The researchers are meeting this week at the New University of Lisbon in Portugal, during a public workshop funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“The swiftly approaching convergence of these fields necessitates interdisciplinary research,” said Pamela McCauley Bush, a University of Central Florida industrial engineering associate professor who is leading the international workshop.

“A radiation sensor, for example, is only one component of a complex system of elements in an earthquake response. The data it generates will be most effectively understood and reacted to only if responders apply the latest communication technology and knowledge of human factors appropriately.”

Isabel Nunes, a professor at the New University of Lisbon, is co-leading the workshop. The collaboration between the two countries signals a new global partnership.

“Major disasters, such as the Japan tsunami in 2011, are international events with global consequences on the environment, commerce, travel and many other issues. Therefore, the factors that lead to effective response and management must be researched internationally,” Nunes said.

Human factors in disaster response is considered an emerging field. It involves how people process information and considers factors that lead to breakdowns in communication.

The workshop, intended to establish a research agenda to integrate the fields of human factors, sensor technology and logistics, also will open the door for graduate and undergraduate students to participate in the international project.