After 12 months, we are halfway in Work Package 3 (WP3): the core of the STAR-FLOOD project. In this part of the research project, the researchers study flood risk governance in their country. WP3 is important because the results will be used (in WP4) to compare countries and (in WP5) to identify design principles for good flood risk governance in Europe, contributing to the aim of building resilient societies and appropriate policies. During the plenary consortium meeting in Nijmegen (8-9 October 2014) we observed that, in the time frame of one year, the research has led to an enormous amount of interesting material. We also concluded that we are ‘on track’ to submit on time the relevant WP3 deliverables by the end of September 2015.
The STAR-FLOOD researchers study flood risk governance in their country on two scale levels. They analyze flood risk governance on the national scale and on the scale of three cities in their country. Consequently, they explain what they see: why does flood risk governance have the characteristics it has in their country? They also identify factors that can explain why flood risk governance in their country is stable or dynamic, and finally they evaluate flood risk governance on the criteria of resilience, effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy.
The research in the six STAR-FLOOD countries will be summarized in a final deliverable per country. Based on extended country reports and extended case reports, a document of maximum 70 pages will be written per country. We decided to define a maximum number of pages in order to offer interested readers an condense text in which essential information on that country is offered. Crucial in our deliberation on this is the argument: we want share core conclusions, without becoming superficial. The extended reports will be published in addition to the official deliverable in order to guarantee access to detail information. This detailed information is also crucial to make, in a later stage, comparisons between the countries.
Since (early) spring 2014, the case studies are high on the priority list of the researchers. The reports of the first batch of six case studies are in the final production phase: Kingston-upon-Hull (England), Antwerp (Belgium), Nijmegen (the Netherlands), Nice (France), Poznań Powiat (Poland) and Karlstad (Sweden). The other case studies on the agenda are: Lower-Thames and a still to be chosen other city in England, Nevers and Le Havre in France, Slubice and Wroclaw in Poland, Geraardsbergen and Lessines in Belgium, Gothenburg and Kristianstad in Sweden and Dordrecht and Zuidplaspolder in the Netherlands.
On 5 November 2014, the interim findings of our ‘sparkling’ water research were put on the table of the Transdisciplinary Advisory Board (TAB). This board is an esteemed community established for the STAR-FLOOD project, with two experts from each country: one with a policy background and the other one with a position in academia. The researchers presented key findings from their extended country reports. These are some remarkable interim findings, based on their presentations:
- If we see change in a country’s flood risk governance, it is mainly incremental. The Water Act in Poland, for example, was amended 36 times since its recent coming-into-place. Also in England, the researched mentioned an evolutionary flow with a lot of piecemeal changes.
- A potential threat to safety, are the reduced budgets for flood defence. In France, we witness since the early 1980s a trend towards decentralization of responsibilities, but unfortunately the necessary subsidies or project budgets needed from the national governments, do not follow the budget needs on the decentral level.
- The role of cost-benefit analyses (CBA) differs significantly between countries. While in England they are an important, if not dominant factor in decision-making, the Polish researchers need a magnifying glass to find traces of cost-benefit considerations in their national context. One hypothesis might be that CBA is perceived there as a threat to the expert view of technical water managers.
- A red thread in the stories of all researchers: there is a lot of fragmentation of competences, what hinders an effective and efficient flood risk governance. The same applies for a lack of resources, a gap between formal rules and their implementation, conflicting interests between sectors in society etc.
The next steps in the STAR-FLOOD research process are: to finish up the extended reports on the country level and the case study level, and – based on that work – to compose the condense final deliverable report of 70 pages. A 70% draft version of this document needs to be submitted to the work package leader and the Utrecht coordination team by 15 March 2015. Their comments will be discussed with every research team. In spring 2015, the Utrecht coordination team and the WP3 (co)leaders will do a real Tour d’Europe, travelling around Europe to visit the researchers, in order to – jointly – come to conclusions on how to make the reports even more interesting and apt to country comparison in a later stage of the project. An important focal point during the discussions will be how we can guarantee the mutual comparability of the reports.
What strikes us, every time we meet with the STAR-FLOOD researchers, is the good atmosphere in the group and a tendency to push each other to a higher level, with good quality of work and sharp conclusions, both on the content of the research and the research organization. The fun factor within a group is often overlooked as a condition for good research output, but it is undeniably important! The groupselfie we post with this blog, might be an illustration of this good atmosphere. The picture was taken at the Academic Master Class in London, 3-4 July 2014.