Research for Emergency Aftershock Response (GCRF-REAR)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Geosciences


Earthquakes have resulted in over three-quarters of a million deaths already in this century, and economic losses of more than a quarter of a trillion US dollars since 1980 making them by far the most destructive of the natural hazards.

Science cannot predict earthquakes and current research indicates that progress in identifying where near future earthquakes will happen (so-called earthquake hotspots) is likely to be slow. However, the work of emergency services and humanitarian organisations deploying immediately after a destructive earthquake is always disrupted and endangered by aftershocks a set of earthquakes, which are focused in space and time, are well understood scientifically and which can be forecast probabilistically. Work by this team, both academics and humanitarian partners, during the Nepal earthquake sequence of 2015 has shown that this understanding has operational impact and can help plan emergency response. In this project we will scope out the requirements for operationalising the technical, scientific, logistical, reporting and interpretation requirements so that fully operational aftershock forecasts, coordinated and led by a team from the University of Edinburgh, can become a part of the international response every major earthquake globally.

The global revolution in mobile phone technology, and the formidable array of sensors they all contain, can play a vital part. Not only in contributing to the high resolution measurement of the size and location of the aftershocks, but they can also act as pathways for the two-way transfer of information and advice. Experience has shown that inaccurate and misleading can confound the work of early responders, Mobile smart phones are a potentially important way of standardising information and developing 'shock education' in best practice earthquake resilient behaviour (for example duck-and-cover) which has been shown to improve survival during earthquakes.

Integration of science and technology requires public engagement at scale. The best science is helpless without being adopted and scientists are ill-equipped to understand the barriers and enabler to uptake and the social, cultural and political pressure points which determine the scale of engagement and the ultimate impact. In REAR we deploy an world-leading, interdisciplinary team of committed experts in social science, in history, in cultural research and in education to complement and collaborate with the scientists and computing specialists to develop and a holistic approach to preparation for aftershock response.

To ensure the sharp operational focus and relevance to real world problems, we have again teamed with Concern Worldwide. Concern work in 27 of the world's poorest countries and have a long standing relationship with the leaders of the REAR team and demonstrated commitment to integration of academic assistance. They are fully committed to this endeavour and will commit their DRR advisor, Dom Hunt, for up to 1 month during the project and the Director of their Emergency Unit, Dominic Crowley, will sit on our international advisory board. Concern will advise on all aspects of the work and accompany us in field visits to their in country operations almost certainly in Nepal.

REAR will deploy a world-class team to bring established and developing science and new technology to a clearly defined and necessary aspect of research into the most destructive natural hazard. It is vital that this research is funded.

Planned Impact

REAR is a foundational project which aims to develop a world-leading multi-disciplinary team and to scope out the scientific, technological, sociological and humanities research which is will be required to provide smartphone-based high-resolution measurements of seismic shaking so that we might better target resources at retrofitting, rebuilding and planning to target resources at the most vulnerable existing construction and to avoid building on new sits which have high seismic vulnerability. We will also scope out the possibility of using engagement with the CitiSeisApp to encourage the development of disaster aware communities.

The impact of the project will be in developing national and international networks to alert humanitarian agencies and international organisations to the potential for high resolution examination and assessment of the ground conditions which determine the distribution of damage experienced in destructive earthquakes. This will allow them to consider contributing to future projects in which these possibilities will be made a reality.

Our main project partners, Concern (see letter of support), are prime movers in this work. They involvement will keep us focused on the problems, such as site selection for rebuilding, which are most important to them as they help reconstruct after earthquake.

We will up-scale the lessons learned. We will attend and present at appropriate humanitarian conferences constantly striving to expand our impact footprint.

We will reach out to other NGOs. We will visit the head offices of a wide range of UK and Irish NGO's and gauge their willingness to contribute to developing of and participating in the future proposal which we are assembling and we will work hard to engage their participation in subsequent projects.

We will use our contacts, particularly in Concern US to make contact with the major international relief and development agencies UNISDR, UNDP and OCHA and the Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Our NGO widening outreach will begin with the START.

We will engage with the media, at home and abroad, to ensure our work receives the maximum coverage and therefore the maximum impact.


10 25 50
Description This project was an enabling project to explore opportunities and barriers for the use of mobile technology for increasing resilience to earthquake hazard. We have developed an Android based mobile app that can collect accelerometer data and upload this back to a server in Edinburgh for analysis. This enables a range of earthquake hazard questions to be tackled; the use of mobile technology is attractive because it enables low cost, high spatial resolution and rapid deployment. Challenges for this approach include gaining buy-in of an appropriate community to deploy the technology effectively, bias towards communities who have availability of suitable mobile technology and access to the technology by the most vulnerable groups. A full proposal in this area needs to align the opportunities and challenges to resolving key hazard questions for vulnerable communities.
Exploitation Route There are a wide range of potential applications for mobile seismometer data. The critical step is aligning the behaviour of those who would deploy the phones with the scientific needs - for example through citizen science or school projects etc.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment

Description GCRF Hub
Amount £17,657,279 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2024
Description Internal GeoScience equipment Grant
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 08/2019
Description Sounding out the river: a new system for monitoring bedload mobilisation and transport
Amount £217,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/T005920/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 02/2021
Title Pilot mobile phone seismometer app 
Description Android based mobile phone seismometer app with remote data upload to University of Edinburgh data storage. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact This app enables remote data collection that could be used for a range of earthquake hazard and citizen science projects. 
Description Cancun Meeting by McCloskey 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description UKADR Annual Meeting by Naylor 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact XXX
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Visit to UNESCO in Paris by REAR team members. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Visit to UNESCO in Paris by team members in order to follow up on phone conversation. Aim is to present project and scope how the UNESCO could feature in a follow-on project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Workshop with stakeholders 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Workshop in Edinburgh bringing international and national organisations together with the purpose of constructing a bid to the GCRF Research Hub. Organisations include, but not limited to, UNESCO, Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre, Concern Worldwide and the GNDR. We are reporting this as it has been successfully invited to the final stage, but is not yet at the point of a final decision. If unsuccessful, we expect the bid will divide into a series of large grants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017