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5 Interdisciplinary Hazards and Disaster Research
Pages 180-215

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From page 180...
... It emphasizes trends in research funding structures, the role of multidisciplinary research centers, and the importance of interdisciplinary research for addressing gaps in knowledge about hazards and disasters. The third section presents several exemplars of interdisciplinary research in this field and draws insights and lessons from them.
From page 181...
... finds that most activities purported to be "interdisciplinary" are in actuality "multidisciplinary," particularly research arising from problem-focused projects that intrinsically involve multiple disciplines. Multidisciplinary research in essence involves two or more disciplines, each making a separate contribution to the overall study (NRC, 2005)
From page 182...
... in which interdisciplinary research tends to be more prominent. For purposes of this report, the committee adopts the following positions with regard to defining interdisciplinary research within the social science hazards and disaster research community:
From page 183...
... . In the area of global environmental change, for example, there have been frequent calls for alliances between natural and social sciences but few successes (Stern et al., 1992)
From page 184...
... Social science accounts for a small share of research funding, activity, and personnel in the hazards and disasters field generally; as noted in Chapter 9, there are approximately as many social scientists in the hazards and disasters field as there are volcanologists. This marginality means that when social scientists are involved in interdisciplinary research with scientists or engineers, their involvement typically resembles an afterthought or "add-on" to a primarily "scientific" or "technical" inquiry.
From page 185...
... Consequently, they are given less weight than disciplinary journals by reviewers who make recommendations regarding tenure and promotion. Interdisciplinary journals include both traditional outlets such as the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters and Risk Analysis, as well as new interdisciplinary journals such as Environmental Hazards and the Natural Hazards Review.
From page 186...
... , the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) , and the insurance industry have supported social scientists conducting hazards and disaster research.
From page 187...
... found that "key conditions for effective [interdisciplinary research]
From page 188...
... Effective leaders should foster an organizational climate that is conducive to interdisciplinary research. Organizational climate affects organizational effectiveness by influencing the degree to which team members are motivated to contribute toward group goals.
From page 189...
... in project management. In multidisciplinary research projects, no single person or even small group of persons has all of the knowledge needed to plan and implement the project.
From page 190...
... In addition, they would have a general understanding of other disciplines that do not link directly to their own. For example, a multidisciplinary earthquake center would be expected to have close linkages of earth scientists with structural engineers, structural engineers with planners, and planners with social scientists.
From page 191...
... While these forces have long been influential for social science hazards and disaster research, recent trends toward interdisciplinarity can be ascribed to more proximate drivers. It is especially important to recognize the influence of the National Science Foundation in terms of research funding criteria as well as the earthquake engineering research centers.
From page 192...
... Some "centers of excellence" being established by DHS have been directed to conduct interdisciplinary research, sometimes requiring a fairly prominent role for the social sciences. Earthquake Engineering Research Centers For social science hazards and disaster research, another important driver in interdisciplinary studies, particular with science and engineering, has been the NSF-supported earthquake engineering research centers, a major NSF contribution under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP)
From page 193...
... Based on presentations to the committee by center leaders, as well as social scientists knowledgeable about the centers (including funded participants and external reviewers) , MCEER has come closest to meeting NSF's expectations for collaborative research.
From page 194...
... The centers thus represent a major source of interdisciplinary research funding and a locus of interdisciplinary research activity in recent years. Importance of Interdisciplinary Research The increase in interdisciplinary studies in social science hazards and disaster research reflects a growing consensus within the field about the importance of research problems that cannot be addressed through disciplinary studies alone.
From page 195...
... Consequently, a major component of this Plan is the complementary role of the social sciences, working in partnership with engineering and earth sciences, to achieve the goal of community resilience and protection from loss. These calls for interdisciplinary research involving the natural sciences, engineering, and social sciences are not unique to the hazards and disaster field.
From page 196...
... It "provides a vision for the future of earthquake engineering research and outreach focused on security of the nation from the catastrophic effects of earthquakes" (EERI, 2003:5)
From page 197...
... . Most other major federal hazard reduction efforts have never been systematically evaluated, including the multiagency National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, FEMA's National Dam Safety Program, or the Urban Search and Rescue Program.
From page 198...
... In the remaining four recommendations, it involves collaboration with the natural sciences and engineering. The committee therefore concludes that although important disciplinary research needs remain, the trend toward more interdisciplinary research appears to be consistent with major research needs in the field.
From page 199...
... INTERDISCIPLINARY HAZARDS AND DISASTER RESEARCH 199 TABLE 5.2 Research Recommendations and Role of Interdisciplinary Studies1,2 Type(s) of Studies Needed Disciplinary -- Inter- Inter Within a Single disciplinary -- disciplinary- Social Science Within Social Beyond Social Recommendation Discipline Sciences Sciences3 3.1 Assess how event characteristics affect disaster impacts, mitigation, and preparedness 3.2 Refine concepts in hazard vulnerability analysis 3.3 Identify mechanisms to reduce vulnerability 3.4 Identify factors promoting mitigation adoption 3.5 Assess effectiveness of mitigation programs 3.6 Identify factors promoting emergency preparedness 3.7 Assess implementation of research findings 3.8 Identify factors promoting recovery preparedness 3.9 Develop models for decision making in emergencies 3.10 Conduct research on training and exercising for disaster response 3.11 Develop models of hazard adjustment adoption and implementation 3.12 Research on hazard insurance 4.1 Explore vulnerability and resilience 4.2 Compare impacts and responses across natural, technological, and willful events 4.3 Homeland security and disaster response 4.4 Update knowledge in light of demographic and other societal changes continued
From page 200...
... Three of these studies were supported to a large degree by NSF, primarily through NEHRP. In the first, a study of the economic impact of infrastructure failures in earthquake disasters, social scientists collaborated with engineers under the auspices of an NSF-supported earthquake engineering research center.
From page 201...
... What Is Successful Interdisciplinary Research? In the growing literature on interdisciplinary research, surprisingly little has been written on assessment.
From page 202...
... The three earthquake engineering research centers (MCEER, MAE, and PEER) that succeeded it, which are approaching the end of their NSF-supported tenures, all engage social scientists in their research programs to varying degrees.
From page 203...
... The integrated model has been documented in numerous publications coauthored by engineers and social scientists. These include journal articles, conference presentations, center research reports, and a center monograph.
From page 204...
... Social scientists (primarily economists) were able to communicate and collaborate with the engineers by focusing on the specifics of the problem -- for example, by understanding that for a given earthquake scenario, the engineering models simulated electric power outage by the utility's service area and that these results could serve as linkages to economic impact models.
From page 205...
... INTERDISCIPLINARY HAZARDS AND DISASTER RESEARCH 205 other disciplines. Frequent peer reviews of the centers by NSF panels, which consistently sought evidence of collaboration between engineers and social scientists, also provided immediate and important impetus to the interdisciplinary research.
From page 206...
... Interdisciplinary Working Group on Earthquake Casualties. Participating in this working group, which had been meeting since the 1980s, lent credibility to the new research being done by this research team and encouraged it to continue the efforts begun by a number of other, more established researchers in the field.
From page 207...
... This collaboration was initially catalyzed by regular meetings of the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (established in 1976 at the University of Colorado at Boulder) and the encouragement of its founder, Gilbert White.
From page 208...
... Slovic, in particular, credits his early experiences in natural hazards research with expanding his horizons beyond the "usual narrow path" of the experimental psychologist, in particular, sensitizing him to "risks in the real world." This led him to study technological risk, an issue of great currency in the 1970s, and to focus on issues of risk perception, whereas in his laboratory work, he had been more interested in issues of risk taking. This led to productive collaborations with a number of other researchers, work on risk and decision making in a societal context, and more than 50 papers on risk perception (Slovic, 2005)
From page 209...
... . For the past two decades the international science plan for global environmental change was largely based on getting the correct scientific understanding of the interactions between the geosphere and biosphere as they influence climate change and other perturbations.
From page 210...
... Clark, Robert Kates, Pamela Matson, Robert Corell, and Billie L Turner, among others)
From page 211...
... This seems to have been particularly important when collaborators did not already have long-standing personal relationships, particularly where social scientists needed to establish new collaborations with natural scientists and engineers. · Focus on an applied problem.
From page 212...
... Recommendation 5.1: As NSF funding for the three earthquake engineering research centers (EERCs) draws to a close, NSF should institute mechanisms to sustain the momentum that has been achieved in interdisciplinary hazards and disaster research.
From page 213...
... One opportunity consists of research on NEES; for example, to investigate how a spatially distributed network structure influences the research enterprise and to evaluate the effectiveness of such a structure. A second opportunity is the impending "graduation" of the earthquake engineering research centers from NSF funding to industry and other forms of financial support: for example, to study how this change affects the role of interdisciplinary research generally and interdisciplinary research involving the social sciences, in particular; to study centers and how they do or do not work effectively; and to systematically investigate team building in hazards research.
From page 214...
... The field is small, characterized by a modest number of core researchers, spread over many disciplines and many institutions, and bolstered by others who are only intermittently involved in hazards research (see Chapter 9)
From page 215...
... . Such research has not been possible in the context of the EERCs, where social scientists comprise a small minority and research agendas have been set predominantly by engineers.


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