The committee views it as essential that this social science research be fully informed by and performed by trained and experienced social science warning researchers so that it would be of the highest quality and hold the potential to produce the most useful results. There is long-standing and now mature precedent in the nation for organizing an appropriate mix of appropriately trained interdisciplinary teams to conduct post-event research audits. For example, the Learning from Earthquakes Program in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute represents an excellent current approach to conducting this type of research that uses a mix of researchers from varied disciplines in the physical and social sciences and engineering.
Recommendation: Social science post-event research audits should be performed after all tsunami “warning events” that hold the potential to document important lessons to be learned.
Tsunami survey teams have been organized on an ad hoc basis primarily on the initiative of the individual scientists. There exists no systematic funding mechanism to support the survey efforts, although NSF, the USGS, NOAA, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) (through NSF), and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) have been the sponsors on an event-by-event basis. The USGS and NOAA have supported primarily their own personnel. The lack of coordination often resulted in collecting duplicate data and information by multiple survey teams, and at the same time, failing to collect important data and information. In addition, the lack of coordination does not lead to a good balance of skills, experience, and disciplines for the survey teams.
Conclusion: Tsunami reconnaissance field surveys are crucial to gain understanding of tsunami effects, and the findings directly improve tsunami risk assessment. This knowledge in turn helps reduce the impacts of future tsunamis. To make the future field surveys more effective and efficient, coordination by a lead agency is needed.
Recommendation: Tsunami field surveys should be conducted by multi-disciplinary personnel including physical and social scientists, engineers, disaster mitigation planners, and sociologists. A quick dispatching capability is crucial for tsunami surveys, in order to capture as much information as possible. Tsunami run-up marks, destruction patterns, and other detailed tsunami-affected features can disappear within a few weeks. NOAA should take a more proactive role in the coordination for tsunami surveys with other agencies, in particular the USGS and NSF.