New NHERI CONVERGE Training Module on Reciprocity in Hazards and Disaster Research



The latest CONVERGE training module provides practical guidance for how researchers can give back to affected people and communities.

Boulder, Colo., Feb. 2, 2022 – The Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (NHERI) CONVERGE facility announces the release of its ninth training module: Reciprocity in Hazards and Disaster Research. This module provides an overview of what reciprocity means, why it is important for conducting ethical research, and how hazards and disaster researchers can effectively practice reciprocity in their work.

Please join us on February 10, 2022 from 1:00-1:30 p.m. MT for a demonstration webinar of the Reciprocity in Hazards and Disaster Research Training Module.

This module focuses on the reciprocal relationship between researchers of all disciplines and disaster-affected communities, with an emphasis on providing mutual benefits for researchers as well as the people involved in and affected by hazards and disaster research. This free online course was made possible with the support of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation, and is part of a series of training modules designed to support students and emerging researchers to conduct ethical and methodologically sound studies.

Reciprocity in Hazards and Disaster Research

The Reciprocity in Hazards and Disaster Research Training Module discusses various ways that reciprocity has been defined, conceptualized, and practiced when studying disaster events. Drawing on empirical literature, the module provides a new definition of what reciprocity means in hazards and disaster research.

Reciprocity can take many forms in research — from compensating participants for their time to serving as an advocate for study participants and the impacted community. “The module explores three distinct perspectives that have been discussed in the literature, including reciprocity as giving back, reciprocity as a relational process, and reciprocity as an ethical imperative,” said Jessica Austin, graduate research assistant at CONVERGE and one of the lead developers of the training module.

The module, which is divided into four lessons, also describes different ways that reciprocity enhances the research process. Specifically, it explains how reciprocity can help fulfill an ethical responsibility, establish trust between researchers and participants, address power imbalances in researcher-community relationships, and enhance the relevance of field research to the local context.

“Several case examples in the module show how researchers have practiced reciprocity in their work,” said Jocelyn West, a graduate research assistant at CONVERGE and another lead developer of the training module. “One of the case studies in the module highlights a collaboration that I am part of in Puerto Rico. Guided by the tenets of reciprocity, we show how we adapted a guide that we wrote to make it useful for a bilingual youth audience.”

The module also discusses the possible challenges of practicing reciprocity, including highlighting some inherent ethical dilemmas and potential unintended consequences of engaging in reciprocal giving.

This content is followed by recommended strategies for practicing reciprocity, as well as ideas to understand, evaluate, encourage, and support the practice of reciprocity between researchers and research stakeholders. Reciprocity requires that researchers invest both time and resources and that they remain flexible throughout the research process. “By presenting examples of methods and strategies that support reciprocity, we hope the module can help researchers fulfill our ethical obligation to give back to the people and places that we study,” said Heather Champeau, a graduate research assistant at CONVERGE and the third lead developer of the training module.

The new module, like the others in the series, presents key concepts and case studies using interactive sliders, tables, and call-out boxes. To complete the module, users must pass a 10-question quiz to receive a certificate worth one contact hour of general management training through the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) certification program.

The CONVERGE website provides supplementary materials, including the CONVERGE Assignment Bank and Annotated Bibliographies, as well as previously released modules focusing on social vulnerability and disasters, disaster mental health, cultural competence, Institutional Review Board procedures, emotionally challenging research, gender-based violence in fieldwork, broader ethical considerations, and perishable data.

The next training modules to be released in the series include:

  • Public Health Implications of Hazards and Disaster Research (in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Positionality in Hazards and Disaster Work (in partnership with faculty and students at the University of Ottawa)

To receive updates and information on new CONVERGE training modules and other resources, please subscribe here.

Media Contacts

Lori Peek, PhD
Principal Investigator, NHERI, CONVERGE, SSEER, and ISEER
Director, Natural Hazards Center
Professor, Department of Sociology
University of Colorado Boulder

About the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure — NHERI — is a network of experimental facilities dedicated to reducing damage and loss-of-life due to natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, windstorms, and tsunamis and storm surge. It is supported by the DesignSafe Cyberinfrastructure. NHERI provides the natural hazards engineering and social science communities with the state-of-the-art resources needed to meet the research challenges of the 21st century.