As documented in this chapter, computational modeling, visualization, and gaming experiments are important tools for building on and applying knowledge gained from field studies. Heretofore the use of these technical tools has not been integrated, thus reducing their potential value. Such integrated use is best accomplished within a center established for that purpose. As noted above for example, the core idea of gaming and simulation is to build them with an eye toward realism. Such realism is enhanced through standard data production from previous field studies. As the resulting data from field studies become more effectively maintained in distributed data archives, they can be used systematically by the proposed center in the development of computational models and simulations, and the design of gaming experiments specifically for hazards and disaster management professionals. The hazards and disaster research community has developed to the point at which the sustained integration of field research, modeling, and experimentation can be accomplished.

Recommendation 7.3: The hazards and disaster research community should educate university Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) about the unique benefits of, in particular, post-disaster investigations and the unique constraints under which this research community performs research on human subjects.

The committee has noted above the difficulties involved in harmonizing the actual practice of research with the demands placed on researchers during field studies by the fluid situations that inevitably follow disasters. In particular, the fine points of consent forms, detailed interview protocols, and other research infrastructure are often unachievable in the hours to weeks after a disaster. Furthermore, such requirements may violate cultural norms in the places studied. At the same time, IRB members may have real but sometimes misplaced concerns about the risks of psychological harm that they believe attach to research on hazards and disasters.

To the extent that they are not, hazards and disaster researchers must become familiar with federal (in particular, 45 CFR 46.101 et seq.) and local university regulations regarding human subjects research so that they can be knowledgeable resources for their respective IRBs and effective advocates for appropriate deviations from “standard” practices, while maintaining the personal privacy and dignity of research subjects. Members of the research community should seek to become members of human subjects review panels on IRBs or should assist in other policy-making roles.

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