Tutorial: Network Theory in Emergency Management

Duration: Half day


Description and Objectives:

In crisis response and management, networks are everywhere. After an earthquake, the road network is disrupted, hampering relief work, as in Haiti in 2010. Responders must establish communication networks as soon as they arrive on-site, to gain awareness of the situation, to monitor operations in the affected area, and to call in resources from outside. The damage to critical infrastructure – water, electricity, sewage, oil and gas, and food supply networks – must be assessed. The network of social relationships in the affected community will have been broken and must be re-built, with families and local groups becoming separated by the devastation and by fleeing to safer areas. Social networks will also form among the responders, extending to include remote volunteers who provide crowd-sourced resources.

Network theory is the branch of mathematics used to model and reason about networks. The theory enables networks to be mapped, built, used, evaluated, and controlled. The beauty of network theory is that the same equations can be used for all kinds of network: biological, geographical, technical, informational, cognitive, social, and organizational. Since the mid 1990’s, network theory has been successfully extended to big data, i.e. networks containing thousands or millions of nodes. Modern network theory provides the mathematical tools to measure the value of individual nodes, clusters of nodes, or whole networks. Networks can be classified according to their topology, with hierarchies, random graphs, small worlds, and power-law networks being the best known. Network processes can be modelled, e.g. to represent the spread of diseases (e.g. bird flu, SARS, ebola), rumours, or malware. Related tools can assess the robustness of networks when challenged by failures and/or attacks.

The aim of this tutorial is two-fold: (1) to provide an introduction to network theory for ISCRAM participants, and (2) to outline recent advances in applying network theory to emergency management and in command & control in particular. The tutorial has been developed in consultation with the tracks on Collaboration and Network Theory and on Command & Control Studies. It is also relevant to other tracks, such as Social Media Studies, Geospatial Data, and Community Engagement. It has been prepared by experts in the fields of network theory, emergency management, C2 systems, and Operations Research. It draws on proven teaching materials, case studies from real crises and disasters, journal articles, and a recently published (June 2014) book (http://www.igi-global.com/book/network-topology-command-control/99488). The tutorial will include a hands-on session in using network theory software on pre-prepared data-sets from real cases, such as 9-11, the Haiti earthquake, etc.

The tutorial will be a half-day long, including a break for refreshments. The first half will consist of a one-hour introductory lecture on network theory tailored to ISCRAM participants, followed by 30 minutes of hands-on exercises using Cytoscape on example data-sets from real crises and disasters. After the break, the participants will be grouped into syndicates to explore a selected problem in more depth, very briefly presenting their analysis in a plenary session. To round off the tutorial, a 45-minute lecture will summarize the current state of the art in applying network theory to emergency management and C2, identifying the areas where research is still needed. All participants will be given a take-away list of relevant network theory resources (e.g. books, journals, conferences, course material, key researchers and research groups, and websites).

Participant equipment requirements:

Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops, preferably with the Cytoscape open source tool and NetworkAnalyzer plug-in pre-installed.