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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions
where disciplinary studies of the five core topics of hazards and disaster research within the social sciences increasingly become complemented by interdisciplinary collaborations among social scientists themselves and between social scientists and their colleagues in the natural sciences and engineering;
where there is continuing attention throughout the hazards and disaster research community on resolving interdisciplinary issues of data standardization, data management and archiving, and data sharing;
where there is continuing attention throughout hazards and disaster research on the dissemination of research findings and assessments by social scientists of their impacts on hazards and disaster management practices at local, regional, and national levels;
where each generation of hazards and disaster researchers makes every effort to recruit and train the next generation; and
where the funding of hazards and disaster research by social scientists, natural scientists, and engineers is a cooperative effort involving the NSF, its partner agencies within NEHRP, the Department of Homeland Security, and other government stakeholders.
With the foundation established by previous basic and applied studies of hazards and disasters, and guided by the committee’s recommendations, the above vision is attainable. Describing and explaining societal response to hazards and disasters is both a continuing challenge and major opportunity for the social sciences. Natural, technological, and willful hazards and disasters faced by humankind are continuous, global in nature, and increasing with demographic expansion, technological change, economic development, and related social and political dynamics of enormous complexity. Considerable progress has been made during the past several decades by social scientists studying different types of hazards and disasters, sometimes working collaboratively with investigators from other disciplines. But the continuing challenge for the social sciences centers on unraveling the complexity of individual and collective action before, during, and after disasters occur, on providing research findings that improve loss reduction decision making, and on assessing hazards and disaster related policies and programs. The major opportunity for the social sciences is to employ state-of-the-art theories, methods, and supporting technologies to further this type of knowledge development, which can in turn further science-based decision making by policy makers and practitioners. The responsibility for attaining the committee’s vision is in no sense the sole responsibility of NSF. That responsibility can and should be shared with the entire hazards and disaster research community, with those who fund hazards and disaster studies, and certainly with those who stand to learn from these studies.