Thursday 5 November 2020

EU Funded Project PROACTIVE’s Mid-term Conference held online on 28 October

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More than 100 participants from around the world including practitioners, civil society organisations, railway stakeholders and EU Policy Officers attended the online Mid-term conference organised by UIC on 28 October 2020 to discuss the results so far of the EU-funded project PROACTIVE (PReparedness against CBRNE threats through cOmmon Approaches between security praCTItioners and the VuleranblE civil society).

The conference began with an introduction from European Commission DG HOME’s Philippe Quevauviller about the Community of Users on Secure, Safe and Resilient Societies, including a special focus on CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and explosives) threats. Regarding the future of the Community of Users 2.0, Mr Quevauviller said that “PROACTIVE is at the heart of this moving dynamic.” He confirmed the importance to the European Commission to involve civil society in research, which is the core of the PROACTIVE project.

This was followed by Jerzy Wisniewski from UIC, who shared opening words on behalf of François DAVENNE, UIC Director General, ”CBRN incidents can have a high impact on society and railways. CBRN agents can easily spread on railway premises and rolling stock because of the closed spaces and ventilation systems, possibly contaminating a large number of people present at stations and onboard passenger trains. Freight operators are also concerned when transporting dangerous goods such as chemicals. In addition, crisis response to a CBRN incident requires good partnership between railway companies and public authorities. UIC’s vision is that EU-funded research can help railway stakeholders be better prepared for the future.”

The Mid-term conference then continued with an overview of the PROACTIVE project by Grigore Havarneanu, the project coordinator on behalf of UIC who underlined PROACTIVE’s unique added value compared to past and ongoing research projects in the CBRN area.

This was followed by an in-depth look at the work carried out up till now provided by the Work Package Leaders. We shared the results from the systematic literature reviews, which went beyond the current State of the Art when it comes to CBRNe preparedness & response & the human factor. This has allowed us to create 18 recommendations for practitioners when dealing with a CBRNe incident, which were shared with the participants.

We then discussed our on-going civil society engagement, with already 30 Civil Society Organisations having joined our Civil Society Advisory Board and over 70 as part of our Practitioner Stakeholder Advisory Board. Our multimethod study using both interviews and a questionnaire was presented and showed that CBRNe Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) rarely take into consideration vulnerable groups’ needs and PROACTIVE is working to improve this.

We then explained how all our project results are being funneled into two toolkits: one for practitioners and policy makers, and one for civil society. Both toolkits will share the same architecture and are being co-designed with end users from both our advisory boards as part of an iterative process. We will be testing all this during 3 field exercises, which were presented as going to happen each in a different country and each with actual citizen volunteers, including representatives of vulnerable groups. The first exercise, which will take place in April 2021, is confirmed to take place in a rail environment. Discussions are still on-going for the subsequent exercises, but it is hoped that they will also involve a railway-relatedscenarios.

As we are on the forefront of having citizens included in research, we take ethics very seriously, especially data protection, privacy and informed consent therefore a dedicated presentation explained our ethical policies.

The second session of the Mid-term conference addressed how results in CBRNe projects could be transferable to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. The session opened by Laura Petersen with a focus on the PROACTIVE project, which had previously organized a webinar dedicated to this topic back in April 2020. The main takeaways from that webinar were that Law Enforcement Agencies were active in enforcing Covid-19 measures, transferring people across borders and being a pillar for the community. Civil Society Organisations helped create new SOPs (e.g. for persons with Autism being tested), held campaigns to incite governments to make Covid-19 related communications inclusive (e.g. sign language, text-to-speech accessible websites), and were putting a lot of effort into ensuring access to education for all children during the lockdowns. Going forward, while PROACTIVE is especially focused on the fight against crime and terrorism, many results will also be applicable for other types of CBRNe incidents such as pandemics or industrial accidents. It is also envisaged to include news and information about the Covid-19 pandemic directly in the PROACTIVE mobile applications.

Next Nicola Simone from H2020 EU funded project eNOTICE and University of Rome Tor Vergata shared with us the results of a study on misinformation that he carried out with Italian Facebook users about the infodemic that took place during Covid-19.
The main take away from the study is that people wish to stay informed.

The session ended with an intervention from the H2020 project NO-FEAR and how they’ve adapted their project to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. They quickly adapted their programme of webinars to focus on Covid-19 response. Itamar Laist from MDA shared about the new roles and responsibilities they’ve had to take on in response to the pandemic and how the webinars have helped their organisations. Next, Rachele Brancaleoni from UCSC shared the results from their recent webinar focusing on nursing homes and Covid-19.

The Mid-term conference was concluded with words of thanks to the participants from the project coordinator. He reminded participants that all public deliverables are available for download on our website, invited those who are not already part of our advisory boards to feel free to join us, and to save-the-date for our next event: our first field exercise will take place on April 28th 2021 in Rieti, Italy.

PROACTIVE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 832981.

For further information, please contact Grigore Havarneanu (PROACTIVE Project Coordinator) or Laura Petersen (Senior Security Research Advisor)

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Mid-term Conference logo and figures
Group shot of some of the 100+ attendees
Jerzy Wisniewski from UIC gives an opening speech
Grigore Havarneanu from UIC explains the project objectives
Åsa Burlin from Umeå University European CBRNE Center explains the roles of the two advisory boards
Natasha McCrone from RINISOFT explains how the mobile applications developed within PROACTIVE will work