In March this year, nations from around the world adopted a new global agreement on disaster risk reduction (the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction) that will guide actions to reduce disaster risk over the next 15 years.

A break in the final 40-hour-straight negotiation session of the Sendai Framework

A break in the final 40-hour-straight negotiation session of the Sendai Framework. Image credit: Sally Tyldesley

The Sendai Framework has been heralded as a big success for science and technology (see for example here and here). Science is embedded throughout the text and there is a strong recognition of the need for enhanced understanding of disaster risk and risk-informed decision-making and planning.

Moving from agreements to action

Following this recognition from the world’s nations, how can the science and technology community make sure it delivers?

Last month, the Royal Society hosted a working meeting, in collaboration with UNISDR, the International Council for Science, IRDR and the UK Collaborative on Development Science to start the conversation around this very question.

The meeting brought together international disaster risk experts to identify which areas of science require greater attention, and what networks and organisations are needed, to deliver what’s being called for.

Today, we’ve published a note from that meeting.

What are the challenges for science?

The meeting participants stressed that now we have a global agreement, discussions need to move from talking about organisational structures at the international level to delivering at the local, which is where impacts are ultimately felt and solutions implemented. Science and technology should focus on the needs of decision-makers and practitioners working at this level.

A number of areas for further research were identified over the course of the meeting, but one of the messages that came across quite clearly was that there remains a gap in translating and applying existing research. Education, ‘open data’, ‘open science’ and incentives for scientists to share their research in an accessible and timely manner were among the things that will be required to bridge this gap.

What will disaster risk reduction research look like in the future?

A clear conclusion from the meeting was that future research will need to be increasingly interdisciplinary, intersectoral and transboundary. A greater understanding of the complexities of disaster risk is required. In this vein, research should address multiple hazards, how impacts can cascade through human systems and the processes that generate and escalate risk. Understanding the human element of disasters is essential: what are the social, economic and institutional factors that contribute to disaster risk?

Technology represents a big opportunity and the latest technology should be used to collect, assess and share data. Appropriate technology should be used to communicate risks.

Finally, to ensure science and technology delivers where it’s needed, we need to see a greater move towards the co-design, co-production, and co-delivery of knowledge. Scientists, policymakers and civil society should to be able to work together to develop research questions and answers (as we recommended in our ‘Resilience to extreme weather’ report).

Read the note of the ‘Science and the Sendai Framework’ working meeting.

Read the Royal Society statement ‘Taking joint action on disasters, development and climate change’, released ahead of the March 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.