Tuesday 26 Jan 2016Who should decide and how should they do it?

Dr Nick Mount - University of Nottingham

Harrison 170 13:30-14:30

Who should decide and how should they do it? Options appraisal, the ascendency of situated knowledge, and participatory models in local flood risk management decision-making.


Dr Nick Mount, Associate Prof. of Hydroinformatics, Uni. of Nottingham.


In the contemporary context of climatic change, the reduced availability of State resource, and the expectation of ‘partnership funding’, local flood risk management (FRM) intervention options can no longer be limited to hard-engineering solutions aimed at flood prevention. Instead ‘softer’ interventions aimed at reducing vulnerability and enhancing the resilience of communities and their assets must also be considered as options worthy of appraisal. However, every local flood risk context is different and this diversity must be accounted for in decision-making processes. The suite of intervention options that are considered possible in one context may not be considered feasible in another. Similarly, the intervention options that are locally supported in one context (and thus have the potential for achieving adequate levels of partnership funding) may be rejected in another, even if they are feasible.

The pivotal role of context in local flood risk management raises important questions about whose responsibility it is to identify the intervention options that should be subject to detailed appraisal in a given location, and how it should be done. It challenges the traditional notion that the expert knowledge of hydrologists and engineers is sufficient, and raises the notion that situated, lay knowledge of stakeholder groups may have an equally important role play in identifying intervention options. Whilst, this idea has become increasingly popular in recent years, one of the biggest hurdles to realising it is the need for methods that can elicit, formalise and integrate the available expert and lay knowledge in ways that render it transparent and useful for decision-makers. Lay knowledge is often expressed qualitatively and in the vernacular, expert knowledge is frequently expressed quantitatively and in formally. Thus, translation tools are required that can integrate and interrogate the differently expressed knowledge in a common framework that can be understood by all and that delivers transparent and useful information to decision-makers.

In this seminar, we will explore a recent EPSRC-funded collaboration between the University of Nottingham, Environment Agency and community of Hebden Bridge in which participatory modelling has been used to identify and rank a wide range of flood risk management intervention options. It follows on from the well-known, pioneering work in Pickering1 but takes participation to a new level in which experts and stakeholder groups co-develop their own, simple flood risk models.

1 Lane et al., 2011. Doing flood risk science differently. Trans. Inst. Brit. Geog., 36(1), 15-36.

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