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Equity and Risk Research

Risk research and applications follow key principles focused on upholding and supporting the USGS responsibility to address Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA). The USGS Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (DEO) is responsible for coordinating, monitoring, and enforcing authorities that embed DEIA across USGS as a Bureau-wide effort. 

Key Principles in USGS Risk Research  

The following are a set of key principles that the USGS Risk Project encourages risk researchers at the USGS to use to guide their work: 

  • Foster Diverse Partnerships: Establishing partnerships with a diverse set of individuals and communities can ensure that risk research is actionable, reflects diverse voices and lived experiences, and integrates local and indigenous knowledge into the research process and deliverables; 

  • Develop Participatory Methods: Where possible and welcomed by partners and communities, developing participatory research methods can ensure that diverse voices, priorities, knowledge, and ways of knowing are incorporated into risk research at USGS; 

  • Focus on Relationships, Respect, and Trust: Approaching partnerships respectfully, ethically, and with the aim of creating long-term relationships with mutually beneficial outcomes can build trust with communities who have been formerly underserved by USGS risk research; 

  • Center Partner Priorities in Risk Research: Understanding and prioritizing the needs, priorities, and concerns of partners can address existing inequities in data delivery; 

  • Communicate in Context and Culturally Appropriate Ways: Developing science communication products that address the concerns and priorities of communities in their preferred languages, formats, and platforms can help address existing inequities in data delivery, and allow these communities to make science-informed decisions about hazard risk; 

  • Evaluate Equity in Risk Research: Developing approaches and metrics that address the equitable production and dissemination of USGS risk research, as well as its uptake by a diverse set of partners and communities will enable future risk research to be more equitable and responsive to the needs of those most vulnerable to natural hazards;  

  • Build Risk Research Capacity Equitably: Creating risk research capacity building opportunities such as internships, trainings, employment, or citizen science initiatives across the diverse publics that USGS serves can address existing inequities in hazards expertise and science literacy, and can also improve USGS risk research by creating new avenues for diverse voices and ideas to be incorporated into study design and development.  

Inequitable Risk and Exposure to Natural Hazards 

Exposure to and impacts of natural hazards--and the associated risks and vulnerabilities borne by communities--are inequitably distributed. These inequities fall along multiple intersecting socio-economic fault lines that can include: income, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability and disability, language and literacy, social networks and social capital, household composition, home ownership, age, level of education and scientific literacy, citizenship, and housing security, and reflect broader current and historical patterns of discrimination and injustice. 

Centering Equity in Risk Research and Applications

In the past, scientific research and communication have perpetuated inequities and discounted certain forms of knowledge. Questions like who, how, and where research is done and what knowledges are valued need to be examined to identify and address systemic inequities or injustices. Approaches to research must seek to avoid perpetuating inequity and the mistakes of the past by focusing on greater inclusivity. Using science to inform and equitable risk reduction can help address systemic inequities and injustices, but it requires a “whole of community approach” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2020. This approach must take into account historical contexts, identify and address community needs, and develop knowledge and solutions in partnership with the people who will use and benefit from the research being conducted. 

Expanding the diversity of the communities participating in science partnerships; focusing on participatory approaches to knowledge generation; improving where and how data are collected; ensuring equitable access, usability, and sharing of data; and focusing on relationship building as a key component of science communications are just some of the steps that can be taken to mitigate inequities – or at least avoid perpetuating them.

USGS Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity

The Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (DEO) is dedicated to ensuring equal employment opportunity (EEO). We are devoted to building an inclusive and diverse workforce by creating an environment where all U.S Geological Survey (USGS) employees are respected, valued, and able to develop and perform to their maximum potential. 

Executive Orders on DEIA

Multiple authorities serve as guidance and support in establishing responsibilities for advancing racial equity, support for underserved communities, and DEIA Bureau-wide efforts. These authorities direct federal entities to address the disproportionate human health and environmental impacts borne by frontline and other historically overburdened and underserved communities

The content of this page was developed by the Risk Community of Practice's Strategic Approach Writing Group.