[ecoop-info] PhD scholarship, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Matthias Galster mgalster at ieee.org
Fri Oct 14 00:04:26 CEST 2016

Developing Software-based Solutions and Infrastructures for Community
Resilience Assessment

=== Call for Scholarship Applications ===

Applications are now invited for those wishing to pursue a Doctor of
Philosophy (PhD) by thesis addressing key challenges related to information
and software technology in the field of disaster resilience assessment. The
successful candidate will be invited to explore and develop solutions for
critical issues in the field of resilience assessment, such as:

* How current software technologies and methods, including web-based
software, social networks/media software, and/or knowledge-based systems,
can be employed to make community resilience assessment a robust and
co-creative process.

* How software-based solutions and infrastructures can be utilized to make
disaster resilience assessment more accessible to communities; local,
territorial, and regional authorities; and national decision makers.

* How software-based solutions and infrastructures can be designed to
ensure reliability, robustness, and performance while incorporating large
amounts of data, different types of users, different modes of analysis, and
potentially unpredicted usage and deployment scenarios of disaster
resilience assessment.

* Who are the ‘end users’ in resilience assessment, what are their
information needs, and what are the best ways to engage end users in
resilience assessment (e.g., mobile apps, apps as extensions of existing
GIS software, desktop apps, web apps, expert systems, enterprise software
for authorities)?

The research will be co-supervised in the Department of Computer Science
and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury and Resilient
Organisations Ltd.

The successful applicant will explore options for co-creative resilience
assessment, develop appropriate software-based methods, processes, and
tool(s) (e.g., web-based software for gathering, integrating, and
visualizing resilience measures, or tools for crowdsourcing relevant data,
software infrastructures for monitoring and sharing data) in collaboration
with the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges researchers, and then prototype
the methods, processes and tools ‘in the field’ with a case study community.

=== Scholarship Details ===

* Location: University of Canterbury, Ilam, Christchurch, New Zealand

* Scholarship Stipend: NZD$25,000 per annum stipend (+$7000 domestic

* Duration: 3 years

* Starting date: February 2017

* Closing date for Applications: November 14, 2016 (please note
applications will be reviewed upon submission)

=== Notes on Eligibility ===

* The PhD Scholarships are open to domestic and international candidates.
International PhD students are eligible to pay domestic rates if they
reside in New Zealand and have a Visa which allows you to study here.
Please note, international candidates can also apply for an international
postgraduate award to cover international tuition fees.

* It is essential that each candidate has a Bachelor's degree with Honours,
or a Master's degree in a relevant discipline (including Computer Science,
Civil or Software Engineering, Information Systems). Applicants with
degrees in Geography, Geographic Information Systems, Public Health, and
Sociology are also encouraged to apply but should have a background in
software engineering/development.

* While the particular technology focus will partially depend on the
applicant’s interests and skills, it is essential for candidates to have
programming and software development/engineering experience. Demonstrable
experience of working with statistical packages (e.g. R, Stata, MatLab) and
GIS software (e.g. ArcGIS, QGIS) would also be beneficial.

* Upon receipt of this scholarship, the successful applicant would be
required to apply for and engage in full-time study at the University of

* English language proficiency (e.g. IELTS>6.5) must align with the UC
English language requirements.

=== How to apply ===

Applicants will need to submit an email to both Dr. John Vargo (
john.vargo at resorgs.org.nz) and Dr. Joanne Stevenson (
joanne.stevenson at resorgs.org.nz) attaching:
1) Full curriculum vitae,
2) Copies of your full tertiary level education academic transcript,
3) The contact details of two academic referees,
4) An example of your best academic written work (this can be a piece of
coursework or a published journal article),
5) Link to GitHub page (or another repository), if applicable,
6) Evidence of English language proficiency if applicable (e.g. IELTS>6.5),
7) A cover letter of no more than 1 page of A4 containing the following
* State why you would like to be considered for a PhD Scholarship and
rationale for the selected area(s) of interest;
* Describe your experience in using statistical and/or GIS software to
examine quantitative data and solve problems;
* Describe your software development/engineering experience and expertise.

The funding for this PhD Scholarship is part of the Resilience to Nature’s
Challenges research programme (RNC) – Kia manawaroa Ngā Ākina o Te Ao
Tūroa – a  priority research area under the National Science Challenge
(NSC) umbrella. RNC is a New Zealand-wide research programme, launched in
July 2015, with the aim of achieving, “transformative resilience,
discovering and implementing new research-based solutions for our society,
culture, infrastructure and governance to address factors that will enable
New Zealand to thrive in the face of nature’s challenges,” (Jolly 2014).

Resilience across all sectors of society is imperative for global efforts
to reduce the adverse effects of disasters and to build a society that is
change-ready and seeking opportunities for future wellbeing. Building
robust pathways toward resilience begins with assessment: gathering
empirical evidence of what factors enhance resilience, under what contexts,
and for which shocks; benchmarking a community’s capacities, and monitoring
resilience over time.  The Resilience Trajectories work stream of New
Zealand’s Resilience to Nature’s Challenges research programme is
interested in exploring innovative, software-based solutions to robust
resilience assessment.



Within the RNC research programme, Dr. John Vargo and Dr. Joanne Stevenson
from Resilient Organisations Ltd. are co-leading the Resilience
Trajectories work stream.  This work stream aims to guide disaster
resilience benchmarking and monitoring across a range of systems (e.g.,
rural and urban communities, horizontal infrastructure, regional
economies), and will help RNC stakeholders identify barriers and
opportunities to accelerate progress toward a resilient New Zealand.

Communities that are disaster resilient need the ability to absorb the
effects of a disruptive event, minimize adverse impacts, respond
effectively post-event, maintain or recover functionality, and adapt, while
mitigating the adverse impacts of future events (Stevenson et al. 2015).

There is growing momentum behind efforts to ‘operationalise’ disaster
resilience –creating meaningful change that enhances communities’ ability
to prepare, adapt, and respond to and recover quickly from hazards and
disasters. Operationalizing resilience begins with understanding where
communities are, where they would like to be, and through repeated trials
and evaluation, building pathways to get there.  Such activities require
the integration of data and knowledge across a number of platforms.

Researchers and practitioners use a wide range of tools to assess
resilience to disasters and to integrate relevant information for ongoing
monitoring and development. Top-down tools tend to rely on secondary data
and provide systematic comparable assessments across a number of
communities.  For example, the PEOPLES Resilience Framework uses a
GIS-based assessment that integrates different elements of resilience into
a single inventory model and the Baseline Resilience Indicator for
Communities (BRIC) is a quantitative measure for resilience indicators
designed to facilitate systematic comparisons of the inherent community
characteristics across US counties.

So-called ‘bottom-up’ methods are intended to generate areas of focus and
strategy-development from the community of interest.  For example, users of
the Communities Advancing Resilience Toolkit (CART) gather community
information using surveys and key informant interviews and seek to
facilitate community planning and action, emphasizing building and
sustaining connections within communities.
Critiques of resilience assessment (and interventions) have noted a
systemic and chronic gap between government and research-led ‘top-down’
approaches and participatory, community-driven ‘bottom-up’ approaches.

An important frontier for advancing resilience assessment exists at the
intersection of top-down and bottom-up approaches.  Being able to combine
the systematic replicability and comparability of top-down approaches with
the contextual specificity and data generation capacity of bottom-up
approaches would facilitate resilience assessments that are useful for both
large-scale investment decision making and for facilitating community
action.  Such an approach would need to be transparent, robust, and
replicable; align with the community’s goals and visions; help prioritize
needs; and establish baselines for monitoring progress and recognizing
success.  It should also be accessible, usable, and useful for multiple

Barriers to such an approach include the cost of facilitating large-scale
community data collection to produce comparisons (regionally and
nationally); the difficulty of integrating secondary and primary datasets
with dissimilar spatial extents, periodicity, and quality; and the cost and
difficulty of maintaining engagement with relevant communities and decision
makers for continued monitoring and progress evaluation.

We are interested in exploring innovative, socially engaged,
technology-based solutions to this problem.

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