Approaches to Community Flood Science Engagement: The River Severn Catchment, UK as Case-study

By Lindsey McEwen.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Flood education forms a key element in preparedness strategies to increase flood risk awareness, and empower floodplain communities to act to manage personal risk. Flood science is variably part of education programmes, and yet has potential to increase communities’ capacity to make informed judgements about local risk, and potential mitigation options. The paper draws on action research from two community science engagement projects facilitated by the author in the lower River Severn catchment, UK. Five key questions around community flood science education are explored:

1. Why should the public in community settings engage with flood science?
2. How do the nature of floods, flood risk and flood science impact on approaches to engagement for learning?
3. What should be the relationship between expert flood science and informal science in establishing what should be learnt?
4. What are the key questions for learning in community flood science?
5. What pedagogic approaches to flood science engagement work for the public in community settings?

The paper then examines different active learning approaches and settings for community flood science education, and positions these within broader ‘science and society’ contexts for capacity building and empowering communities in the face of changing flood risk.

Keywords: Flood Science, Science Engagement, Flood Risk, Social Learning, Expert Knowledge, Informal Knowledge, Learning Approaches, Flood Education, Learning Communities

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.159-180. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.178MB).

Prof. Lindsey McEwen

Professor in Physical Geography, Physical Geography, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK

I work as Professor of Geography at the University of Gloucestershire and am a UK Higher Education Academy National Teaching Fellow with interests that include community engagement with flood science. My research interests are in river catchment science and in analysing the evidence from flood histories in a climate change context. I have become increasingly interested in the role of flood science communication in social learning for empowered and resilient floodplain communities. I have led and facilitated action research projects on community flood science communication within floodplain communities in the Severn catchment, UK. This includes a Royal Society funded flood science communication project. I produced Guidelines for good practice: community engagement with local flood histories and flood risk (McEwen, 2007) for the Lower Severn Community Flood Education Network, University of Gloucestershire. I am currently leading a 30 month interdisciplinary project entitled: ‘Sustainable flood memories and the development of community resilience to future flood risk: a comparative study of three recently flooded communities’, funded through the UK Economic and Social Research Council.