The new research programme on societal security will generate new knowledge and a deeper understanding of the risk and threats facing critical societal functions and the capacity within society to maintain and safeguard the life, health and basic needs of its citizens during events that pose major types of stressors. Important tasks will be to strengthen the overall resilience of society and improve prevention, preparedness, rescue services, crisis management and learning.
The impacts of climate change include more frequent extreme weather events, with resulting risk to property and critical infrastructure. Here, the detritus after Hurricane Dagmar.
The new programme will build on the results of the Research Council’s now-concluded Programme on Societal Security and Risk (SAMRISK) and on findings from other relevant Norwegian and international research. Representatives of various public and emergency preparedness authorities as well as relevant NGOs will be invited to provide their input when designing the programme.
The Research Council will appoint a committee to draw up a complete work programme by the end of November 2012.
In line with Government white paper
In its newly approved white paper on societal security, the Government points out that there is a need for more research activity in this area.
The white paper makes reference to the final report of the SAMRISK programme, the terrorist attacks carried out in Oslo and on Utøya island on 22 July 2011, the major pressures placed on critical societal functions due to extreme weather with ensuing flooding and landslides, as well as major problems with vital ICT systems experienced that same year.
Many important topics
The white paper divides the broad-based thematic area encompassed by societal security into three main categories:
- Malicious, hostile and criminal acts with the intention of generating fear, taking revenge or achieving financial gains.
- Incidents and accidents leading to explosions, train derailments, pollution etc., and which may be the result of inattentiveness, lack of skill, overwork/overload, material fatigue etc.
- Natural disasters such as extreme weather events, earthquakes, landslides and forest fires leading to floods, tidal waves and damage to critical infrastructure.
The view over Oslo approximately 30 minutes after the explosion 22 July 2012. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Potential areas of focus within these categories will include:
- risk, critical infrastructure and learning;
- extremist violence and terrorist acts;
- information and communications technology (ICT), the mass media and social media;
- societal values such as openness, trust, democracy and security;
- supervisory bodies and exercise of authority;
- emergency relief and crisis management;
- food safety, water safety and pandemics;
- security and vulnerability in the High North;
- need for scientific expertise and capacity in Norway as well as for participation in international efforts carried out by the EU, among others.
Ideal for international research cooperation
In the past seven to eight years, approximately EUR 1.4 billion has been allocated under the separate Security theme of the EU Seventh Framework Programme. The objective of the theme is to develop the technologies and knowledge for building capabilities needed to ensure the security of citizens from threats such as terrorism, natural disasters and crime, while respecting fundamental human rights including privacy.
Norwegian researchers have enjoyed considerable success in projects under the Security theme, participating in nearly one in four projects awarded funding. The topics and targets of the theme are expected to be continued under the next EU Framework Programme, Horizon 2020 (2014-2020).
The now-concluded SAMRISK programme has also helped to significantly strengthen Nordic research cooperation. A future Nordic research programme administered by the joint Nordic research funding agency NordForsk would provide a useful arena for cooperation.