MobilityLab at the “Making Sense of Data in Times of Crisis: The Case of Ukraine” conference

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a significant humanitarian crisis, resulting in the displacement of over 8 million refugees across Europe, with more than half of them registered for Temporary Protection. The influx of refugees has created numerous challenges, including issues related to the provision of adequate housing, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.  

In February, Ago Tominga, our PhD researcher, contributed to a panel discussion organised by the OPORA Foundation and the University of Tilburg. The event, titled “Making Sense of Data in Times of Crisis: The Case of Ukraine,” was held in Netherlands at the Humanity Hub in The Hague and aimed to shed light on methodological practices of data gathering and analysis to reflect on the future and make a direct link between policy-making and data interpretation. 

Ago Tominga speaking at the event. Photo credit: OPORA Foundation

The crisis triggered a sudden need for decisions and, consequently, data analytics to provide information to make those decisions. Such a situation conflicts with a slow, peer-reviewed process of writing publications that is classically used by researchers to disseminate information. Still, research integrity and trustability has to be ensured even at times of crises. Some conclusive ideas from the conference included: 

  • there is a need for tools using more novel information sources, such as mobile phone and social media data to gather hindsight about people’s spatial and communication behaviour. Still, more classical and laborious sources, such as panel surveys, are also needed. For effective decision-making different information sources have to supplement each other and an important question is that what are the best models to do so. 
  • although it may seem that the best way to get information from refugees is to go and ask them, it is necessary to be aware of the vulnerability of their situation. A good substitute to phone or face-to-face surveys or interviews is a survey application, which refugees can fill at a place and time they are feeling safe in their smartphones. 
  • preparations are the key: innovations have to be adopted and tested during times of peace to be ready to be used during times of distress. 

Great thanks to the OPORA Foundation and the University of Tilburg for organising an event with engaging presentations and thought-provoking discussions!

Categorized as Conference

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