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Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions
interview items into their own research, the archive should help make social science research on disasters more cumulative and replicable. An archive would also make it easier for newcomers to the field of disaster research to become familiar with existing research and enable researchers to identify gaps in past research and avoid unnecessary duplication. The archive would also serve an important function in preserving data that might otherwise be lost. Finally, such an archive would enable social science disaster research to better respond to agency directives regarding the desirability of data sharing.
For an effort of this kind to succeed, a number of conditions must be met. Funds will be needed to support the development and maintenance of the archive, and researchers must be willing to make their data sets and all relevant documentation available. This second condition is crucial, because the committee is aware of a number of important data sets that are not currently being shared, and the archive cannot succeed without broad researcher support. Challenges related to human subjects review requirements, confidentiality protections, and disclosure risks must be fully explored and addressed. Other issues include challenges associated with the development and enforcement of quality control standards, rules and standards for data sharing, procedures to ensure that proper acknowledgment is given to project sponsors and principal investigators, and questions about long-term management of the archive.
Related to the need for better data archiving, sharing, and dissemination strategies, social scientists must be poised to take advantage of new capabilities for data integration and fusion. Strategies are needed to integrate social science data with other types of data collected by both pervasive in situ and mobile ad hoc sensor networks (Estrin et al., 2003), such as networks that collect data on environmental and ecological changes and disaster impacts. In light of the availability of such a wide array of data, the hazards and disasters research community must recognize that hazards and disaster informatics—the application of information science and technology to disaster research, education, and practice—is an emerging field.
To realize this potential, and with the foundation established through implementing recommendations in Chapter 7, the committee further supports the creation of a Data Center for Social Science Research on Hazards and Disasters. In addition to maintaining the Disaster Data Archive, this center would conduct research on automated information extraction from data, including the development of efficient and effective methods for storing, querying, and maintaining both qualitative and quantitative data from disparate and heterogeneous sources.