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Disputation: Kristine Steen-Tveit: Common situational understanding in Emergency Management

Disputation: Thursday November 10th. 

Kristine Steen-Tveit
Kristine Steen-Tveit

Kristine Steen-Tveit of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled «From Common Operational Picture to Common Situational Understanding: A Framework for Information Sharing in Multi-Organizational Emergency Management» and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Thursday 10 November 2022.

She has followed the PhD programme at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Agder, with specialisation in information systems.

Summary of the thesis by Kristine Steen-Tveit:

Common situational understanding in Emergency Management

Complex emergencies such as natural disasters are increasing in frequency and scope, in all regions of the world. These emergencies have devastating impacts on people, property, and the environment.

Collaboration needed

Responding to these events and reducing their impact requires that emergency management organizations collaborate in their operations.

Complex emergencies require extraordinary efforts from emergency management organizations and often should be handled beyond ordinary routines and structures.

Such operations involving multiple stakeholders are typically characterized by inadequate information sharing, decision-making problems, limited situational awareness, and a lack of common situational understanding.

An important element for efficient collaboration and information sharing is building and maintaining a common operational picture.

Sharing important information is a key element in emergency management involving several emergency management organizations, and both static and dynamic information must be accessible to perform tasks effectively during emergency response.

Establishing a common operational picture

This PhD project has focused on how emergency management organizations can establish a common operational picture and further achieve a common situational understanding in complex multi-organizational operations.

For investigating this, I applied a qualitative research approach involving multiple data collection methods. I conducted an extensive number of interviews with relevant stakeholders from different emergency management organizations, collected and analyzed audio logs from first responder call groups, and also conducted qualitative surveys with first responders related to emergency management exercises.

Further, I have participated as an observer in several multi-organizational exercises concerning complex emergency events with different scope. I also participated in the planning and accomplishment of a large-scale tabletop exercise involving a complex wildfire scenario, related to the INSITU project (Sharing incident and threat information for common situational understanding) at the Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM), University of Agder.


Firstly, the results in this dissertation project demonstrate that training and evaluations after multi-organizational exercises can serve as a basis for developing shared mental models and contribute to an enhanced common operational picture and common situational understanding supporting future emergency response operations.

Secondly, the findings of this research document that a common operational picture represents objective information, and that the common operational picture is a product based on preparation and a structured working methodology that involves shared knowledge across the operational, tactical, and strategic command and control structures.

Thirdly, the results provide an overview of relevant dynamic and static information that needs to be shared during an extreme weather event and a communication structure for how to share the information.

Fourthly, the project demonstrates, by using live video as an example, that effective use of new information sources requires that these are well-incorporated into the emergency management organizations’ routines and operative information management systems.

Framework for a common situational understanding is developed

Finally, a conceptual framework consisting of three fundamental elements of how to get from a common operational picture to a common situational understanding is developed:

(1) training for shared mental models by implementing frequent multi-organizational exercises that build on simple problem-centered scenarios

(2) building a common operational picture by providing the stakeholders with access to available static, dynamic and visual information, and

(3) negotiating a common situational understanding by using a secure radio network for sharing semantic and pragmatic information.

Disputation facts:

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place in Auditorium B3 008, Campus Kristiansand. 

Vice-Dean Hanne Haaland, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Agder, will chair the disputation.

The trial lecture Thursday 10 November at 10:15 hours

Public defence Thursday  10 November at 12:15 hours


Given topic for trial lecture: «Major IS research trends within the crisis response and management community»

Thesis Title: «From Common Operational Picture to Common Situational Understanding: A Framework for Information Sharing in Multi-Organizational Emergency Management»

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder.

The thesis is available here:



The CandidateKristine Steen-Tveit (1982, Arendal) Bachelors degree in Nursing, Agder University College (2007) and Masters degree in Health Informatics, University of Agder (2015) Master thesis: «Hvilke erfaringer har AMK operatører med Nødnett Helse? En kvantitativ studie som måler Nødnett Helses grad av IS-suksess og Helsedirektoratets mål for innføring» (in Norwegian only). Present position: Researcher at the Department of Information Systems, Universitetet i Agder.


First opponent: Professor dr. Erik Borglund,  Mid Sweden University

Second opponent: Associate Professor, dr. Jeroen Wolbers, Leiden University, Nederland

Associate Professor Nadia S. Noori, Department of Information and Communication Technology/CIEM, University of Agder, is appointed as the administrator for the assessment committee.

Supervisors in the doctoral work were  Professor Bjørn Erik Munkvold, University of Agder (main supervisor) and Professor Jaziar Radianti, University of Agder (co-supervisor)