The role of community knowledge and participation for hydraulic-structure inspections_ Combining knowledge with action through citizen-science projects

V.J Cortes Arevalo; T. Sprague3; S. Frigerio; T. Bogaard; S. Sterlacchini, 2014, The role of community knowledge and participation for hydraulic-structure inspections_ Combining knowledge with action through citizen-science projects, International Conference on Analysis and Management of Changing Risks for Natural Hazards, Padua, Italy, 18-19 November 2014,

This paper analyses opportunities and challenges of volunteers' hydraulic-structure inspections to enhance organizational capacity. There is an increasing interest of risk managers such as municipal offices, civil protection, water authorities and geological surveys on using community knowledge to support adaptive management strategies for hydrometeorological hazards. One way in which this knowledge can be utilized is through the implementation of citizen-science projects. Thereby, scientists and risk managers enlist and train citizens-volunteers to better understand hazard related processes e.g. changes on the functional status of check dams (Cortes et al., 2014). Citizen-science projects could support the increasing frequency, timeliness and coverage of surveillance activities (Flanaging and Metzger, 2008). That is especially important under dynamic environmental conditions or remote settings i.e. mountain basins (de Jong, 2013). Research methods followed the framework presented in Figure 1 to identify opportunities and challenges of combining volunteers' knowledge into actions through citizen-science projects. Thereby, a pilot citizenscience project on volunteers' hydraulic-structure inspections was designed in the Fella basin. That is a mountain basin in the North-eastern Italian Alps of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Project design started from exploratory interviews with stakeholders. Then, continues with the analysis of feedback provided by participants during pilot data-collection exercises. Overall, risk managers are willing to consider volunteers' inspections only to pre-screen potential problems that may require preventive maintenance. Findings highlight the importance of a culture of volunteer activities and the role of institutional frameworks in supporting volunteers' involvement. Results also account for the role of ICT tools and information management systems to collect, manage and evaluate volunteers' reports. However, challenges to make from this pilot a perennial activity stem up on the importance of volunteers' training as well as coordination and communication strategies between actors involved. Therefore, inspection guidelines should support completeness and precision of volunteers' reports. Training strategies should also account for providing feedback to participants about the data-quality collected after every inspection campaign. Moreover, sustainable implementations of citizenscience projects require efforts to enhance coordination and communication with volunteers. Such requirement should also apply between the different risk managers that may benefit from volunteers' data. In consequence, opportunities to enhance organizational capacity through citizen science projects require a flexible design framework accounting for available actors and resources in the local context. Strengthen communication and coordination between those actors is a vital element towards sustainable implementations on long-term basis.

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