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) I outlined what GeoNet may become, but from a largely technological point of view. The technological advances are important, but what about the GeoNet impact on how society plans, makes decisions, and responds to geological hazards events?

Fundamental changes ....
The fundamental changes I see for GeoNet over the next 10 years are the move from event to impact reporting, a greater emphasis on early warning and forecasting, and much more two-way communications with our community. This process has started, but has a long way to go and much of the progress will come from the research currently being carried out using GeoNet data, and as an extension to our current citizen science and social media initiatives. In this blog I will concentrate on the developing GeoNet Community (note the capital C), before moving on to impact reporting, and early warning in forthcoming blogs.

The GeoNet Community ....
What do I mean by the GeoNet Community? Before the start of the Canterbury earthquakes GeoNet had a small following via our website and social media. We were essentially a data collection system providing the raw material for researchers and information on events for the emergency management sector and the small number of interested people in the wider community. That changed on 4 September 2010 when suddenly GeoNet became a critical source of information about what Cantabrians' were experiencing. Other websites sprung up taking feeds from the freely available GeoNet data but presenting it in different ways. The GeoNet open data policy which our funders, the Earthquake Commission (EQC) insisted on, was crucial to this process - data and information was available when people needed it.  The people of Canterbury took to filling in GeoNet felt reports in great numbers during the extended earthquake sequence. The GeoNet Facebook site became very popular - people wanted to report and discuss what they were experiencing. And a large number of people became avid followers of our work and the information we provide. In short, the GeoNet Community was born!

By using social media we can debunk myths and rumours quickly, and over time people teach each other about our hazards and how to use GeoNet’s facilities. The two way conversation also lets us “feel the pulse” and react to what people say they need from us. But social media is not a 9-to-5 activity; studies show that peak interaction occurs in the evening, and of course straight after anything significant. With the help of the GeoNet Community this becomes possible.

Modern technology means the two way conversation with the GeoNet Community is available anywhere. Smartphone apps inform people no matter their location. Whether it is the shaking of an earthquake or a change in one of our volcanoes' behaviour, people expect to know within minutes. GeoNet can be literally everywhere in a connected world.

The updated GeoNet Quake app (available for iOS and Android).

The GeoNet Community in Future: Civil Defence, Lifelines and Decision Makers ....
Through engagement with EQC, Civil Defence organisations, local and central government, lifelines, and other sectors, GeoNet will continue to introduce new methods of providing information to end users in more useful and understandable ways. This will include the continual improvement of the depth and usability of the public information on the GeoNet website and via mobile devices, which teachers use in the classroom and members of the community use to keep informed. The major aim is for GeoNet data and information to play a significant role in education, policy, planning and decision making. But the important change in future will be improvements in two-way communications, enabled through technology and personal interaction.

The GeoNet Community in Future: Citizen Scientists ....
In future we will develop our apps to let people talk back to us. We propose extending the very successful felt reporting system already operated by GeoNet (on the website) to other platforms and other perils. We have already successfully encouraged people to “dob in a landslide” after the Eketahuna earthquake of January 2014. People now expect to be able to help us wherever they are by reporting geological phenomena from their mobile devices, together with pictures. Given the resources we can extended citizen science initiatives to include opportunities for local people to volunteer to work with scientists in their studies, collecting scientifically-valuable information, or have schools and communities “adopting an instrument” allowing them to participate in our work. The effective two-way communication between GeoNet and the community will be critical to raising awareness of our geological hazards and how we can prepare and respond to them.

The GeoNet Community in Future: Scientists and Engineers ....
The widening of the GeoNet Community will see more scientists and engineers invited into technical conversations more regularly. We propose to develop mechanisms for consultation with the GeoNet Community between the major four yearly review cycle. While the current GeoNet technical committees are largely operational in nature we envisage conversations on the longer term direction of GeoNet, while acknowledging that the governance of GeoNet is the joint responsibility of EQC and GNS Science.

We will continue and extend our efforts to help researchers make effective use of the large quantities of GeoNet data - improving New Zealander's understanding of geological hazards and helping the targeting of future GeoNet initiatives. Given the resources this will include providing cloud-based computing and data archives and training to facilitate the easy use of GeoNet data for research.

The GeoNet "New Voices" workshop, November 2014

The GeoNet Community in Future: International ....
New Zealand benefits from the existing deep contacts between GeoNet and our colleagues in other countries. This helps us maintain best practice and keep abreast of emerging monitoring technologies and research. Further, New Zealand contributes as an international citizen in areas where cooperation is vital for the outcome such as tsunami response. An example is my current chairing of the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System. Our vision is that GeoNet will continue to enhance our high profile internationally.

The GeoNet Community Hub ....
GeoNet has the potential to be the “one-stop-shop” for both the collection and distribution of data and information on New Zealand’s hazards environment. This would be an extension of the current GeoNet Community and a part of the citizen science initiative and planned science experiments, allowing the community to contribute and share data, information and observations on events and the planning for events. It would be planned and undertaken in consultation with EQC, Civil Defence, science organisations and other key players. Emergency managers, planners, insurers, researchers and decision makers will then have quick access to all the data and information needed to improve the preparation, response and recovery from natural events.

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