Natural disasters call for coordinated research efforts

15 June 2010

Natural disasters often devastate the communities they afflict. At Uppsala University researchers from many different disciplines are working together to solve problems and uncover new knowledge.

Knowledge about how natural disasters can be predicted and how help to afflicted communities should be implemented exists in many different research fields. Uppsala University is therefore creating an interdisciplinary research environment for security, crisis preparedness, and natural disaster studies.

- Problems out in the real world cut straight across the boundaries of subject areas and faculties. That’s why it’s important for us researchers to work in the same way when we address those problems, says Sven Halldin, professor of hydrology and the contact person for the research field Security and Crisis Preparedness – Natural Disaster Studies.

The research field has received a grant from the government’s strategic research funds, which will advance this already acclaimed research even further. Some of the funding will be used to set up a national research school. Uppsala University will be working together with Karlstad University and the Swedish National Defense College and with researchers in Central America.

One example of research in the field involves seismological studies of earthquakes.

- What we would like to do is to be able to predict more precisely when a quake is coming. That would save many, many lives, says Roland Roberts, professor of solid state geophysics.

In Sweden the tsunami disaster demonstrated that it is not self-evident that collaboration between various social institutions will run smoothly when catastrophe strikes. Political science scholars are therefore going to examine how collaboration in society works when such things happen and analyze how public leadership functions.