from these investigations cannot become more standardized, machine readable, and stored in accessible data archives. Having learned what to look for after decades of post-disaster investigations by social scientists, the potential for highly structured research designs and replicable datasets across multiple disaster types and events can now be realized. As noted in Chapter 1, post-impact studies also provide a window of opportunity for documenting the influence of vulnerability analysis, hazard mitigation, and disaster preparedness on what takes place during and after specific events. However, pre-impact investigations of hazards and their associated risks are critically important on their own terms, less subject to the uncertainties of specific events, arguably more amenable to highly structured and replicable data sets, and no less in need of machine-readable data archives that are accessible to both researchers and practitioners.
So what has been referred to in Chapter 1 as “hazards and disasters informatics” (i.e., the management of data collection, analysis, maintenance, and dissemination) is a major challenge and opportunity for future social science research. This chapter begins with an overview of how social science research on disasters and hazards has been conducted in the past, and consistent with Figure 1.2, a case is made for the essential relatedness in chronological and social time of post-disaster and pre-disaster investigations. This section also illustrates the influence of changes in technologies and methods in hazards and disaster studies. Survey research is highlighted specifically in this regard because of its historical prominence within hazards and disaster research as well as mainstream social science. Consistent with the committee’s statement of task, the second section provides a specific discussion on the challenges of post-disaster investigations and ways to increase their value. The third section discusses “hazards and disaster informatics” issues such as dealing with institutional review boards (IRBs), standardizing data across multiple hazards and events, archiving resulting data so that they accumulate over time, and facilitating access of accumulating data from original researchers to those engaged in secondary data analysis.
The fourth section provides examples of how state-of-the-art technologies and methods enhance hazards and disaster research and, in so doing, relate directly or indirectly to these informatics issues. Although this chapter cannot cover everything in what amounts to the very broad terrain of “nuts and bolts” research matters, special attention is given to increased use of computing and communications technologies, geospatial and temporal methods, statistical modeling and simulation, and laboratory gaming experiments. Sensitivity to the roles of these technologies and methods will contribute to more focused attention and advancing solutions to hazards and disaster informatics issues. The chapter closes with specific recommendations for facilitating future hazards and disaster studies.