Critical Review #6: Knowledge, earthquakes and Groningen

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In many situations, governments have to deal with major risks, conflicting interests and social pressure. Knowledge plays a central role in this. This applies to gas extraction in Groningen, but also to Schiphol, flood risk management and COVID-19. How does the use of knowledge in Groningen relate to those other domains? This is what the report of the sixth 'critical review' by Wim Derksen and Mariëlle Gebben is all about.

The first five critical reviews were organized between 2017 and 2021 on behalf of the National Coordinator Groningen. The Knowledge Platform Leefbaar en Kansrijk Groningen invested them independently. Wim Derksen and Mariëlle Gebben designed a series of open dialogues between experts, policymakers, companies and residents. Various topics were discussed: threat maps, reinforcement, heritage, the economy and the depreciation of houses.

The series was completed in the spring of 2021. This time not one specific theme was central, but Derksen and Gebben looked at the bigger picture: what role does knowledge play in the debate about the earthquakes in Groningen? How useful is the knowledge? And is the available knowledge used?

In order to facilitate a good dialogue, three groups of referees wrote an essay about the use of knowledge in the other case: Dr Johan Weggeman (Schiphol), Dr Nikki Brand and Dr Baukje Kothuis (water safety) and Isabelle van Elzakker MA and Dr Patricia Faasse (COVID19). On the basis of the essays, four open dialogues took place with about 70 participants. Derksen and Gebben wrote this report about this.

With regard to the reliability and use of knowledge, Derksen and Gebben conclude that the level of knowledge development in Groningen is relatively low. They establish that technological knowledge dominates. They signal that some models are not reliable. They conclude that there is a lot of apparently reliable social-scientific knowledge and that knowledge of residents is hardly used. Derksen and Gebben also conclude that improvements are possible in the way knowledge is produced, used and communicated.

The Knowledge Platform has presented the report to the National Coordinator Groningen and has determined that five recommendations can be derived from this series: (a) do not derive too much certainty from the current models and reconsider the role they play in the approach and policy, (b) make more use of social-scientific knowledge, (c) make more use of residents' knowledge, (d) make technical knowledge more understandable for residents and (e) use independent knowledge and weigh it transparently.