The terms partnerships, networks, and platforms are often ambiguous and used interchangeably (Assens and Courie Lemeur 2016). A common ground between networks is the desire to foster different levels of collaboration, cooperation, and coordination (Himmelman 1996). We use the term “networks” as the least formal entity with indistinct boundaries (Vilaplana 1998). Networks are defined as “an interconnected group of people linked to one another in a way that makes them capable of beneficial collaboration” (King 2011, p. 376). They “arise from and are sustained by the relationships between individuals over some shared concern, belief or value” (Lowndes et al. 1997 cited in Vilaplana 1998, p. 6). In relation to DRR, networks not only bring people together, but also support the organizations and infrastructure that enable actionable research (for example, the Clinical Research Network in the UK). The term network implies more than the sum of the actors and their links—networks are forms of social organization (Provan and Kenis 2008). Thus networks are holistic in nature.
There are many examples of established S&T networks, partnerships, and platforms for DRR. Examples of global partnerships include the Global Volcano Model Network,Footnote 1 the Global Flood Partnership,Footnote 2 the Global Alliance of Disaster Research Institutes,Footnote 3 the International Network for Government Science Advice,Footnote 4 the Young Hydrologic Society,Footnote 5 and even national networks such as the UK Alliance for Disaster Research.Footnote 6 It is beyond the scope of this opinion piece to map out the different types of current S&T networks for DRR. Our focus is instead upon understanding the value that networks may have and encouraging deeper insights into the role of S&T networks for DRR. This mapping exercise and the development of a comprehensive database of S&T networks for DRR needs to be done in order to evaluate existing S&T networks in DRR and guide their future development.
While examining existing international science “partnerships” in DRR (for example, the International Decade for Disaster Risk Reduction), Carabine (2015) concludes that it is crucial to improve the existing evidence base and use of S&T, especially when taking on board and coordinating a variety of stakeholders. The main contribution of the international science partnerships to DRR is through creating scientific evidence and promoting the use of S&T for creation of evidence-based policy. We propose that a parallel can be drawn with the potential role of S&T networks in DRR, especially at the science-policy interface. By acknowledging the complex nature of DRR, the Sendai Framework recognizes the need for collaborative action between key stakeholders (including policymakers, practitioners, and the S&T community) from all regions and levels. Their collaboration will “identify knowledge gaps, co-design and co-produce knowledge, and make science more available and accessible to support DRR decision making on the ground” (Aitsi-Selmi et al. 2016, p. 4). In this sense, effective S&T networks for DRR are inherently transdisciplinary.
The contribution of S&T networks for DRR can go beyond mere informing of evidence-based policy. For instance, the collaboration between different S&T networks can assist the implementation of the Sendai Framework, particularly by supporting monitoring and review of the Framework’s targets (United Nations General Assembly 2016). S&T networks can provide knowledge and resources to address the gaps identified in the assessment and monitoring of the Hyogo Framework 2005–2015, “which was generally admitted to be too weak and based on self-reporting or voluntary, self-initiated peer review” (Mysiak et al. 2015, p. 2192). With the power to integrate climate change policy, DRR, and poverty reduction, S&T networks also have the potential to work across the implementation of multisectoral international agendas such as the Sendai Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals,Footnote 7 and the COP21 Agreement on Climate Change.Footnote 8 Providing a shared platform of knowledge on disaster risk and mitigation can enhance the international commitment towards collaborative risk management plans.