Designing a Strategy for Improving Scientific Collaboration during Crisis Response

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Lindley Mease, Center for Ocean Solutions, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster required unprecedented engagement and collaboration with scientists from multiple disciplines across government, academia, and industry. Although this spurred the rapid advancement of valuable new scientific knowledge and tools, it also exposed weaknesses in the system of information dissemination and exchange among the scientists from those three sectors. Limited government communication with the broader scientific community complicated the rapid mobilization of the scientific community to assist with spill response, evaluation of impact, and public perceptions of the crisis. The lessons and new laws produced from prior spills such as Exxon Valdez were helpful, but ultimately did not lead to the actions necessary to prepare a suitable infrastructure that would support collaboration with non-governmental scientists. As oil demand pushes drilling into increasingly extreme environments, addressing the challenge of effective, science-based disaster response is an imperative. Our study employs a user-centered design process to 1) understand the obstacles to and opportunity spaces for effective scientific collaboration during environmental crises such as large oil spills, 2) identify possible tools and strategies to enable rapid information exchange between government responders and non-governmental scientists from multiple relevant disciplines, and 3) build a network of key influencers to secure sufficient buy-in for scaled implementation of appropriate tools and strategies. Our methods include user ethnography, complex system mapping, individual and system behavioral analysis, and large-scale system design to identify and prototype a solution to this crisis collaboration challenge. In this talk, we will present out insights gleaned from existing analogs of successful scientific collaboration during crises and our initial findings from the 60 targeted interviews we conducted that highlight key collaboration challenges that government agencies, academic research institutions, and industry scientists face during oil spill crises. We will also present initial solution ideas for how to improve collaboration among scientific stakeholders during crises, as well as a synthesis of leverage points in the system that may amplify the impact of those ideas.