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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary 4 From Theory to Practice Workshop participants discussed how properly targeted research in networking theory, the social and resiliency sciences, and in research translation--conducted in parallel with the development of Social Network Analysis (SNA) tools designed specifically for and with emergency management practitioners—could facilitate the adoption of SNA by the emergency management community. In the same way that the adoption of geographic information system (GIS) technologies has changed how decisions are made, the adoption of SNA has the potential to revolutionize the way in which organizations and communities function in general, and prepare and respond to disasters in particular. Workshop discussion was driven by the charge from the sponsor to identify current research and theories in the use of SNA for studying and constructing social networks. The preceding chapters of this document describe several information and technology gaps identified by workshop participants that potentially hinder the common application of SNA by practitioners. Consistent with the workshop charge, research areas that could fill those gaps were also identified. Specific research needs identified by workshop participants are found throughout the preceding chapters. This chapter synthesizes several recurrent and overarching themes of the workshop discussions. As in earlier chapters, ideas presented here are those of individuals or groups of workshop participants and do not necessarily represent consensus among all those present, or the views of the workshop planning committee or the National Research Council. INCENTIVES FOR FOSTERING PREPAREDNESS Some practitioners at the workshop were concerned that homeland security policies and funding structures often compel community leaders and emergency practitioners to function reactively rather than proactively. Planning is often done within the constraints of top-down policies that focus on protection and response rather than mitigation, and few incentives exist for communities to work toward resiliency. Disaster preparedness
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary and continuity planning, although desirable, are often not well developed. Resiliency, a concept not well understood among emergency management practitioners, is not a part of the top-down emergency management culture. Policies are in place that can inhibit the use of innovative tools that may foster community resilience. At present, disincentives to prepare for disaster may exist because a community may receive greater monetary benefits in the form of federal postdisaster aid. Although research findings indicate that communities can expect a four-to-one return for every dollar spent on disaster mitigation (Multihazard Mitigation Council, 2005), communities often do not take advantage of the expected savings. The return is not realized unless a disaster occurs and a reduction in recovery costs is observed. Additionally, mitigation planning may be thwarted by an inability to decide where mitigation is needed. A community may mitigate in the wrong way or be prepared for the wrong disaster. Under these circumstances, a community may suffer during a disaster and see no return on its investment. Workshop participants have observed that at least some federal money is distributed as incentive for mitigation. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) instituted a pilot program to increase the federal costshare for communities who developed FEMA-approved debris management plans.1 The program ended in 2008, but it reflected congressional interest in reducing the cost of disasters and rewarding communities for better disaster preparedness. Many participants expressed the view that incentive programs are helpful, but also expressed concern that they be carefully designed to avoid draining on resources. Some participants noted that incentives can also come from the private sector, for example, through lower cost of insurance premiums for better construction or retrofitting practices. Property owners, contractors, and suppliers could see immediate financial benefits, and properties are better protected against disaster. UNDERSTANDING AND USING SOCIAL NETWORKS A wide range of computer-based and other social networks thrive at many community levels. Determining how best to apply SNA to understand preparedness among these networks and improve preparedness at the household, community, and organizational levels is important. Understanding how to adapt preparedness plans and interventions to serve at-risk populations, such as those disenfranchised from community networks, is also important. Workshop participants noted that SNA could be used to understand how communities organize around hazards and how people and organizations use networks during disasters. The use of SNA for understanding the effective role of advocacy groups (for example, those supporting special-needs individuals) in building resilience and providing recovery assistance was also stressed. How social support and social embeddedness influence community resilience, and the importance of public connectivity in facilitating resilience are also topics meriting consideration. SNA can be used to identify and study the characteristics and functions of trusted leaders, organizations, and information sources within networks. By understanding how leaders and organizations emerge within the computer-network environment under 1 See http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=46906 (accessed May 4, 2009).
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary different circumstances, and understanding the characteristics that allow them to become trusted, emergency management practitioners could more effectively engage leaders and organizations in improving community resilience. Understanding the constraints under which decisions are made within organizations will also allow practitioners to target their communication with the organizations effectively. SNA could be applied to government organizations and networks, such as emergency response organizations, to study the attributes and functions that make them successful during all phases of a disaster. Once positive attributes are identified and understood, practitioners can build similar attributes into their own organizations and networks. The social network community is a complex and interdisciplinary enterprise requiring the sharing of information in different ways among different members. Organization charts cannot explain the important relationships and transactions that take place between individuals and within and between organizations. SNA experts stated that better tools exist to display the same information and that practitioners could benefit from learning their use. In general, those in authority benefit from the situational awareness of who is working with whom, on what tasks, and under what circumstances. SNA tools could help them visualize the important connections within networks. Effective disaster preparation is dependent on knowing before a disaster what groups and organizations work well with one another, which individuals know one another, and what sources of information are trusted. This is especially relevant if communication systems fail during an event. Workshop participants pointed out that optimal response depends on understanding what links remain active and which will quickly be restored following infrastructure failure. Critical links need to be identified and plans put in place so communication is sustainable during total infrastructure failure. Communication is essential to situational awareness. Situational awareness gives practitioners an understanding of what is happening within the community to determine who needs what resources, and who needs to know what information. Workshop participants repeatedly discussed the need for practitioners to understand how to use their situational awareness to better disseminate the right information to the right people. SNA tools could be used to identify the right people and the most efficient means of communicating with them. SNA can then be applied to determine the impact of the information once sent. For example, in 2008, people on the Texas coast failed to evacuate despite warnings of the immanent arrival of Hurricane Ike. The perception among the public was that a category 2 hurricane was not dangerous. However, some workshop participants noted that had information of the storm’s hazards been broken down into the dangers associated with wind, water, and storm surge, and had the information been conveyed effectively, people in the community may have reacted differently and the outcomes may have been less severe. SNA applied in this type of scenario could lead to better outcomes. Study of how SNA or similar analyses are applied in areas such as network-centric warfare,2 counter terrorism, and public health could be applied to SNA for improving community disaster resilience. The vocabulary of network-centric warfare is different 2 Network-centric warfare is a Department of Defense doctrine based on using information technology to the military’s advantage (Alberts et al., 1999). A well-networked military improves situational awareness and information sharing, resulting in the increased effectiveness of military missions.
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary from that used by social scientists during this workshop, but the goals are similar: to understand and improve how information is sought and exchanged, and to develop an action instrument that enables decision making. Understanding different patterns of network analysis and the different reasons and conditions under which the analyses are conducted could benefit both researchers and practitioners by helping them to characterize and use social networks for the advantage of communities. According to workshop participants, practitioners who are able to collect, analyze, understand, model, and incorporate network data into their decision-making processes will likely be better poised to help their communities become more resilient. QUANTIFYING ADAPTIVE CAPACITIES According to some workshop participants, understanding and fostering community resilience implies the ability to measure a community’s adaptive capacities—the skills and knowledge of a community that allow it to adapt to change—to different stressors over time. This is difficult given the dynamic nature of communities, especially during times of stress, and the external factors that impact them (e.g., changing legislation, availability of educational resources, changes in economic factors). Communities may require a variety of adaptive capacities to respond well to different stressors, and different communities may require different capacities to respond to the same stressors. It is important to quantify at what point a community is no longer able to function through a disaster—its capacity thresholds—and to understand the role social networks serve at different levels of functioning. An example was provided by workshop participants: the communities of Prince William Sound in Alaska were destroyed by a 1964 earthquake, and studies documented the physical, social, and self-help networks that formed in response. In 1989, the same communities were severely affected by the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill. The networks did not come together following the 1989 event, and a social chaos was created that exists today. More empirical data could help researchers understand how communities react to stress and determine under what conditions they might fail. Data could help researchers quantify the adaptive capacities that lead to community resilience. TRANSLATION FROM RESEARCH TO PRACTICE According to workshop participants, scientific literature on SNA is fairly robust, and literature in disaster and community resilience is emergent. Until fairly recently, these research communities have had little interaction, and there has been even less communication between researchers and emergency management practitioners. Bringing multidisciplinary perspectives to bear on any given topic is difficult, but researchers and practitioners would both benefit from a greater exchange of information. Practitioners could learn state-of-the-art techniques that could be applied in their decision making. Researchers could obtain the data they need to refine their theories and models. Successful communication, however, is dependent on the ability of all parties to understand the terms related to social networks, SNA, and resiliency.
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary Workshop participants emphasized that translation research—research on how to enhance the adoption of research products into practice—is essential for learning how to move SNA from the research realm into application by practitioners in their communities. Transfer of technologies to practitioners is dependent on an understanding of which linkages among the research and practitioner communities need to be made. SNA could be applied to these communities to learn where the networks overlap and where relationships could be cultivated for better communication. Researchers among the workshop participants stated that they and their colleagues do not know how to translate their findings for practitioners. Practitioners stated that translation would be most effective if findings were presented in a language and style that are applicable. For example, some suggested that to educate practitioners on the concept of resiliency, the paper written by Norris et al. (2008) on community resilience could be rewritten for journals such as the Journal of Emergency Management3 and presented at conferences such as those of the International Association of Emergency Managers4 and the National Emergency Management Association.5 Just as important, researchers could involve practitioners in identifying research gaps and by creating the means to receive practitioner feedback on tentative research results. According to practitioners, receiving timely research results is important. Rapid response following an event is extremely helpful to practitioners, but it was recognized that not all research results could be shared quickly. A balance between rapid response and long-term analysis would be most useful. Some practitioners described what they called “[Hurricane] Katrina fatigue.” They indicated that many practitioners may now be numb to useful findings still being reported after the 2005 event. Because practitioners are “burnt out” from reading Katrina-related reports, the reports have become less useful as a means of translating important messages or information about new technologies. THE NEED FOR A MEASURING STICK Practitioners noted that from a government perspective, there is a need to establish intervention effectiveness measures before priorities can be set and resources allocated. Government agencies are more often required to show the impact of their activities and investments to validate expenditure of resources. For example, before a program is put in place to mitigate for a specific type of hazard, the means to measure how effective the program is once implemented have to be developed. To that end, participants stated it is essential to establish and quantify which adaptive capacities are most critical for building community resilience. Developing a “measuring stick” for social, economic, and relational capacities would be beneficial. However, because the connections among organizations are not fully understood, the status of the connections cannot be measured, nor can they be measured for change. Baseline data could provide metrics for change in networks, the characteristics that foster community resilience, and the magnitude of realized or potential stresses caused by a variety of stressors. 3 See http://www.pnpco.com/pn06001.html (accessed May 8, 2009). 4 See http://www.iaem.com/ (accessed May 8, 2009). 5 See http://www.nemaweb.org/home.aspx (accessed May 8, 2009).
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary Workshop participants stated that with the application of SNA, practitioners could gain a better understanding of the thresholds at which communities fail, and could look at different thresholds of community fragility in response to different levels of stress. Empirical data on past disasters could allow estimates of failure thresholds for cities of different size and complexity, and with different types of networks among emergency response organizations. These kinds of post-event assessments of the effectiveness of social networks and the prevention of their failures are important components of baseline data. The data could allow the opportunity for researchers to document good practices and understand the characteristics of a community that enable resilience or rapid recovery. Participants also stated that comparative studies of networks that have emerged following a variety of disasters would be helpful. Researchers do not have the capacity to collect much of the data needed to support SNA for building resilience, especially inter- and intraorganizational data. Many workshop participants stated that there is a great unevenness in the data available to populate databases, models, and SNA tools. As a result, comparative longitudinal studies of community resilience and change have not been conducted to any great extent. Because few resources are available to conduct much more than post-disaster case study research, the collective knowledge of the research community is focused on local systemic and episodic changes. The development of mechanisms for collecting network data, similar to surveillance mechanisms used for epidemiological monitoring, could be helpful. Additionally, workshop participants stated that data collection is underfunded, and that funding mechanisms do not exist solely for collecting and managing the large datasets required for SNA. Baseline data as input to SNA can contribute to the understanding of how parts of a network draw on available resources during normal operations, and how those resources are stressed during a disaster. For example, baseline data on the normal operations of supply carriers and their distribution routes could allow the application of SNA to determine the best distribution options when service routes are disrupted or carriers become unavailable. Under stress, systems can fail catastrophically. SNA can help explain the extent of critical dependencies (who depends on whom) and the linkages between them. Analysis may allow planning of interventions to avoid systemic or cascading failures. Workshop participants repeatedly stressed that the accuracy of network analysis, monitoring, and intervention design cannot be certain without baseline data.
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary COMMUNICATION FOR RESILIENCE Workshop participants stated that the ability to communicate as a vital capacity for resilience. Few things are more fundamental to community resilience than the ability to access, communicate, and use information. Information may be in the form of baseline data, media reports, and data that move across social networks. Development and transfer to emergency management practitioners of the correct technologies linking SNA to tools for collecting data, monitoring change, and conducting geospatial analyses are essential for reliable communication. With such tools, practitioners could potentially measure the quality of information received, determine what information is actionable, and determine what constitutes the best actions in timeframes that are useful during a disaster. Such tools could increase resilience by enabling two-way communication between emergency managers and the public. By understanding how information is spread, and by understanding how trust is built between practitioners and the public and private sectors, practitioners may efficiently use networks to spread helpful messages and control rumors. Identifying the behavioral characteristics of those networks most effective at organizing themselves around hazards could help community leaders foster those characteristics in the networks within their own communities. NEXT STEPS DHS Call for Proposals A purpose of this workshop was to provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Human Factors Division of the Office of Science and Technology guidance on a potential research agenda to promote the use of SNA for improving community disaster resilience. This workshop was requested by DHS to inform a broad agency announcement (BAA) requesting white papers and proposals targeting research related to SNA and resilience. DHS plans to model awards after those given for the Small Business Innovation Research6 program. In evaluating proposals, DHS considers metrics that show return on investments. Research outcomes may be products or knowledge. Workshop participants often stated that research partnerships between researchers and practitioners would improve networking between the two communities and reduce the need for translational efforts. According to DHS, the department cannot accommodate such partnerships through this BAA. Research Themes Several research areas were identified by workshop participants as possible prerequisite to advancing the use of SNA for building community disaster resilience. Disaster management decision making depends on numerous factors, including the phase 6 See http://www.dhs.gov/xres/grants/ (accessed May 8, 2009).
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary of the disaster, available resources, and the level of authority at which decisions are made. The application of SNA could improve the situational awareness of emergency management practitioners by allowing them to understand and measure the status of networks within their communities. Using knowledge gained through SNA, the necessary interventions and conditions and network associations required for their success can be identified. The best means of communicating and implementing interventions may be developed. Baseline Data Baseline data include all manner of data regarding networks and their members. Without baseline data, researchers and practitioners do not know how communities and networks normally function; the impact of interventions may not be quantified; and the effectiveness of communication and operations may not be measured. Without a measure of community capacities to adapt to stress, interventions may not be effectively targeted for maximum benefit. Little is known, for example, about who populates the formal, governmental networks responsible for a region’s disaster management or how they integrate with other social networks that reside in civil society. Without this baseline level of knowledge, it is difficult to evaluate how the compositions of social networks evolve and how this relates to resilience levels. Though workshop participants emphasized the importance of baseline data, current research funding makes the collection and management of baseline data not feasible. Validation Techniques New networking technologies allow large amounts of data to travel quickly through networks. Workshop participants observed that mechanisms to validate new data, network models, and decisions made using SNA and related tools would be valuable to practitioners and scientists. Practitioners described needing mechanisms that vet for accuracy of data traveling through networks, and indicate whether information requires action or response. Practitioners need a means to categorize data as good, bad, redundant, and actionable. Understanding Network Dynamics Building resiliency into social networks requires an understanding of the dynamic nature of networks and of how positive changes that prevent network failure during a disaster may be promoted. Because networks are constantly changing, workshop participants suggested that network models be constantly updated and that new methods for studying network dynamics are needed. Networks are likely to change quickly during a disaster and SNA tools could be more useful if they allowed the practitioner to quickly visualize the changing nature and uncertainties in relationships within and between networks. This would allow more effective diffusion of information at all stages of the disaster cycle.
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary Better Data Gathering Techniques New and more refined data-gathering techniques could result in better social network models. For example, workshop participants frequently stressed the importance of developing the means to obtain proprietary and personal data for SNA, while preserving the privacy of individuals and institutions. Data, such as who communicates with whom within and between private sector organizations and what kinds of people receive certain medical treatment under certain circumstances, provide important insights into the nature of networks and their members. Government and Community Interaction How government networks interface with community-based networks for disaster management and building community resilience was often considered during the workshop. Workshop participants discussed how researchers and practitioners would benefit from greater understanding of the different ways that individuals, organizations, locales, and agencies are connected to social networks and understanding their use. An understanding of how their connectivity may change under stress would also be of benefit. Research on behaviors that emerge as a consequence of a disaster and research on the skill sets and attributes of individual and organizational network members that emerge as trusted opinion leaders could result in better identification of those able to collaborate with emergency management practitioners to build resilience. Exploring Community Resilience in other Contexts Exploring other broader social issues where SNA has been or could be applied may provide useful information related to the application of SNA for building community resilience. Building resilience is not only about preparation for disasters. Research on how communities deal with issues such as ethnic oppression may yield a rich and pertinent literature regarding community resilience. New Research Paradigms Although addressing these barriers was not directly part of the charge given the workshop planning committee, many participants stated that the barriers could affect the effectiveness of a future research agenda and slow the adoption of SNA tools by practitioners. Strategies to overcome these barriers were suggested by workshop participants and are summarized in the next paragraphs. Workshop participants discussed how current strategies for funding research and its translation into practice are not adequate to address the large-scale and complex social science issues raised. New funding paradigms to accommodate larger and longer-term studies would benefit both the research and practice communities. One result could be
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary better baseline data from which progress can be measured. Incentives to encourage multidisciplinary research and the rapid response efforts needed immediately following disasters could lead to results that are more immediately useful to practitioners. Workshop participants expressed the view that research collaborations among researchers and practitioners, and between public and private entities, could enhance the adoption of SNA techniques among practitioners. Issues associated with barriers of access to infrastructure and data could also be overcome. Collaboration between researchers and practitioners, with input from the private sector, could result in the most relevant research, tools, and data for decision making. Among the workshop participants, some practitioners and researchers expressed concern that current homeland security priorities tend to encourage a focus on antiterrorism activities within the emergency management community. Some suggested that sources of community stress need to be adequately assessed to confirm whether a focus on antiterrorism is locally warranted. A better understanding of community stressors could allow for more informed allocation of resources. Several workshop participants stated that researchers need incentives to collaborate with practitioners. Placing more value within the university and research cultures in research translation might foster such incentives. The medical community has begun to support translational research and activities, and has encouraged universities to consider the importance of translational work when making tenure decisions. Adoption of similar policies in other research communities could encourage younger researchers (those most likely to be familiar with social networking technologies) to do translational work. The idea of developing regional collaboratives among local universities, agencies, and businesses was discussed among workshop participants. Local, state, and federal resources could be used to establish the collaboratives to encourage thorough baseline expertise on regional social networks and adaptive capacities. The regions could be consistent with the 10 regions into which the Federal Emergency Management Agency divides the United States.. Each of these collaboratives could serve as a repository for regional baseline data, and be a resource for federal and local response agencies during times of crisis. The longitudinal studies needed for disaster planning and rapid response investigations needed in the face of a disaster could tap those resources and be conducted within the collaborative framework. Broader Benefits of Community Resilience It is relatively easy to determine how to mitigate damage to the physical infrastructure of a community. It is less straightforward to mitigate damage to the social fabric of the community and to make that community more resilient in the face of stress. Practitioners would benefit from understanding the critical interdependencies of a community using a “system of systems” approach. This could lead to better understanding of how disruptions can cause the cascading failure of infrastructure. It is essential to understand how to use emergent technologies to make strong and dynamic connections between people,
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Applications of Social Network Analysis for Building Community Disaster Resilience: Workshop Summary information, and physical resources. Encouraging the creation of robust and flexible networks during times of normal operation could enable networks to be resilient during times of stress. Many of the same capacities that allow a community to function during times of disaster (e.g., being well informed, well networked, and possessing the ability to respond to situations with creativity and flexibility) are those that allow a community to thrive during normal times. Many workshop participants expressed the view that by increasing the capacity for effective communication through social networks, a community may be created that is resilient to a broad range of stressors. Investing in building of community resilience is highly likely to yield rapid returns through the creation of stronger and healthier communities.
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