of the research on the knowledge utilization process in this field and the relevant literature on dissemination and utilization that has been produced by social scientists outside the field. This is followed by a discussion of several examples of knowledge diffusion and utilization efforts in hazards and disaster research that are at least anecdotally known to have experienced some degree of success. For analytical purposes, a simple matrix is used to categorize these efforts according to principles derived from the extant research utilization literature. The chapter concludes with a discussion on research needed to enhance future utilization in the hazards and disaster field.

As previously noted, social science hazards and disaster research emerged with a problem-focused orientation, which continues to this day even while researchers also give considerable attention to basic research and theoretical issues. Thus, much of the research described in Chapters 3 and 4, as well as elsewhere in this report, has been undertaken to advance social science theory and to further the reduction of disaster losses and social disruption, enhance emergency response, and speed disaster recovery. More specifically, much of the research conducted on hazards and disasters is geared toward providing a more informed basis for actions by policy makers and practitioners. Thus this body of work has implications for various types of applications, including disaster education and training, hazards reduction legislation and regulations, and emergency and recovery preparedness practices. Nevertheless, it is unclear to what extent stakeholders know about and use social science knowledge relevant to such applications and, when such knowledge is applied, what difference this actually makes. Research is therefore needed.


Very little research has been conducted on the utilization of social science knowledge of hazards and disasters. For example, prior research has not systematically addressed variations in utilization by different user communities. Most prior research, largely carried out in the 1980s, was qualitative in nature, and typically employed a case-study approach. Some of this work may not be as relevant today as it once was, especially given some of the societal changes discussed in Chapter 2. Anecdotal evidence about the way findings have been utilized by the practitioner community is fairly commonplace. Examples point to researchers who work with federal agencies to ensure that the results of their studies are incorporated into policies, planning guides, and training activities. Also noteworthy are examples of researchers who work with state and local governments to help translate research into practice. These and other examples of the promotion of knowledge application are discussed at length later in this chapter.

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