What is AGORA?
AGORA means a "place of congregation," in this case, an international forum for open-source software for multihazard risk modeling. To manage risk from natural and technological disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, industrial accidents, etc.) and to understand the potential impacts of new disaster science or policy, requires access to analytical and computer risk models.
The models are constantly in flux as science, engineering, and disaster social science develop, but most researchers and practitioners lack risk-integration tools and methods needed for an overall understanding of risk, and must either re-develop existing integrative software or abandon potentially fruitful study. HAZUS and commercial risk software are designed to apply methods that have been tested or are in some way authoritative, but tend to be inflexible to new developments (closed source in terms of software) and opaque (black box in terms of methodology).
Open-source risk software (OSR) represents an emerging solution. It is software whose source code is publicly available for review and enhancement. Important examples include:
- USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping effort, which has produced freely available hazard software;
- OpenSHA (opensha.org), which has further opened the black box to allow researchers to study alternative methods and data for assessing hazard;
- OpenSees (opensees.berkeley.edu), which provides advanced structural-analysis tools in an open-source environment.
- SeismoStruct, a finite-element program (www.seismosoft.com). While currently not open source, Seismosoft provides free advanced earthquake engineering software.
- OpenRisk, a set of methodologies and object-oriented, open-source software for conducting multihazard risk analysis. It will assess risk to single sites and portfolios of facilities in terms of repair costs, casualties, and loss of use (" dollars, deaths, and downtime "). Initial applications have been collaboratively developed by Caltech, USGS, SCEC, and Kyoto University. OpenRisk represents the first open-source end-to-end modeling software dedicated to the study of risk from natural disasters; its initial applications are currently undergoing alpha testing, and will be made available as soon as they enter the beta-test stage.
- Other open-source data and tools. These may include structural models for finite element analysis, databases of component-level or building-level fragility functions, analytical methods and tools for creating fragility functions, etc. See the archive for examples.
AGORA's mission. The Alliance for Global Open Risk Analysis (AGORA) is conceived as a nonprofit, international virtual organization created to promote and coordinate development of open-source risk software and methodologies to perform end-to-end risk modeling. (End-to-end refers to modeling the occurrence of hazardous events, site effects, physical damage to the built environment, and economic and human impacts.)