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Launch and recovery exercise of the Dungeness Shannon class lifeboat The Morrell 13-02

Our research

Finding new ways to save lives through innovation, data analysis, and new technology.

At the RNLI, we are committed to using robust evidence to support all of our lifesaving activity.

We use this evidence in a number of ways: from using cutting-edge science to engineer and design our boats, using evidence to develop appropriate lifesaving interventions, and applying innovative social research methods to ensure that we understand our supporters. The diversity of the RNLI’s research, insight and analysis reflects the wide range of work we undertake to save lives.

RNLI researchers and analysts produce in-house analysis, as well as working with experts from academia and the private sector.

Research summaries

We are committed to sharing as much of our research as possible. Here, you can download summaries of our recent research projects. If you have a query about our research, please contact our Research Team.

A Float to Live image, showing a man floating in the water with his arms stretched out and his head tilted back

Float to Live

September 2022

“Float to Live” is a key RNLI water safety message because floating combats the impact of cold water shock, which makes you gasp uncontrollably, reduces your ability to swim, and increases the risk of drowning in the first 90 seconds of being in cold, open water.

This research explored floating competency in different water conditions, where participants received RNLI Float to Live messaging, as well as additional instruction, to test the effectiveness of the RNLI’s guidance. A combination of instruction and practice improved participants’ confidence and ability to float. This showed that our previous Float to Live water safety advice was effective but could be improved, and we have since updated our advice based on this research.

Swimming lessons being taught in Bangladesh by our partner

Photo: RNLI

Swimming lessons being taught in Bangladesh by our partner

Climate change and drowning risk in Bangladesh and Tanzania and the implications for RNLI programmes


The RNLI International Department works with partner organizations in Bangladesh and Tanzania to reduce the risk of drowning in high-risk groups. This research, conducted in collaboration with the University of East Anglia (UEA), aimed to understand how climate change may impact drowning risks in those countries and the implications for existing drowning prevention activities.

Faisal (11) and Jamal (18) fish on the floodwaters after a monsoon. Cox s Bazar. Bangladesh. One inch of water international project.

Drowning deaths among children in West Bengal, India


Over 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. However, in these settings, there is often a lack of data on the epidemiology of drowning, which limits the ability to design targeted interventions to address the problem. This research, conducted by the George Institute for Global Health (TGI) and the Child In Need Institute (CINI), sought to address the lack of data on the circumstances and rates of child drowning in the Sundarbans region of West Bengal. It used a unique participatory approach to identify drowning deaths within communities and sought to analyse the feasibility of low-cost, sustainable solutions.

Children taking part in the Aquatic Survival Programme in Zanzibar

Photo: RNLI/Mike Lavis

Children take part in the RNLI-supported Aquatic Survival Programme in Zanzibar

Evidence Perceptions and Knowledge of drowning risk in Zanzibar


The RNLI has supported the implementation of survival swimming and water safety education in Zanzibar since 2013. Throughout the African continent, there is very little data on the drowning risk. This research has been commissioned to collect evidence on perceptions of the risk of drowning in coastal communities in Zanzibar, and will be used to support the design of interventions in the region. Overall, the research suggests a high drowning risk, caused by some knowledge gaps, partially driven by lack of access to information and lack of skills.

Photo of people on fishing boat taken during visit to Tanzania in 2022

Drowning deaths among fishing communities of Lake Victoria, Tanzania


Fishing from small boats is an important part of the fisheries industry in the African Great Lakes Region. Whilst fishing is globally recognised as a hazardous occupation, the hazards faced by fishers in this context are not well understood. This project sought to estimate the burden and impact of drowning on fishing communities around the Tanzanian shore of Lake Victoria and to understand potential methods for improving safety. The study estimates that 5 fishers drown every day in the Tanzanian sector of Lake Victoria and these deaths have profound effects on the community. Drowning is a significant and unaddressed issue affecting these disadvantaged communities and requires urgent attention.

Humber lifeboat crew reaching out from the boat toward a casualty in the water

Photo: RNLI / Nigel Millard

Estimating the global economic cost of drowning

February 2015

There is an economic cost of drowning in all countries in which it occurs, and this research aimed to quantify it, highlighting the wider burden to society. It is the first piece of research that the RNLI has conducted into the economic impact of drowning, and the first that we are aware of in global literature.

Kayaking sea safety lesson

Photo: RNLI/Nigel Millard

Kayaking search and rescue training exercise with Torbay RNLI

Canoeing and kayaking audience profiling

October 2013

Canoeing and kayaking are two of the most popular watersports activities in Britain, with an estimated 3% of the adult population participating in either sport at least once during 2013.

Swanage RNLI crew members running along the harbour

RNLI/Nathan Williams

The impact of riding up on lifejacket performance

June 2013

Our research project sought to test whether crotch straps improve lifejacket performance. Our findings are the first conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of crotch straps.

Two individuals working on laptops at a wooden table.

Open Data

Help your organisation make more informed decisions, or just enjoy exploring the coastline by using RNLI data available on our Open Data platform. These datasets cover assets such as Lifeboat Stations and Lifeguard Units, to analysis results such as our annual Lifejacket survey. Key stats regarding the previous year’s operations can also be found here.  

The data is provided in a range of formats from CSV and Excel, to GeoJSON and GeoPackage, allowing ingestion to a number of software applications. The data can also be found on Esri’s Living Atlas for those who wish to embed services directly into their applications.

If you have a query about our research, please get in touch with our Research Team.

Contact our Research Team