Research leader

Jessica Weir
Dr Jessica Weir Research Leader

Research team

Michael Eburn
A/Prof Michael Eburn Research Team
Stephen Dovers
Prof Stephen Dovers Research Team
Timothy Neale
Dr Timothy Neale Research Team
Josh Wodak
Dr Josh Wodak Research Team
Prof John Handmer
Prof John Handmer Research Team
Christine Hansen
Dr Christine Hansen Research Team
Tara McGee
A/Prof Tara McGee Research Team
Dr Liz Clarke
Dr Liz Clarke Research Team

End User representatives

John Schauble
John Schauble End-User
Chris Irvine
Chris Irvine End-User
Ed Pikusa End-User
Monique Blason End-User
Patrick Schell End-User
Don Cranwell End-User
Dylan Rowe End-User
Leigh Miller
Leigh Miller End-User
Mick Ayre
Mick Ayre End-User

There is a significant knowledge deficit concerning how science and other forms of knowledge are used and integrated into emergency management policy and practice, leading to incorrect and counterproductive misunderstandings. The emphasis on the value of scientific knowledge within the natural hazards sector – and particularly in regards to risk mitigation – is legitimate. However, to this point, this valuing of science has not been accompanied by research into the actual opportunities and challenges of using science in policy and practice.

Science is a diverse world of knowledge and as such, it is ripe for debate, whether by scientists, politicians, policymakers or others. The fact that the research process is open-ended, in which uncertainties can often be reduced but not resolved, means there are often abundant reasons to delay decisions about how to proceed.

There are many obstacles to integrating science within government agencies, not the least of which are resource constraints. Other factors of institutional culture also influence how, and if, new research is utilised.

Without greater insight into how science and other forms of knowledge are used and integrated into sector policy and practice, the ability of policymakers and practitioners to explain risk mitigation and translate its scientific basis is compromised. The sector is also vulnerable to the perpetuation of received ideas and myths about science, its use and its utility.

This project, which has transitioned to its utilisation phase, has produced a number of journal articles documenting issues related to scientific uncertainty in bushfire and flood risk mitigation.

Case studies were undertaken in the Otway region of Victoria, and greater Darwin in the Northern Territory, both around bushfire and mitigation. A third case study explored flood risk in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley in New South Wales.

It is clear that scientific research, whether in a laboratory or a landscape, is never simply technical. The ways in which decision-makers and practitioners integrate and utilise science is a thoroughly social question, shaped by the capacities and affordances of the contexts in which they operate. While it is important to continue to place a high value on scientific research in the natural hazards sector, it is also important to remember that this research is embedded in social dynamics and social networks.

Year Type Citation
2017 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2017 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Conference Paper Weir, J., Neale, T. & Clarke, L. Science is critical but it's not everything: our findings. AFAC17 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Journal Article Neale, T. ‘Are we wasting our time?’: bushfire practitioners and flammable futures in northern Australia. Social & Cultural Geography 1-23 (2017). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2017.1285423
2017 Report Weir, J. & Clarke, L. Scientific diversity, scientific uncertainty and risk mitigation policy and planning: annual report 2016-17. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2016 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2016 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2016 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Conference Paper Neale, T. The social life of science in bushfire policy and planning: tales from Victoria and the Northern Territory. AFAC16 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Journal Article Magee, L., Handmer, J., Neale, T. & Ladds, M. Locating the intangible: integrating a sense of place into cost estimation of natural disasters. Geoforum 77, (2016).
2016 Journal Article Neale, T., Weir, J. & Dovers, S. Science in Motion: integrating scientific knowledge into bushfire risk mitigation in southwest Victoria. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 31, (2016).
2016 Journal Article Neale, T. Burning anticipation: Wildfire, risk mitigation and simulation modelling in Victoria, Australia. Environment and Planning A 48, 2026-2045 (2016).
2016 Journal Article Neale, T., Weir, J. & McGee, T. K. Knowing wildfire risk: Scientific interactions with risk mitigation policy and practice in Victoria, Australia. Geoforum 72, (2016).
2016 Report Weir, J. & Neale, T. Scientific diversity, scientific uncertainty and risk mitigation policy and planning: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Neale, T. & Weir, J. Science in motion: knowledge practices and prescribed burning in southwest Victoria - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2015 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2015 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Journal Article Neale, T. & Weir, J. Navigating scientific uncertainty in wildfire and flood risk mitigation: A qualitative review. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 13, 255-265 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Wodak, J. & Neale, T. A critical review of the application of environmental scenario exercises. Futures 73, (2015).
2015 Report Neale, T. Scientific Knowledge and Scientific Uncertainty in Bushfire and Flood Risk Mitigation: Literature Review. (2015).
2015 Report Neale, T. & Weir, J. Scientific Uncertainty and Risk Mitigation Policy and Planning Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Weir, J. & Neale, T. Scientific diversity, scientific uncertainty and risk mitigation policy and planning: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2014 Report Wodak, J. Scientific Diversity, Scientific Uncertainty and Risk Mitigation Policy and Planning Scenario Exercise Lit Review. (2014).
Date Title Download Key Topics
19 Mar 2014 Scientific diversity and uncertainty - bushfire and flood risk mitigation PDF icon 241.15 KB (241.15 KB) fire, flood, risk management
27 Mar 2015 Social science research insights into public support for wildfire mitigation PDF icon 741.7 KB (741.7 KB) fire, risk management
10 Apr 2015 Scientific Diversity 2015 NSW RAF Presentation PDF icon 843.34 KB (843.34 KB) mitigation, planning, policy
11 Sep 2015 Science in Motion PDF icon 1.44 MB (1.44 MB) governance, policy
14 Dec 2015 Governance and institutional knowledge cluster overview video File 0 bytes (0 bytes) governance, planning, policy
11 Jan 2016 Raising the bar on risk reduction policy and planning PDF icon 144.04 KB (144.04 KB) governance, planning, policy
17 May 2016 Scientific diversity, scientific uncertainty and bushfire and flood risk mitigation project PDF icon 1.14 MB (1.14 MB) fire, flood, mitigation
30 Aug 2016 The social life of science: tales from Victoria and the Northern Territory - Jessica Weir PDF icon 1.49 MB (1.49 MB) decision making, fire, policy
18 Apr 2017 What to do with uncertain science: practitioner experiences from Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory PDF icon 1.48 MB (1.48 MB) governance, planning, policy
07 Sep 2017 Science is critical but it is not everything: our findings PDF icon 2.12 MB (2.12 MB) governance, planning, policy
09 Apr 2019 Coexisting with combustion: the future of bushfire management File 0 bytes (0 bytes) communities, fire, fire impacts
09 Jul 2019 The ‘evidence gap’ in risk mitigation PDF icon 1.84 MB (1.84 MB) diversity and inclusion, economics, planning
09 Jul 2019 Politics and disasters: the good, the hard or the ugly? PDF icon 487.45 KB (487.45 KB) economics, planning, policy
Navigating scientific uncertainty in bushfire and flood risk mitigation
18 Aug 2015
Attempts to anticipate and mitigate natural hazards have generated a diverse field of natural science that is...
Timothy Neale Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016
Two case studies from the north and south Australia examine how science is being used to change how we...
Scientific knowledge Q and A
30 Jun 2017
Scientific knowledge is not an objective 'truth' that provides answers for risk mitigation. Many other...