UCL Department of Geography


Trust in Web GIS for Public Engagement: The case of nuclear waste disposal in the UK

A four-year EngD project, sponsored by Arup and EPSRC, focused on the case study of the site selection of a nuclear waste disposal repository in the UK.

Following the actual Nuclear Waste Management Programme in the UK, which put forward in 2008 with DEFRA’s White Paper (.pdf) emphasising the importance of improving “transparency and openness”, this project combined knowledge from the fields of Human-Computer Interaction and Risk Communication to deliver a Web GIS application to inform the public about the site selection process.

Several environmental applications were examined with the involvement of more than a hundred users to understand the interface design elements that influence people’s trust perceptions and a set of trust guidelines was developed, together with a comprehensive methodological framework for researching trust in similar contexts. Moreover, lay people’s and experts’ mental models on the topic of nuclear waste disposal were investigated and an information communication was developed to improve public understanding and trust.

The information and trust guidelines assisted the design of the final system, which was evaluated, amongst others, for its trustworthiness and it was found that the proposed trust guidelines support the development of rational public trust perceptions and help people make a conscious and well-informed decision as for whether they will rely on the system (undertaking the risk that this decision involves) or not.