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Information Providers Explore Knowledge Transfer Issues

by P. Coty

The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program's (NEHRP) goal of earthquake knowledge transfer and dissemination was explored at Earthquake Information Network: A Workshop, which took place in January 1996 in Oakland, California. The Earthquake Engineering Research Center at the University of California at Berkeley sponsored the meeting, which was convened by Katie Frohmberg. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation. Participants represented ten California facilities and six groups from other locations in the U.S., including NCEER. Also participating were representatives of the four NEHRP agencies (FEMA, NSF, NIST and USGS), as well as four representative information users: two engineers, a geologist and an architect. Current needs as well as successes were reviewed, and areas requiring further exploration were identified.

The program included a panel discussion "Services Provided," moderated by NCEER's Patricia Coty, at which services currently available from the sixteen organizations represented were reviewed, and plans for the future were explored. Next, Jim O'Donnell from the National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering (NISEE)/Caltech moderated a panel discussion on "User Needs," hearing from user representatives Bob Nigbor, Jim Beavers, Linda Noson, and Chris Arnold. The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute's (EERI) Susan Tubbesing moderated a panel, "Funder's Role," featuring representatives from the four NEHRP agencies discussing current and future funding issues. Katie Frohmberg of NISEE moderated a program on "StateoftheArt," at which two vendor representatives discussed new developments in library hightechnology.

On the second day of the meeting, Dave Butler from the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (NHRAIC) in Boulder, Colorado, presented an overview of the work in progress to create an Assessment of Research and Applications on Natural Hazards Research, to summarize, assess, and evaluate knowledge in all fields of the physical, natural, social, and behavioral sciences. A similar Assessment, performed twenty years ago, defined the course of research in the field of natural hazards for the next two decades. Information providers have been asked to contribute to the current effort.

Bob Nigbor moderated a discussion of the perceived gaps and needs in the information resources currently available, and certain common themes were identified, such as the obstacles to identifying and reaching end users in the field, the wide disparity in electronic literacy, brisk changes in the technology, the explosion of new information, the differing needs of researchers and practitioners, and the everpresent shortage of funds. Numerous suggestions were submitted for collaborative development, such as creating a cooperative World Wide Web site, EQNET, that will serve as a gateway to earthquake hazards mitigation resources on the Internet; an electronic discussion list for information providers; and committees to explore various aspects of information dissemination, such as full text publishing, bibliographic databases, geographic information systems (GIS), strong motion data, and evaluation of the effectiveness of information services.

In the two months following the Workshop, progress has been made on various collaborative efforts. A listserve has been established for the electronic discussion of issues of mutual concern; the national World Wide Web site (EQNET) is under development; and efforts are underway to formalize other collaborative ambitions that were identified at the workshop. A followup meeting, at which these efforts will be reviewed and further developed, is planned for July 7, 1996 in Denver, Colorado. This meeting, to be convened by Patricia Coty, will precede the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center Annual Workshop. Dorothy Tao of the NCEER Information Service also participated in the Oakland workshop, and is assisting with plans for the Denver meeting.

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