LSC partnership on disaster preparedness proposal moves forward to NSF NRT submission

We are excited to announce that a proposal on disaster preparedness consisting of multiple departments on campus, including LSC, has been selected by UW-Madison as one of two proposals to move forward with a submission to the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program.

The NRT program seeks proposals that explore ways for graduate students in research-based master’s and doctoral degree programs to develop the skills, knowledge, and competencies needed to pursue a range of STEM careers. These proposals can address any interdisciplinary or convergent research theme of national priority.

Paul Block, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Broadly speaking, the idea of this program is to complement traditional STEM disciplinary training by providing unique skill sets based on interdisciplinary coursework, industry or partner internships, and professional development skills. How do we prepare STEM graduate students to enter the workforce ready to address today’s challenges?” says Paul Block, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and principal investigator on this proposal.

The proposal submitted by the UW-Madison research team addresses enhanced approaches to disaster preparedness. Traditionally, disaster managers and humanitarian organizations have clear protocols when responding to hydrologic extremes, such as floods and droughts. However, empirical research suggests that each dollar invested in disaster preparedness can result in approximately three to six dollars saved in response expenditures. This motivates anticipatory action systems, triggered by probabilistic climate forecasts, that can inform pre-disaster decision-making. Such actions may include hardening critical infrastructure, establishing mobile health facilities, pre-positioning people and supplies, etc., actions that would likely be impossible to carry out with only a few days warning. This requires knowledge across environmental and social systems, expertise in model convergence, and tailored location-specific guidance.

Dominique Brossard, LSC chair and professor.

These approaches offer great prospects, but open questions remain. “What are the best methods for communicating preparedness or motivating action? How do we rectify traditional top-down decision-making with community desires or social vulnerability aspects of a community?” says Dominique Brossard, LSC chair and professor, and co-PI on the project.

The team of UW-Madison researchers represent expertise in engineering, climate, data analytics, risk communication, sociology, behavior, and public health. The proposal was submitted last week with decisions expected in early 2024.




Written by: Jocelyn Cao, LSC M.S. ’23
Published: September 2023