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Space weather strategy takes account of public dialogue project

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The joint BIS / Cabinet Office Space Weather Preparedness Strategy was published in July 2015.

The strategy acknowledges the role of the Sciencewise-supported public dialogue on space weather in various ways:

"As for any risk communication, communication with the public is an important component in preparing for and responding to an event. ... Work has been undertaken to develop and exercise plans to communicate with the public. These plans focus on raising awareness of what the risk means in practice for the public, how the impacts can be mitigated in a similar way as for other, more familiar risks, and effective co-ordination with other countries that might also be affected. They have also been informed by work undertaken by Sciencewise to engage the public on how to plan for the risk of severe space weather." (emphasis added).

In Section 6.1 of the strategy on 'Assessment of Preparedness - What has been done so far', it states:

"Warning and informing. A Sciencewise project carried out six public dialogue sessions over June, July and September 2014. This dialogue brought members of the public together with space weather and resilience experts to investigate government preparedness and communication relating to space weather. This informed policy on communications with the public and public attitudes to this risk."

The strategy also summarises work done to date "building resilience to severe space weather" as including:

"the public communication workshop in January 2015 and Sciencewise public dialogue in June, July and September 2014 and the subsequent production of a communications plan"

All these, and other priorities for future work in the strategy, directly reflect the four recommendations in the public dialogue project final report. The strategy's priorities for future work are (directly quoted):

•    "ensuring that research funding is guided by strategic priorities to help increase resilience to space weather;
•    work with international partners to develop ways to fill gaps in space and ground capabilities to monitor and forecast severe events;
•    build on work already ongoing with a range of sectors to increase awareness of and resilience to the risk of space weather in the UK, especially in sectors which might feel an impact but awareness is low;
•    continue to communicate with the public in a way which builds resilience to this and other risks, without causing undue alarm and fits with wider approaches to warning and informing;
•    continue international engagement in order to help increase UK resilience; and
•    continue to raise awareness amongst local responders to increase their knowledge of and ability to plan for space weather in a way which is coherent with their wider planning for emergencies."

The four recommendations in the dialogue project final report are (also all directly quoted):

"1.   Government should encourage work to raise public awareness of space weather, of the need for resilience against its adverse impacts, and of how this fits into wider resilience against a range of risks. We recommend that this work is linked with other activities, across UK and devolved governments, to promote resilience against space weather and other natural hazards. It should seek to engage all relevant departments, their agencies and non-departmental bodies (in particular the Research Councils), and should promote good practice through engagement with space weather outreach experts in Government, academia and industry. It should develop and implement an awareness-raising plan, taking note of the many issues discussed in the dialogue report, and of potential sources of financial support for outreach activities.

2.  That all levels of government should work together to explore ways to increase public awareness of the work done by Local Resilience Forums (LRFs): namely to foster resilience, to provide a wealth of relevant information to the public, and as the front-line to deal with problems when they occur. One possible example emerging from the dialogue is to hold open meetings to build up links between LRFs and the communities that they serve.

3. That Government should continue to work closely with industries operating systems at risk from space weather to ensure and demonstrate that the UK has overall systems resilience to space weather. These partnerships should reassure the public by being open about the risk from space weather and, as far as practicable, about the measures taken to reduce that risk.

4. That the members of the space weather expert community investigate options to explore public attitudes to specialist space weather risks. This should include discussions with relevant government bodies (UK, devolved and local) to identify areas where there are potential policy benefits from such benefits, as well as consideration of how to identify members of the public affected by specialist risks."

As can be seen above, many aspects of the recommendations are reflected in the Space Weather Preparedness Strategy 2015 both as actions that have been taken (the communications plan) and/or in future priorities.

See related project page: Space Weather Dialogue