UCCS, UC Irvine researchers win grant to study disaster-communication

Faculty researchers at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the University of California Irvine have received a $750,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effects of using online informal communication during disasters.

The universities will create Project Hazards, Emergency Response and Online Information Communication, or HEROIC, to understand the role and effectiveness of informal communication. One of the topics under study is the role of micro-blogging sites, such as Twitter.

The principal investigators –  Jeannette Sutton, senior research associate, UCCS Trauma, Health and Hazards Center, and Carter T. Butts, associate professor of sociology, UC Irvine, are already studying the aftermath of events from the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil spill along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The team expects to gather data about communications across different types of hazards, communities and time periods. The project is expected to develop predictive models of online communication following emergency events and natural disasters. Researchers also hope to create a database of information on hazards that will include resources about official response to emergencies, details of natural disasters and corresponding losses, and the role of informal communication.

The initial project will continue through 2013.

The Trauma Health and Hazards Center at UCCS is part of the National Institute of Science, Space and Security Centers.

UCCS is one of the fastest-growing universities in the nation, enrolling about 9,000 students annually. The university offers 36 bachelor’s degrees, 19 master’s, and five doctoral degrees.

To learn more, visit www.heroicproject.org.