Research in the field means that our team was confronted with realities that are very different from our work at a university: instead of trying to analyse the world from our desks, sitting in front of a computer we had to work in an area struck by a disaster: no mobile phone coverage, no access to electricity. No driver, no fuel, no flight, no hotel: logistics and planning needed to be continuously adapted and re-designed. As we went deeper into the field, we had less and less control about when we would be where, and whom we would be able to meet.
Being researchers, we are neutral and follow the ideal of objectivity and scientific rigour. Still, we are humans, touched by the stories we hear about a mother struggling to survive, about a barangay captain trying to maintain the order and ensuring the well being of his community - and feeling the need to give something back to these communities. In how far does this affect the process of acquiring and building knowledge? Should we engage with communities via projects such as Radyo Bakdaw - or maintaining our neutral stand point?
Another challenge is the interdisciplinary nature of our work. We have come together to synergize our different backgrounds in health, crisis mapping, information management, decision support, logistics and risk management. Our work aims at avoiding Babylonian confusion of many different disciplinary voices that are only juxtaposed, talking in different languages about different issues to audiences about the same topic: disaster management.
The key questions we are confronted with are: how do we exploit the knowledge and information from the field in our research? How do we design the next research trips, including roles and responsibilities and rigorous research design? And ultimately: can we embrace the specifics of the field to develop new research methods that enable acknowledging and exploiting information from practice in a transparent and rigorous way? More research needed to find the answers!