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Risk CDT - Improving multi-agency risk communication in major incidents

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Waring
    Prof S Maskell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


This is a project within the multi-disciplinary EPSRC and ESRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) on Quantification and Management of Risk & Uncertainty in Complex Systems & Environments, within the Institute for Risk and Uncertainty. The studentship is granted for 4 years and includes, in the first year, a Master in Decision Making under Risk & Uncertainty. The project includes extensive collaboration with prime industry to build an optimal basis for employability.

Major incidents can be any event or situation that threatens serious damage to human welfare or the security of the UK, including natural disasters and terrorist threats (Civil Contingencies Act, 2004). Managing such events requires the large-scale deployment of combined emergency service resources (Association of Chief Police Officers: ACPO, 2009), and the accurate exchange of timely and clear information (House, Power, & Alison, 2013). However, there are numerous examples of the devastating consequences of poor information exchange both between and within emergency services and associated agencies, which impacts on public safety and the allocation of limited resources (Pollock, 2013). The issue is of such significance that the Home Office has made improving emergency service interoperability a key priority, recently funding the national Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) in 2012. There are many potential barriers to achieving effective intra- and inter-agency communication of risk information within the complex and dynamic context of major incidents such as uncertainty over the reliability of information, time pressure and cognitive load. Understanding what factors facilitate and hinder effective communication and use of risk information within and between agencies, and whether there is a role for technologies has important implications for major incident management, saving lives and increasing wellbeing.

Accordingly, the PhD project would address the following goals:

1. Identify what factors facilitate and generate barriers to timely, reliable and effective communication of risk information and the impact of this on decision-making within and between emergency services and associated agencies in major incidents;

2. Identify the potential demand and role that technologies could play in facilitating effective accessing, amalgamation, trustworthiness assessment and interpretation of large sources of data and information;

3. Identify how such data and information should be presented in in order to reduce cognitive load.

This will require a multi-disciplinary approach between Psychology and Electrical Engineering in order to explore the potential role of technologies for improving access to and interpretation of information and data, and how such systems would need to function in order to benefit end-users (e.g. emergency services) within major incidents.

Funding Notes

The PhD Studentship (Tuition fees + stipend of £ 14,296 annually over 4 years) is available for Home/EU students. In addition, a budget for use in own responsibility will be provided.

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