Management Science academics launch Arctic search and rescue research project


A Management Science team, of professors Susan Howick, John Quigley, Lesley Walls and George Wright together with Dr Ian Belton, has just launched a new three-year project worth £760,000, funded jointly by the NERC and Canada’s National Research Council (NRC). The aim of the project is to strengthen the whole-of-society search and rescue (SAR) system in the Canadian Arctic territory of Nunavut through capacity and skill building, and by creating a decision support model for current and future planning, preparation, and infrastructure development.

In Nunavut, community SAR responders and the government agencies who support them undertake a challenging task: providing 24/7 response capabilities, 365 days a year, in an austere and changing environment, with a heavy case load, few resources, and limited external assistance. The SAR services they deliver provide a safety net that allows local residents to live, travel, harvest, and work on the land and, as a result, contribute substantially to individual and community health and well-being. There is an urgent need to address the various challenges and concerns identified by Inuit SAR responders, enhance existing knowledge and skills, and create a more resilient SAR system capable of continuous improvement.

The project will use a community-collaborative approach that emphasises the co-creation of knowledge to generate a thoughtful, strategic, comprehensive, and robust process for decision support to enable optimal SAR capability and infrastructure, based on Inuit traditional knowledge and reflecting Inuit priorities and values. The Strathclyde Business School team will be responsible for developing a novel modelling framework, based on a Bayesian Network, that can articulate the cause and effect relationships between factors affecting successful SAR operations and help decision-makers assess the role of various assets and infrastructure in SAR operations and outcomes. The framework will also be designed to support ongoing learning through the input of new experiences and knowledge gathered by SAR responders. In addition, the project will use scenario-based foresighting to create causally based qualitative storylines that describe a range of alternative plausible futures, against which SAR strategies can be evaluated.

The research will be led jointly by Professor John Quigley and Dr Peter Kikkert, the Irving Shipbuilding Chair in Arctic Policy at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and supported by a number of academics in the Canadian universities of Dalhousie, Trent and Memorial as well as the NRC. The Strathclyde team brings substantial expertise in systemic risk modelling, scenario planning, and knowledge elicitation. The Canadian researchers are experts in SAR operations and safety-related issues and have extensive experience of working with the community and government agencies involved in Nunavut SAR operations. The project will also be supported by experienced SAR responders in communities across Nunavut, and by SAR operatives from Canadian territorial/provincial, regional, and federal governments.

Published: 28 September 2022

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