A study by Fundaçção Getulio Vargas (FGV) and the University of Glasgow, which developed an app to monitor floods in vulnerable areas, won the Celebrating Impact Prize in the Best Social Impact category, which aims to recognize projects that have created a significant social impact.
The annual award is given by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), a research council in the fields of economics and social sciences linked to UK Research and Innovation, the UK body that funds scientific research.
According to João de Albuquerque, a researcher at the University of Glasgow who led the project together with Maria Alexandra Cunha, a researcher at the São Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), the award is the most important in the United Kingdom. Acknowledging social science research that has made an impact.
“The Celebrating Impact Prize is a peer-reviewed academic award, that is, we are talking about rewarding a project that has an impact on people’s lives from the field of academic knowledge creation”, highlighted the researcher. Albuquerque believes that this achievement not only gives recognition to research, but also reiterates the way research is done in collaboration with various institutions, government, civil society organizations, etc.
The Watertight Data Project seeks to improve the flow of flood-related information, particularly in areas vulnerable to such events. Researcher Maria Alexandra explains that this information usually comes from government agencies or specialist centres. These agencies and centers generate data that supports, for example, sending alerts to people, based on its knowledge of the territory it occupies.
“Furthermore, members of a given community also transmit knowledge about their territory to each other, which ultimately informs public policies. This whole flow of data on flooding ends up being fragmented with different information from different interested parties, which can put people’s well-being at risk. Therefore, our project developed mechanisms to improve this flow of information.” Cunha declared.
The study culminated in the creation of a free app available to any community, in which people feed a site with information on rainfall and river gauges and the effects of these events on the territory. The application sends this data generated by the people to a database, which is provided by specialized agencies and centers, and a dashboard is created and available to the people, civil defense or any interested party.
According to Cunha, we cannot talk about application without appreciating the methods developed by researchers to create knowledge in collaboration with people in vulnerable territories or centers of expertise. The group adopted an approach inspired by the dialogue pedagogy of Paulo Freire and guided by the principles of climate justice and data justice. “To give visibility to this data, we created a data diary and used data gardening, pollination and conversation mapping to engage people with this information”.
Also, the Waterproofing Data Program developed an elective course for high schools located in flood-prone areas. Therefore, students and teachers in the classroom can use this rain gauge system to help spread the tool in their regions.
“This is an important part of this project, the application was initially tested in seven cities in five Brazilian states. The project’s “pollinators” not only tested the site, but also guided people on how to use the rain gauge, the correct ways to take measurements, how to upload this information to the application, and to spread the use of the tool to others. .people in the city, like students and community members,” he said.
Currently, the platform is already being used by more than 200 schools and more than 100 civil defenses, which has mobilized around 500 citizen scientists.
Multidisciplinary, international partnerships
Funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp), the project involves exact sciences such as hydrology, physics and information technology, with the participation of more than 70 researchers and diverse members from different communities. With researchers from the fields of social and human sciences, geography, social psychology, public administration, media studies and the arts.
According to Marcio de Castro Filho, scientific director of Fapesp, investing in research that has a direct impact on people’s lives is fundamental to social progress and improving quality of life.
“In addition to contributing to scientific development, this research creates practical solutions to the challenges facing society. In this sense, Fapesp contributes to the financing of research aimed at strategic objectives, including climate change. And it is also carried out through collaboration. , such as the call for proposals with the Belmont Forum”.
The University of Heidelberg in Germany and the National Center for Monitoring and Warning of Natural Disasters (Semaden) linked to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCDI) are also partners of the project. Other public bodies from various departments of the government are also involved in the pilot phase.
Cunha believes that the versatility of the project highlights new ways of doing science today. “In addition to academic and government partners, the important role of communities plays a fundamental role in this project, as they participate in solving problems from expanding the diagnosis”, recalls the researcher who came up with the origin of this study. From another FGV project, this one Research Station at M’Boi Mirim, an area with almost 600 thousand inhabitants in the southern zone of São Paulo. It is from this experience that data proof d’water emerged”, he highlighted.
The project created a YouTube channel that focuses on films about flood memories, short videos recalling the experiences of people facing these disasters, and assessing individuals’ knowledge of the event. Click here to access.
Accreditation and expansion of the scheme
With the recognition of the Celebrating Impact Prize, João de Albuquerque believes that Dice à Prova D’água can have more visibility and therefore more opportunities to help communities facing flood problems.
“The project was recognized by the Times Higher Education Awards, an award from the United Kingdom, in 2022, known as the ‘Academic Oscars’. On that occasion, FGV and the University of Glasgow’s study was nominated as Project of the Year in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences category. At Emerald Publishing’s Real Impact Awards, Dados à Prova D’água won an honorable mention in the category Mobilizing Research for Action, recognizing a commitment to combining research and action to bring about change in society, with a special focus on international collaboration.”, Detailed Albuquerque.
In addition to the application in schools in Brazil’s flood-prone areas, the project methodology was incorporated by the Civil Defense Institute of the states of Santa Catarina and Mato Grosso do Sul. Representatives of the Colombian government also contacted the researchers. In order to adapt the application to the Colombian reality.
“Our mission is to help different communities in vulnerable situations, not only in Brazil, but around the world, to face the risks caused by floods and other extreme weather events, in the context of climate change, which will become increasingly frequent,” Albuquerque concluded.
FGV EAESP Deputy Director, Dales Andreasi, highlights: “This award shows that FGV research is of international quality and excellence, helping our school to actively attract grants and funding from other countries.”
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