better understand the research utilization process. Given these and other important societal changes, this is an opportune time to revisit the issue of hazards and disaster research utilization after so many years of neglect. And unlike the earlier era of research utilization studies, the next round of studies should see social scientists taking advantage of the full arsenal of methodologies and tools now available to them (see Chapter 7). Future evaluation studies should augment the case study and qualitative approaches favored by Yin and his colleagues (Yin and Moore, 1985; Yin and Andranovitch, 1987) with those approaches that allow for quantitative and other kinds of analyses. Moreover, statistical and computational modeling of the research utilization process could lead to greater theoretical understanding and provide a firmer basis for improving future efforts.
Table 8.1 suggests a number of areas in which research on knowledge utilization might address important issues from a comparative standpoint. One topic would be to document variations in the accuracy of the information being provided by different types of information brokers. Accuracy is obviously important because the information disseminated should be based on valid social science input if users are to become positioned to make the most effective risk adjustments. Another comparison that Table 8.1 suggests involves determining if some approaches work better than others with different users, such as land-use planners, emergency managers, and public health officials. For example, are strategies such as participatory action research and FEMA’s training program effective with different potential user groups? Finally, some of the 18 activities and programs shown in the matrix use new technologies such as GIS and the Internet as part of their strategies for disseminating information. These tools did not exist when earlier research utilization studies were conducted. A fruitful line of research would be to compare the use of such technologies among information providers and to measure their value in stimulating research utilization.
Finally, future research utilization studies should focus not only on the ways information is introduced to potential users, (i.e., process issues), but also on the actual results of such efforts. This requires a “soup-to-nuts” research strategy. For example, it is crucial to have an understanding of just how much practitioners such as urban planners, emergency managers, and public health officials know about social science knowledge on hazards and disasters, the source of their information, and whether or not they ever apply it when making decisions about risk reduction. Here is perhaps the most challenging part of the process: In those documented cases where stakeholders have actually applied such knowledge, research should be focused on determining the extent to which this knowledge has made a difference. More than anecdotal information is needed about this outcome if social scientists are to be in the best position to help practitioners.