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“It’s All About the Data” by Bentz Report

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Updated: Jun 1st, 2022

The article ‘It’s all about the data: responding to international chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents’ was written by Bentz, Blumenthal, and Potter (2014), and published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists journal. The Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan challenged many governments to improve their procedures for responding to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) calamities. Whenever such incidents occur, many countries offer technical assistance. However, challenges such as language barriers and legal restrictions make response efforts difficult. One of the lessons that the US learned from the Fukushima incident was the importance of transforming data into decisions for better response management. This has been a challenge because of the many levels of government that such data has to pass through before it reaches response teams at the scene of the incident. It is important to implement stringent policies at both strategic and operational levels to ensure that a country’s response capabilities are deployed swiftly during international disasters. Major challenges encountered when responding to international CBRN incidents include resource limitations, language barriers, variances in information sources and formats, varying organizational relationships, and differences in legal procedures. Studies have shown that dissemination of data during CBRN incidents is one of obstacles that delay the response process. The data requires specialized tools for analysis and specific procedures for dissemination. In order for a country to respond successfully to a CBRN incident, it is important for security agencies to address the aforementioned issues by considering both strategic and operational aspects of consequence management.

The article explores the topic deeply and uses case examples to support the arguments made. However, some of the information included does not explore certain arguments satisfactorily. For example, the issue of consequence management is only discussed from the perspective of domestic response to CBRN incidents. The authors do not discuss the technical aspects of international consequence management responses. However, they mitigate the problem by discussing several recommendations that can be considered in international consequence management. The discussion is unsatisfactory because it is based on practice rather than research. Different countries have different response procedures, policies, and legislation. Therefore, finding research studies on the technical aspects of international consequence management applied by different countries on various CBRN incidents would have been better. Some sections of the article are very long and therefore, tedious to read. The authors could have divided the sections into subsections for easier reading. It is difficult stay focused while reading the long sections.

A major weakness of the article is the poor utilization of resources. Bentz et al. have presented a lengthy discussion of the topic from various perspectives. However, they have borrowed very little information from other academic resources. A large percentage of the information contained in the article seems to include the personal opinions of the authors. On the other hand, they do not acknowledge the sources from which they borrowed certain information that they included in the article. This is a sign of unprofessionalism because it is unethical to use information from another author and fail to acknowledge them as the source of the information. The article is well written and insightful. However, poor utilization of resources and inclusion of information collected from unreliable sources compromises its authenticity. The authors should have included more research studies in the article to make it more authentic, reliable, and informative. In addition, they should have elaborated more on other alternatives that governments can consider in improving their international consequence management responses. The authors explore operational and strategic aspects only.

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