DREAM Challenge Week


DREAM Challenge Week

DREAM Challenge Week - 11-15 July, 2016

DREAM Challenge Week – 11-15 July, 2016

A key component of DREAM is the annual inter-cohort “Challenge Week”. This takes place every July, and we held our first Challenge Week at Cranfield University from 11-15 July, 2016.

DREAM is concerned with developing innovative research around both handling and managing substantial bodies of data, and extracting useful and pertinent information, and providing our researchers with the opportunities to gain at the same time abilities to characterise and understand environmental risk and the ways it can be addressed and mitigated. One of the keystones for achieving this in the DREAM programme is via the Challenge Week, where we set realistic and contemporary challenges to the group. The group, split into teams then set about addressing these challenges under the guidance of a group of leading industrial and practitioner experts. The scenario for the 2016 DREAM Challenge Week focussed on the region of London to the south of the river Thames, extending southwards to the North Downs. This is an area of great contrast, extending from heavily populated conurbation, to areas of open countryside under agriculture; and from industrial and commercial zones, to residential land use; and from riparian lands to downlands, all across a range of topographical regions. This area is home to a significant proportion of the national population and the inhabitants of this region are diverse. Working towards a final end-of-week presentation, the teams are set to address two challenges relating to this geographical region.

DREAM Challenge Week - 11-15 July, 2016

DREAM Challenge Week – 11-15 July, 2016

A first focus is in establishing and characterising vulnerable communities in response to immediate (short term) acute and extreme environmental events, in the manner of first responder planners and ‘Gold command’ actors, by example in the case of flood event response, or sudden heatwave. The questions we sought to address included:
• How can we identify where the communities affected by an event are situated;
• Within these communities, can we identify particular groups at risk;
• What evacuation strategies and routes might need to be determined;
• How best can vulnerable communities best be communicated with;
• Are there means to monitor and protect vulnerable persons (e.g. elderly from heatwave impacts);
• Where are affected critical infrastructures and key assets and how can they be protected;
• How should efforts be prioritised;
• What contingency plans exist?

DREAM Challenge Week - 11-15 July, 2016

DREAM Challenge Week – 11-15 July, 2016

A second focus was placed on establishing and calculating exposure to multiple risk concerns, in the manner adopted by insurance and planning communities in response to chronic (medium to long term) environmental events, by example risk impact assessment of flooding or heatwave. The questions we sought to address in such instances included:
• How can overlapping areas of risk be characterised in terms of ‘hotspots’;
• Do any ‘interdependencies between such risks exacerbate over-arching assessments;
• Which communities are affected and how are they composed;
• Within these communities, can we identify particular groups at risk – and are there issues of social justice and equity at play;
• What contingency measures can be deployed to mitigate, or adapt to long term risk exposure;
• How should risks be ‘correctly rated’ (or ‘priced’, relatively);
• Are there any appropriate trade-offs that can or should be made;
• Should particular areas be prioritised for protection (e.g. conservation and biodiversity reserves)?

DREAM Challenge Week - 11-15 July, 2016

DREAM Challenge Week – 11-15 July, 2016

With the group split into two, and with each team assessing these differing risk considerations, the week proved most instructuive as well as a great deal of fun. Challenge Week is undertaken as a key element in the DREAM calendar. The week permits an opportunity to use and apply the intellectual approaches and skillsets our researchers are developing in DREAM with an application to real-world problems. Next, we seek to enable our researchers to understand and articulate a challenge, and to communicate this with experts from across a range of fields and, in so doing, develop skills that will aid their future. Lastly, and importantly, we are seeking to help develop a strong cohort community, giving our researchers a great chance to get to know each other and work together. Collaboration and team spirit were very much the name of the game, as the team members learned to contend and accommodate different approaches and styles of working to ensure a common goal was achieved.

DREAM Challenge Week - 11-15 July, 2016

DREAM Challenge Week – 11-15 July, 2016

Finally, just to keep everyone on their toes, the group received very short notice that the ‘press’ were coming to do an interview to camera. This then also gave one of our NERC Research Placement Experience (REP) Students, Neil Grant, an excellent opportunity to swiftly assimilate and explain the work of the whole group to some challenging and probing questions!