Kevin Galvin / Wikimedia Commons

USA - Disaster Database Cements Itself as Go-to Hub for Natural Hazard Information

In Seattle, "the big one" -- a massive earthquake that could devastate the region -- represents an ominous threat.

So widespread are the concerns that city leaders there created standards to fortify new skyscrapers using data from studies forecasting the impact of a big earthquake in the region.

The Seattle mega-quake scenario is one of hundreds of data sets published on DesignSafe, a database for natural disaster information created by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin that has changed how planners, builders, policymakers and engineers prepare for and respond to hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and more. The data repository gives researchers the ability to formally publish data sets related to natural disaster studies in the same way research papers are published in journals, giving them an accessible digital home.

"We've watched the path from research to data to the real world, where information on the platform is informing how people do things like design structures," said Ellen Rathje, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering's Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, who is the lead researcher for DesignSafe. "Our data repository is helping paint a more complete picture of natural hazards and helping the world understand their impacts."

The 5-year-old project, funded by the National Science Foundation, has been renewed with a $15.5 million grant for another five years. DesignSafe is a collaboration between the Cockrell School and UT's Texas Advanced Computing Center and includes faculty members from Rice University, the University of California at Los Angeles and the Florida Institute of Technology.

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