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UK-Brazil collaboration on leveraging crowdsourced and sensor data to support urban resilience

Principal Investigator: Dr João Porto de Albuquerque – Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick
Co-Investigator: Dr Nathaniel Tkacz – Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies, University of Warwick
Project Partners
Professor Luis Gustavo Nonato (Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Sao Paulo
Professor Marcos Borges - Department of Computer Science) and Professor José Orlando Gomes, Department of Industrial Engineering - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Industry/Government Partners:
Dr Paulo Victor Carvalho - IEN - Institute of Nuclear Engineering
Mr Julio Cesar Rodrigues dos Santos - CCIC-RJ – Integrated Command and Control Centre of Rio de Janeiro:
Dr Eduardo Mario Mendiondo - Director of Research - CEMADEN - National Centre for Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning and also affliliated with USP
Dr Daniella Bresciani - Climatempo
Dr Maria Glicia da Nóbrega Coutinho - CPRM - Brazilian Geological Survey
United Kingdom:
Ms Emma Bee and Mr Gary Baker - British Geological Survey (BGS)

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Summary of the Project

This project will allow the establishment of an interdisciplinary international network involving academic, industry and governmental partners to develop innovative methods to improve disaster monitoring and prediction that integrate information obtained from the ‘crowd’ (social media, smartphone apps) with other environmental information sources (e.g. real-time sensor data, authoritative socio-economic data) and models (e.g. hydrological models). The project is closely related to developing computational methods to handle big urban data for improving urban resilience and is aligned with EPSRC-funded initiatives in Urban Science, such as the Warwick University's CDT in Urban Science and Progress.

Furthermore, it gathers various partners such as academic institutions in the UK (several departments in the University of Warwick), non-academic institutions in the UK (British Geological Survey), academic institutions in Brazil (University of Sao Paulo, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV)) and non-academic institutions in Brazil, such as the National Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning Centre (Cemaden) and the Brazilian Geological Survey (CPRM).

The research directly addresses EPSRC prosperity outcome of a “Resilient Nation” by contributing towards improving the resilience of developing countries with better analytics and low-cost sensor infrastructures based on crowd sensing. The innovative methods and knowledge generated by the project can be used to build capacity and inform decision making involved with operative monitoring activities and thus help reduce costs associated to floods and landslides that affect millions every year. The longer-term research products could also be used to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the activities of UK organisations and companies in the field of humanitarian aid and disaster risk reduction in developing countries.

The project is primarily aimed at Pump Priming an international and cross-sectoral network by means of research workshops with a view to developing a larger-scale grant application. However, in doing so it also addresses Collaboration Activity towards capacity building also targeting both young researchers from Brazil (PhD students in Computer Science of the academic institutions involved), UK (PhD students from the EPSRC-funded CDT in Urban Science and Progress, who participated in the workshops) and applied researchers from the non-academic institutions in Brazil (Cemaden and CPRM), who profitted from the workshops to improve their use of technology and develop their research agenda.

Project Outcomes

Networking activities

Workshop in the University of Warwick

The Networking Workshop/Summer School took place in the University of Warwick between 5-7 of October 2016 with 31 participants, including representatives from non-academic institutions from Brazil (Brazil Geological Survey, National Centre for Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning) and UK (British Geological Survey), as well as researchers from several departments in Warwick (CIM, PAIS, Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies, WBS), other UK universities (Durham, LSE, Coventry University, Newcastle upon Tyne), Brazilian universities (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, University of Sao Paulo), as well as PhD students from Brazilian universities (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, University of Sao Paulo) and Warwick (CDT Urban Science and Progress, WBS).

For more information about this event, including programme, presentations and other networking activities please see here.

Research Visit in Brazil

A research visit and 2 workshops in Brazil together with the Brazilian non-academic partners: the Brazil Geological Survey (8 March 2017) and the National Centre for Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning (9 March 2017). The workshops included talks from Dr João Porto de Albuquerque and Dr Nathaniel Tkacz and a short presentation by the Warwick PhD student Vangelis Pitidis. Moreover, it prepared the ground for future collaborative project proposals between UK nad Brazilian partners.

Fieldwork in Brazil

Fieldwork from March-April 2017 also took place in the National Centre for Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning in Brazil (Cemaden) for scoping issues to be tackled in a future research proposal, in collaboration with the Brazilian RA, Flavio Horita.

Collaborative publications with Brazilian PhD students, which directly profited from the coaching/capacity building workshop in Warwick were also realised. Those publications are:
  •   Horita, F. E. A., de Albuquerque, J.P. et al. (2017). Bridging the gap between decision-making and emerging big data sources: an application of a model-based framework to disaster management in Brazil. Decision Support Systems.
  •   de Andrade, S. C., ..., de Albuquerque, J. P. (2017). Mining Rainfall Spatio-Temporal Patterns in Twitter: A Temporal Approach. In Societal Geo-innovation. GIScience 2017. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography (pp. 19–37).
  • Restrepo-Estrada, Camilo, et al. (submitted). Geo-social media as a proxy for meteorological data for flood monitoring (Submitted to Computers and Geosciences)

At the same time, another journal article is currently in preparation related to the effective use of data for decision-making to build resilience against disasters.

Project impact

The publication Horita et al. 2017 produced an original modelling technique to support decision-making practices for monitoring natural hazards using big data. It is already being used in the Brazilian partner National Centre for Disaster Monitoring and Early-Warning (Cemaden) to change professional practices and standards towards improving the operational capacity and effeciency of the Centre. This fact has the potential impact of making Brazilian cities more resilient to natural hazards, preventing human and economic losses. Evidence is being collected on the impact of the proposed modelling technique on the organisational practices of Cemaden by means of testimonies and surveys, which are also already partially documented in the published paper.

In terms of long-term impact, the submitted project proposal has the potential to change the relationship with the environment towards more sustainable arrangements in flood-prone regions.

Collaborating Parties

EPSRCUniversity of Warwick University of Sao Paulo Federal University of Rio de Janeiro British Geological Survey Brazilian Geological Survey CEMADEN Brazil