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David Mendonca, PhD: Collaborative Information Foraging in Emergency Response Organizations: An Application Involving Discrete Event Simulation


Collaborative information foraging theory seeks to explain how information is sought and processed within groups or within organizations, and thus how group information foraging behavior shapes decision behavior.  A challenge for research in this area is to develop study instrumentation that can accommodate explicit and implicit dependencies among group members, as well as the effects of key exogenous factors.

This talk describes the design, implementation and use of computer-based systems for provoking, recording and evaluating collaborative information foraging behavior. The domain of investigation is the post-disaster environment, focusing on groups that coordinate emergency response operations—such as fire, police and medical services—in the face of varying levels of event severity and time constraint. A set of research propositions to be tested is first developed, leading to criteria for the design of a computer-based synthetic environment which includes simulation, interaction and logging capabilities. Use of the synthetic environment is then illustrated using data from studies with US and international response personnel, yielding data that may be used to describe the effects of the post-emergency environment on collaborative information foraging. Finally, ongoing work is briefly described.


David Mendonça is an Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research centers on the cognitive foundations of group decision making. Application areas include emergency response, critical infrastructure restoration, and large-scale debris removal operations. The material in this talk is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0449582.