DRH-Asia: Disaster Reduction Hyperbase
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1. Title

Social Skills required to the researchers ensuring for acceptability to disaster area

ID: DRH 24
Hazard: Earthquake , Tsunami , Volcanic eruption , Landslide , Mudflow , Dust storm , Cold wave , Heat wave , Zud , Cyclone/Typhoon , Storm surge , Flood , Flash flood , Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) , Snow avalanches , Epidemic , Drought , Desertification , Land degradation , Multi-hazard

Process Technology (PT)

Proposer: Tomohide ATSUMI
Country: JAPAN;
Date posted: 07 February 2008
Date published: 27 October 2008
Copyright © 2008 Tomohide ATSUMI (proposer). All rights reserved.


Tomohide Atsumi
Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Communication-Design, Osaka University, Japan
1-1 Senri Expo Park, Suita, Osaka 565-0826, Japan
TEL: 81-6-6879-8066 FAX:81-6-6879-8064

2. Major significance / Summary

Describes what to know and how to get into the disaster-stricken area after the disaster based on long-term participatory observations in Chuuetsu region of Japan, where a series of major earthquakes hit in 2004, focusing on activities by researchers, graduate, and undergraduate students.

3. Keywords

Process technology, participatory observation, researchers, students

II. Categories

4. Focus of this information

Process Technology (PT)

5. Users

5-1. Anticipated users: Community leaders (voluntary base) , NGO/NPO project managers and staff , Experts , Teachers and educators , Architects and engineers , Sociologists and political economists , Information technology specialists , Urban planners , Rural planners , Environmental/Ecological specialists

5-2. Other users: Motivated researchers , Local residents

6. Hazards focused

Earthquake , Tsunami , Volcanic eruption , Landslide , Mudflow , Dust storm , Cold wave , Heat wave , Zud , Cyclone/Typhoon , Storm surge , Flood , Flash flood , Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) , Snow avalanches , Epidemic , Drought , Desertification , Land degradation , Multi-hazard

7. Elements at risk

Human lives , Human networks in local communities , Business and livelihoods , Information and communication system , Urban areas , Rural areas , Coastal areas , River banks and fluvial basin , Mountain slopes , Agricultural lands , Cultural heritages

III. Contact Information

8. Proposer(s) information (Writer of this template)

Tomohide Atsumi
Associate Professor, Center for the Study of Communication-Design, Osaka University, Japan
1-1 Senri Expo Park, Suita, Osaka 565-0826, Japan
TEL: 81-6-6879-8066 FAX:81-6-6879-8064

9. Country(ies)/region(s) where the technology/knowledge/practice originated


Kobe and Niigata

10. Names and institutions of technology/knowledge developers

Osaka University

11. Title of relevant projects if any

Case Station and Field Campus (Dr. Norio Okada, Kyoto University, Japan)

12. References and publications

Related to a book chapter in Japanese
Atsumi, T. (in press) Wrap-up your research: To be a bi-lingual. J.Koizumi & K. Shimizu eds. Invitation to Practical Research. Tokyo: Yuhikaku.

13. Note on ownership if any

IV. Background

14. Disaster events and/or societal circumstances, which became the driving force either for developing the technology/knowledge or enhancing its practice

Since the 1995 Kobe Earthquake, I have been involved in disaster relief, recovery, and revitalization processes both as a researcher and as a volunteer member of a non-profit organization for disaster.  It has been obvious that some researchers and/students are successful in research and practices in the disaster-stricken area, while others are not.  It is usually not due to their research background, but due to their social skills to get into the area and meet people.  As a social/human scientist with group dynamics as a major background, I examined and summarized the skills as a process technology for disaster research and practice.  Theoretical and methodological investigations have been re-conducted for its traditional method, i.e., action research, and social skills described here are examined.

V. Description

15. Feature and attribute

If researchers and/or students start to investigate disaster field, it is essential for them to be sensitive to survivors of the disaster and the community.  Needless to say, survivors do NOT live for the research.  They are NOT the object of research, but possible partners.  Therefore, although researchers would like to conduct their own research, they should re-think the following questions before actually starting the research:  What does this research for?  How do they contribute to the survivors in front of the researchers?  Such reflective consciousness may lead researchers to achieve the aim with survivors.  Here are a list of what to know and how to get into the disaster-stricken area after the disaster.

16. Necessary process to implement

You are supposed to examine the items listed up in this technology before, during, and after your research and practice. There are a couple of lists: One is categorized by phases of disaster-cycle, while the other is divided into three categories, i.e., for researchers, graduate, and undergraduate students, respectively.  The first lists include, for instance, "Survivors First", "Do participate and practice rescue and relief. Don’t be an Observer", and "Do not stick to doing research; it’s just a result" during early relief phase, whereas the second lists covers, for example, "Try to work together with local leaders day-to-day", "Study the local history", and "Talk easily about your theory" for researchers (See the attached documents for detail). Remember that the operation of these skills depends on the specific context of the particular disaster, and on the personality of the researcher.  In other words, it changes from case to case, and “Ten men, ten colors”.  It is suggested that, once readers study these skills from this database with some examples, they just go out to the field.  In the field, try to be creative and to improvise the skills they study here.  If they are still at the learning stage, they need to be trained in the field.  In other words, it is best for them to follow an experienced researcher and ask her/him to take them to her/his field.  This on-the-job-training (OJT), or in-the-field-training (IFT) should be effective and education program including IFT should be established.







17. Strength and limitations

This technology is based on actual experiences of a series of long-term fieldwork by one who is both a researcher and an NPO staff member.  So that, it is relatively easy to implement.  However, it still lacks how to teach this technology in a classroom in advance for the actual disaster. 

18. Lessons learned through implementation if any

Please refer to an example (e.g., Cases of Shiodani).   Some people are already sensitive to this technology, while others are not.  As indicated above, there has been no good/perfect way of teaching this technology yet.  Hence, the next step is to develop an effective program to make people sensitive to this technology.

VI. Resources required

19. Facilities and equipments required

Educational program for this technology. 

20. Costs, organization, manpower, etc.

Usual cost for managing a class.

VII. Message from the proposer if any

21. Message

This technology is one of many possible procedures to go into a field.  Whether users make use of this technology or not depends on the particular context they are involved in.  To understand this technology fully, users are recommended to be guided to a field by an experienced instructor and to learn how to understand and utilize this process technology in the field. Surely, anyone wishing to use it should be strongly advised to contact the author.

It is essential for the researchers to make contact with survivors in the disaster field because nothing can be done there without any good relationship between survivors and researchers.  Of course, natural science attempts to produce universal knowledge; whereas human science focuses on particularity (e.g., historical, cultural differences) of the knowledge.  In other words, the former is categorized as "nomothetic science", while the latter "narrative science" (Atsumi, 2007).  Therefore, this technology may be used more frequently for the latter than for the former.  However, since both natural and human sciences of disaster attempt to make the current situation better for survivors, even natural scientists are supposed to use this technology to pursue theire scientific research.  It is simply because sciences of disaster, both natural and human, should contribute to survivors first. 

Although this PT is described as a technology, it also contains the spirit of researchers toward survivors.  Hence, readers are expected to learn this PT with its spirit here, but do NOT simply "apply" it to a particular field.  Once you put this PT with its spirit, just go out to the field and think from time to time including its historical, cultural, and political contexts.    

VIII. Self evaluation in relation to applicability

22. How do you evaluate the technology/knowledge that you have proposed?

It is a technology/knowledge that has high application potential verified by implementation in various field sites.

23. Notes on the applicability if any

This technology does not take into account a possibility of activities with people in different languages.  So, linguistic aspects of this technology (e.g., how to involve an interpreter effectively) are for future investigation.

IX. Application examples


    E1-1. Project name if available

    Foot-bath by university students at shelters

    E1-2. Place

    E1-3. Year


    E1-4. Investor

    Tomohide Atsumi with NPO members in Kobe

    E1-5. People involved

    University students, mostly undergraduate, from Kobe University, Kobe Gakuin University, Osaka University, and Nagaoka University of Technology, with Hisaichi-NGO Kyodo Center, Nippon Volunteer Network Active in Disaster, and Chuuetsu Fukko Network.

    E1-6. Monetary costs incurred

    Transportation, Meal, Accommodation, and Stipend (total budget is still growing, but about ten thousand US dollars)

    E1-7. Total workload required

    A group of students have visited the area several times under the coordination of a leader for about two months. Before starting this project, students of Osaka University learned how to offer the foot-bath from a specialist in 2004 in order to provide this service to the survivors of the 2004 Chuetsu earthquake.  They offered the foot-bath service for more than 2 years there.  Students of other universities learned this technique from Osaka University students at the temporary housing in Nagaoka.  They learned not only how to take care of the feet of survivors, but also how to talk to them, how to listen to them, how to smile to them, and how to keep contact with them in the field. It is easy to describe its physical side of technique (i.e., what water temperature are comfortable, how to use a basin), but social skills were learned through the in-the-field-training (IFT).

    E1-8. Evidence of positive result

    Reports from the students and the leader have been read positively through internet and media responded in positive ways.


    E2-1. Project name if available

    Side-by-side with local relief operators

    E2-2. Place

    Kariwa Village, Niigata, Japan

    E2-3. Year


    E2-4. Investor

    Tomohide Atsumi and NPO members in Kobe and Nagoya

    E2-5. People involved

    Staff members of Nippon Volunteer Network Active in Disaster including Tomohide Atsumi as a researcher, The NGO Collaboration Center for HANSHIN QUAKE Rehabilitation, and Rescue Stock Yard.

    E2-6. Monetary costs incurred

    Transportation, Meal, Accommodation, and Stipend (total budget is still growing, but about ten thousand US dollars)

    E2-7. Total workload required

    The Chuetsu-Oki earthquake hit Kariwa Village as well as Kashiwazaki-city.  Not only volunteers from outside, but also staff members of the local Social Welfare Council were supposed to help survivors in the village.  The staff members were residents of the village and they themselves were affected by the disaster.  They had to support not only their own family members, but also other residents in the village.  They were extremely busy for their own family, but they had to spend their time to other survivors.  They also felt some pressure from the outsiders who came to the village to share their experiences from past disasters.  The staff members of NPOs from Kobe and Nagoya described above attempted to stay close to the local staff of the Social Welfare Council and keep listening to their voices.  It was a good way to researchers to be accepted to disaster area.

    E2-8. Evidence of positive result

    Staff members of the NPO above have still been working with survivors in the village.  When there is an event, they are asked to join.  Such friendly relationship should contribute to the long-term revitalization of the village.

X. Other related parallel initiatives if any


XI. Remarks for version upgrade


Attached files:

Institutions contributing to DRH Contents (Click here): posted on request