The Present and Future Hazards and Disaster Research Workforce
This chapter provides an overview of the social science hazards and disaster research workforce in the United States and discusses how it should be shaped to meet future societal needs. The needs relate to the broad range of hazards and disasters facing the nation and world in the twenty-first century (see Chapters 1, 2, and 6). Responding to them will require proactive steps to expand the relatively small research workforce in this field. Simply stated, the size and composition of the hazards and disaster workforce will significantly determine the extent to which the social sciences, in general, can respond forcefully to twenty-first century demands for basic social science knowledge and its application. This chapter therefore concludes with several recommendations to achieve that objective.
As is in all areas of scientific research, the future of social science hazards and disaster research is highly dependent on its human resources. This research specialty offers many rewards, not the least of which is the opportunity to make significant contributions to advancing theory and knowledge in the social sciences (see Chapters 1-4, 6, and 7). Social scientists have opportunities for many rewarding disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary research experiences (see Chapters 5). Researchers also receive significant satisfaction from knowing that findings from their work have implications for reducing vulnerability nationally and internationally to multiple types of hazards and disasters (see Chapters 8). In spite of these intrinsic rewards, moving beyond the historically small supply of
talented social science investigators described below is a major challenge for the hazards and disaster research community.
This challenge results, in part, from reliance on traditional recruitment strategies and the relatively modest funding that has been available for research and education in the social sciences (in comparison with the natural sciences and engineering). Traditional recruitment strategies are not likely to yield the number of new researchers that will be needed in hazards and disaster research. Academically based researchers have been the mainstay of this research specialty within the social sciences for decades. For these professionals, issues of funding and publication in mainstream as well as specialty journals are crucial considerations for achieving tenure and promotion. Given the plethora of research specialties in all of the social sciences, the competition for space in mainstream journals is very intense, requiring major efforts to link respective specialty research interests and findings with mainstream theoretical developments and issues. While hazards and disaster researchers in the social sciences have had notable successes in this regard, the trade-offs of publishing in specialty versus mainstream journals are particularly pointed for junior scholars. Another related and major challenge is changing the composition of the hazards and disaster workforce, which quite frankly has never been very diverse.
New opportunities and challenges have emerged, however, that may facilitate expansion of the hazards and disaster research workforce within the social sciences. The tragedy of September 11, 2001, for example, which involved the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the crash of the terrorist-held plane in Pennsylvania, has generated significant interest in hazards and disaster research related to terrorism. As a result, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now funding major research and educational initiatives that, consistent with its congressional mandate (see HR 5005 as amended, November 25, 2002), have implications for both terrorism and other types of hazards and disasters. Specifically, DHS has established a fellowship and scholarship program to produce a new generation of researchers, including social scientists. It also has established a Centers of Excellence Program, one that includes the Center of Excellence for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. An even more direct recruitment approach is the Enabling Project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which offers an innovative and promising strategy for mentoring junior faculty in the social sciences interested in research on natural, technological, and human-induced hazards and disasters. Another positive trend is the establishment of new homeland security journals, some of which are online, that can provide additional specialty publication outlets for young as well as established hazards and disaster researchers. Finally, NSF continues to
avow its commitment to increase the participation of underrepresented groups, a commitment that is now shared by DHS.
These and other developments to be discussed in this chapter offer possible means to maintain and hopefully expand the talented research workforce that will be needed to address the research gaps and opportunities identified in previous chapters of this report. Ideally such a workforce will be of adequate size, reflect the diversity of the nation, and include researchers who have both basic and applied research interests and are capable of carrying out disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary research. The natural, technological, and willful disasters that confront humankind in the foreseeable future require such a research workforce within the social sciences.
Although scant data exist on the infrastructure of social science hazards and disaster research, it is safe to conclude that this community has remained relatively small throughout its history, with only a modest number of social scientists viewing hazards and disaster research as their principal focus (Quarantelli, 1987). A comparable research workforce that comes immediately to mind is the small, specialized field of volcanology in the earth sciences, thought to number approximately 200 (Applegate, 2004). As summarized in Chapters 3 through 7, despite its small size the social science hazards and disaster research community in the United States has been very productive over the years, contributing to a greater understanding of hazard vulnerability and helping to lay the groundwork for more effective mitigation, preparedness, and response and recovery efforts (Dynes and Drabek, 1994). And the field’s size has certainly not hindered it from becoming the world leader in social science hazards and disaster research (Britton, 2004). This leadership claim can be made both in terms of knowledge production and the major role American scholars have played in the development of global institutions and collaborative networks, such as the International Sociological Association’s (ISA) International Research Committee on Disasters (IRCD). Many of the key concepts and findings from hazards and disaster research have come from American investigators; they were the driving force behind the establishment of the IRCD in 1982, and they remain essential to its continuing success (Quarantelli, 1999).
An important feature of the hazards and disaster workforce is its fluidity. While funding for this fledgling research specialty in the immediate post-World War II period was motivated by very applied concerns (e.g., war-related preparedness and response, floodplain management), the intersection of basic and applied interests of academic researchers was
inevitable (Quarantelli, 1994). Thus, over the years social scientists have come into the field pursuing mainstream theoretical interests, often have left the field to undertake other kinds of research efforts, and sometimes have returned because their interest in hazards and disasters has been rekindled. This means that the research workforce of the field has to be replenished continuously to sustain the knowledge production and world leadership that are needed. Current trends such as the increasing numbers and costs of peacetime disasters and the growing threat of terrorism will probably facilitate more sustained involvement in hazards and disaster research by senior people. For the workforce to be sustained at a desired level, however, specific strategies must be devised (1) to put the next generation of researchers in the pipeline and (2) to recruit new researchers from the existing pool of social scientists.
The committee does not have a precise accounting of the numbers of social scientists from respective disciplines currently engaged in hazards and disaster research. Neither government agencies nor professional associations systematically collect data on this research workforce, which as noted above resides primarily in academia. This imprecision also applies to students, both graduate and undergraduate, who might be included in the pipeline because they are working on hazards and disaster research projects or are being mentored by senior scholars. However, undoubtedly the social science hazards and disaster researcher community is relatively small, particularly when one considers the thousands of persons trained in the relevant social science disciplines. As a very conservative indication of the size of selective social science disciplines, for example, the committee obtained the following membership numbers from various staff members of professional associations for the year indicated: Association of American Geographers, 2003 (8,475); American Sociological Association, 2004 (13,246); American Economic Association, 2004 (approximately 18,000); and American Political Science Association, 2004 (13,597). If the size of the current hazards and disaster research workforce is approximately 200, this community comprises only a fraction of the total social science pool, a pattern that is similar to the subfield of volcanology relative to the larger discipline of earth science.
There are some clear differences among the social sciences regarding the number of researchers that each contributes to the hazards and disaster workforce. Such differences are at least partially attributable to historical circumstances. As noted in Chapters 1 and 2, sociology and geography played leading roles in the origins of hazards and disaster research during the early part of the last century and in its full emergence following World War II, giving them a head start on such disciplines as psychology, political science, economics, anthropology, and urban and regional planning (Quarantelli, 1987). It is important to note that most pioneer researchers
had mainstream theoretical interests and published their findings in academic presses and mainstream journals, frankly because no specialty outlets existed. In any event, by the 1960s and 1970s small numbers of sociologists and geographers were clearly committed to this field, either as individual researchers or members of research centers. This disparity of respective involvement among social science disciplines continues to this day.
A simple typology is useful for characterizing the social science hazards and disaster research workforce. In broad terms, this workforce is comprised of three somewhat distinguishable types: (1) core researchers, (2) periodic researchers, and (3) situational researchers. Core researchers are the most committed to the field by virtue of their acknowledged interest in hazards and disaster research and the considerable amount of time they spend engaged in specific studies. Although core researchers may have multiple interests, they essentially see themselves as hazards or disaster researchers. This self-conception is reflected both in their research programs and their training of others, which typically involves sustained mentoring of junior scholars. Core researchers are more likely than not to have ties to larger networks of researchers and practitioners, as evidenced by collaborative work with other researchers, attendance at conferences and workshops with hazards and disaster themes, and interaction with disaster policy makers and managers. They are also more likely to be conversant with major paradigms in the field and have a thorough understanding of key application issues. Early pioneers of the field such as Harry Moore, Charles Fritz, Gilbert White, and Enrico Quarantelli are exemplars of this type.
Periodic researchers are scholars who do not see themselves as primarily hazards and disaster researchers, but focus on related topics from time to time throughout their professional careers. Their less frequent engagement in the field does not prevent them from making important contributions, but because of competing interests they are less likely to direct students toward careers in hazards and disaster research, attend specialty conferences and symposia, or interact on a regular basis with policy makers and practitioners. Within sociology, for example, scholars such as Allen Barton, Ralph Turner, Peter Rossi, Charles Perrow, and Kai Erikson have been periodic researchers who have made significant contributions to the field. Barton recently received the International Research Committee on Disasters (IRCD) 2002 E.L.Quarantelli Award for contributions to disaster theory, along with Russell Dynes who clearly became a core researcher early in his career. It is interesting to note also that at least five presidents of the American Sociological Association (Neil Smelser who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Turner, Peter Rossi, Kai Erikson, and James Short) have been involved in hazards and disaster research at
some point during their careers. Similarly in geography, while such scholars as Gilbert White, Robert Kates, and Roger Kasperson have long been core hazards and disaster researchers, periodic researchers who have made significant contributions to the field include John Borchert, Walter Isard, M. Gordon Wolman, and Julian Wolpert (Mitchell, 1989). Like White, Kates, and Kasperson, the latter four geographers were elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences.
Situational researchers are scholars who have not been involved previously in the field, but who become interested because of the opportunity to explore new and interesting phenomena. Eric Klinenberg, who studied the 1995 Chicago heat wave (Klinenberg, 2002) is a recent example. An earlier example is Ralph Ginsberg whose expertise in survey research and quantitative methods made him a valuable interdisciplinary team member in a study of market failure in earthquake and flood insurance (Kunreuther et al., 1978). Like core and periodic researchers, situational researchers often make significant contributions to the field. And like periodic researchers, situational researchers often are able to offer challenges to generally accepted theoretical formulations and frameworks in the field because they are not part of the core, thereby opening up new avenues of inquiry.
There is a healthy fluidity in the mix of situational, periodic, and core hazards and disaster researchers. A situational researcher may become so intrigued by hazards or disasters that he or she may develop a long-term interest in studying these phenomena. Indeed, all periodic and core researchers originally began their involvement in the field as situational researchers. That involvement then becomes intermittent for periodic researchers and sustained for core researchers. It is also the case that a core researcher may become a periodic researcher because of limited funding opportunities or changed career circumstances. History suggests that all three types are important for the advancement of this field. The committee concludes, however, that what is most needed for the future of hazards and disaster research is a larger and more stable cadre of core researchers who are committed to disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary research (as defined in Chapter 5); to training and mentoring students; and to furthering the sharing of data and the dissemination of findings (as discussed in Chapters 7 and 8). Core researchers are also valuable because they provide needed intellectual and institutional leadership, serve as spokespersons for the field, project its identity as a community of scholars, and serve as links between succeeding generations of scholars.
Besides its relatively small size, it is difficult to be very precise about the demographic structure of hazards and disaster research due to the
absence of good data. Mostly indirect measures will have to suffice in providing a general sense of this community’s workforce profile. It is appropriate to begin by looking at sociology and geography because these disciplines historically have had the largest concentration of hazards and disaster researchers. Between the end of World War II and 1963, approximately 10 doctoral dissertations were published in sociology on hazards and disaster research topics. When the Disaster Research Center (DRC) was established at the Ohio State University in 1963 by three sociologists, only one of the cofounders (Enrico Quarantelli) had prior disaster research experience. The others (Russell Dynes and J. Eugene Haas) had related expertise and research experiences in studying small groups and larger organizations of various kinds. In terms of the above typology, Quarantelli was already a core disaster researcher at the time of the establishment of the DRC, while Dynes and Haas began as situational researchers. By the time the DRC moved from Ohio State to the University of Delaware in 1985, sociology doctoral candidates had completed 29 dissertations directly under DRC funding and three additional dissertations were completed using DRC data. Many of these Ohio State graduates are now part of the hazards and disaster research workforce, either as core or periodic researchers. Additionally during the Ohio State period, several other former DRC graduate students completed dissertations on nondisaster related topics, but then went on to very productive careers as core researchers in the field (Quarantelli, 2004).
Since its move to the University of Delaware 20 years ago, only six dissertations on hazards and disaster topics have been produced by students funded directly by the DRC. Another 16 graduate students along with 12 undergraduates have been funded under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP); (through individual investigator awards and NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program) at William and Mary for disaster studies using DRC archival materials. Of the 16 graduate students, 12 completed M.A. theses, and 7 of these 12 ultimately were awarded Ph.D.s at other universities. Even including data from William and Mary, there is a clear shortfall when comparing the 1963–1985 and 1985–2004 periods at the DRC. This shortfall at what continues to be a major research center in the field could have important implications for hazards and disaster research in sociology when currently active core researchers from the pre-1985 graduating cohorts retire. This overall “graying” of the field in sociology has sparked some concern among core members. One of the responses to this concern has been the development of the NSF Enabling Projects (discussed below). Other institutions with sociologically oriented disaster research programs have also contributed to the disaster research workforce pool, though on a smaller scale than the DRC. For example, a small number of core or periodic disaster
researchers, perhaps not much more than one or two dozen total, have emerged from programs at the University of Georgia, the University of Denver, the University of California at Los Angeles, Colorado State University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Colorado.
Turning to geography, Gilbert White built his highly distinguished hazards research career at the University of Chicago during the 1940s–1960s. White’s numerous credits include paving the way for the emergence of floodplain management, putting geography in the forefront of hazards research, and mentoring the next generation of geography hazards researchers who today comprise a major part of the hazards and disaster research workforce core (Mitchell, 1989). One of the students White mentored was Robert Kates, who over the years contributed much to the field while at Clark University and helped make it a leading producer of geography hazards and disaster researchers. As in the case of sociology (and other contributing social science disciplines), the precise number of hazards and disaster researchers within geography is not known. In a 1989 article, Mitchell noted that between 1981 and 1986, 44 Ph.D. dissertations and 126 master’s theses on hazards topics were completed in North American colleges and universities (Mitchell, 1989). In a more recent article, it was noted that 100 geography dissertation titles and abstracts dealt with hazards-related topics (Montz et al., 2003a). These data give at least some indication of the pool of academic geographers from which core, periodic, and situational types of researchers might have come.
In addition to the University of Chicago and Clark University, other key players are Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina, which now is the largest producer of Ph.D. hazards and disaster geographers in the country. In recent years, six Ph.D.s were completed at the Hazards Research Laboratory (HRL) at the University of South Carolina and five more are in the pipeline. Similar to sociology, overall the number of hazards and disaster geographers produced by the above and other institutions is small but nonetheless crucial to the development of the field. The contribution of geographers entering the hazards and disaster research arena after receiving graduate training is reflected in the fact that several have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, as mentioned previously, and four have been elected president of the Association of American Geographers.
A major turning point in hazards and disaster research occurred when Gilbert White moved from the University of Chicago to the University of Colorado in 1968. At Colorado, White championed interdisciplinary research and established collaborative hazards research projects with colleagues from other disciplines. One of these projects, carried out jointly with J. Eugene Haas (who joined the University of Colorado faculty after leaving the Ohio State University) was the First Assessment of Research on
Natural Hazards. This assessment resulted in a landmark publication in hazards and disaster research (White and Haas, 1975). No less important, the University of Colorado served as the training ground for an interdisciplinary team of a dozen or more graduate students, including those from the social science disciplines of geography, sociology, economics, and psychology. Many of the First Assessment veterans became part of the core of the hazards and disaster research community, evidenced by the fact that several also took part in the more recently completed Second Assessment (Mileti, 1999b). Like sociology Ph.D.s from Ohio State and the University of Delaware, this group has also been in the field for nearly 30 years, and thus is part of the graying generation who must be replaced by junior colleagues.
Many researchers belong to professional organizations of specialists in the field. Membership in such organizations provides some additional clues about the size of the workforce in the social sciences. While multiple memberships can distort the picture, this distortion is perhaps balanced by the fact that some active researchers in the field choose not to join such organizations. Thus, there is some value in looking at organizational membership as a proxy or indirect indicator of workforce size. For example, Mitchell noted in 1989 that approximately 5 percent (about 120) of the 2,400 college faculty members who belong to the Association of American Geographers (AAG) identified hazards as one of their primary areas of specialization (Mitchell, 1989). More recently (June 2004), the Hazards Specialty Group within the AAG had 263 American members. Most of the Hazards Specialty Group members are geographers (Mitchell, 2004). Similarly, many sociologists with interests in hazards and disasters are members of IRCD. Some 46 of the IRCD’s 250 members are American scholars (Phillips, 2004). The IRCD is an inclusive organization; thus, some of its American, as well as international, members are from social science disciplines other than sociology. To compare geography and sociology with anthropology, in 2005, seven members of the American Anthropological Association listed disaster research as an area of interest.
Examining social science membership in an association dominated by another discipline is also instructive for getting some sense of how social science disciplines other than sociology and geography fit into the workforce profile. The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) is one such organization. EERI is the major earthquake engineering association based in the United States and membership is open to professionals from other disciplines. For the past few years, EERI’s membership has remained around 2,400 (Tubbesing, 2004). In 2005, 38 members were listed as falling into four professional categories that are of interest: social science, public policy, urban planning, and public health (EERI, 2005). Of these 38 members, 23 are core hazards and disaster researchers from the United
States, including 6 who identify themselves as public policy experts (e.g., with political science and public administration backgrounds) and 8 who are self-identified as urban planners. Those listed as public policy specialists and urban planners arguably comprise a large portion of the researchers who make up the core of the workforce from those disciplines. Both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Cornell University have played major roles in training planners entering the hazards and disaster research workforce. No one from the disciplines of economics or psychology was listed as a member of EERI in 2005. The committee concludes that the number of economists and psychologists in the core hazards and disaster workforce is certainly no greater than those from the policy and planning disciplines.
Clearly, there is a need for more hazards and disaster researchers from disciplines such as economics and political science that have not had as much involvement in the field as geography and sociology. A workforce with greater disciplinary balance would further increase coverage of important and sometimes understudied topics and issues, such as the economics of disasters, intergovernmental dynamics during disasters, and cross-societal impacts.
In summary, and based on the above limited information, the core hazards and disaster research workforce is small and has its deepest roots in sociology and geography (Anderson and Mattingly, 1991). Estimating the number of periodic and situational researchers is inherently difficult because the involvement of these types is intermittent. Taking all of the above information into account, as noted earlier the committee concludes that the current supply of hazards and disaster researchers within the social sciences is comparable to the field of volcanology. As aforementioned, Applegate (2004) suggests that a first-order estimate of the number of volcanologists in the United States is about 200. His estimate is based on combining the 78 volcanologists employed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with 112 faculty members who identify themselves as volcanologists in the American Geological Institute’s Directory of Geoscience Departments lists, and on assuming that some igneous petrologists and seismologists also study volcanoes. Hazards and disaster research in the social sciences is much more inclusive than volcanology; thus, its small pool of core, periodic, and situational researchers poses a major challenge for the future.
Any workforce has compositional features such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity. Such features reflect societal forces and the related distribution of opportunities faced by particular individuals and groups. The
committee’s conclusion that this workforce has an aging core is particularly significant because of the small size of the community as a whole. Simply put, the core must be replenished as soon as possible. This fundamental workforce requirement creates an opportunity for junior prospects to play important roles in the future. Senior scholars can facilitate this succession, first, through their teaching and mentoring activities and, second, through actively promoting the importance of basic and applied research in their respective disciplines.
Like many scientific and professional fields, this research specialty was long dominated by men. The pattern began to change in the 1970s and 1980s, however, as more women entered the field after completing their graduate work. Today, women are increasingly represented in the core workforce, although again the committee does not have precise numbers to that effect. Women who have become a part of the core workforce have addressed both mainstream and specialty research issues. They have also encouraged and recruited other women to the field. In so doing, women have called attention to the importance of such previously neglected topics as gender and equity in relation to hazard vulnerability. In recent years, women have made significant gains in terms of their influence in the field, including assuming research center directorships and other key leadership posts. They also have moved closer to parity with male scholars in terms of research funding received from NSF (Anderson, 2000). The increased involvement of women social scientists in hazards and disaster research is reflected in other ways as well, including their active participation in multidisciplinary research settings such as the NSF-funded earthquake engineering research centers and in professional organizations. For example, a prominent female social scientist was a recent president of EERI and the organization’s long-term executive director is a woman with social science training. Even with this progress, attention must remain on encouraging the full participation of women in hazards and disaster research.
While change in the status of women in the field has been a positive development, little has happened over the years to increase the involvement of racial and ethnic minorities. Although minorities such as blacks and Hispanics have doctoral degrees in larger numbers in the social sciences than in other research disciplines (National Science Board, 2004), they remain so underrepresented in hazards and disaster research as to be practically hidden from view. There are only a handful of African-American and Hispanic hazards and disaster researchers in the social sciences known to the committee. This group includes two senior Hispanic researchers at the Disaster Research Center, one of whom is the director. The underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities has existed for much, if not all, of the history of this field. Thus a continuing opportunity is being lost in a nation with an increasingly diverse population. As noted in Chapters 2
through 4, there is much irony in this underrepresentation because minorities are among the most at-risk population groups in the United States.
The benefits of an increasing number of women in hazards and disaster research apply equally to minorities. Thus, having additional minority researchers would add value on its own terms and also make it much easier to recruit and retain more minority students in the future. The mentoring of minority students by minority scholars is especially important. As in the case with women, a critical mass of minority researchers would likely compel studies of new research topics and issues such as some of those identified in Chapters 3, 4, and 6. Among the studies the committee has recommended are those that will help to reduce the vulnerability of minority and other population groups.
As previously noted, the vast majority of social science hazards and disaster researchers work in academic settings, including both Ph.D.- and non-Ph.D.-granting institutions, where research and educational activities are combined. Far fewer researchers work in federal agencies and laboratories or in private sector organizations such as consulting firms. While some researchers work alone or with one or a few graduate students, the pattern for core researchers in this field is to work in teams. These teams can be project specific or created under the auspices of an established research center. Within the social sciences, the term “center” does not generally describe an entity with a large staff. To the contrary, these centers tend to be relatively small, often comprising only a few senior investigators and several graduate students. This characterization can be applied, for example, to the Disaster Research Center (University of Delaware) and the Hazards Research Laboratory (University of South Carolina). Most social science research centers, including the two just mentioned, are located in disciplinary departments even though their principal investigators, post-docs, and graduate students may from time to time team up with researchers in other disciplines. One center that is different in this regard is the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center at Texas A&M University. This center, which is located in the College of Architecture, has been led by a social scientist since its inception. It carries out multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research that combines social science with engineering, architecture, and planning disciplines.
Social scientists also work as team members in other types of centers, such as the University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Public Health and Disasters and the NSF-funded earthquake engineering research centers. A pattern is also emerging in which social scientists are included on teams focusing on multidisciplinary research related to terrorism. Rel-
evant examples here are the Homeland Security Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events headquartered at the University of Southern California and the Homeland Security Center of Excellence for Behavioral and Social Research on Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism headquartered at the University of Maryland. Once again, the research activity carried out at these and other centers is combined with important educational experience for the emerging generation of social science hazards and disaster researchers. The more students serve as research assistants while they work on graduate degrees, the larger is the pool of scholars that may become situational, periodic, or core researchers in the future. And where the centers have multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary thrusts, as defined in Chapter 5, students have a tremendous opportunity to become more adept at team building.
DESIGNING A WORKFORCE TO MEET FUTURE CHALLENGES
As documented throughout this report, the social science hazards and disaster research workforce has accomplished much over the years, but maintaining and expanding a talented workforce will be even more important in the future. The field will need core researchers throughout the social sciences who can conduct research using the most advanced technologies and methods (see Chapter 7), who are committed to training subsequent generations of hazards and disaster researchers and practitioners, who will promote the field proactively to wider audiences, and who are committed to mainstream disciplinary theories and willing to work on multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams (see Chapter 5). The field will need the continuing presence of research centers that combine both research and graduate education. The field will need the increasing representation of women and minorities. And the field will need a continuing pool of periodic and situational researchers to break new ground and challenge existing paradigms. It will also need researchers who work in a variety of other research settings besides academia, such as government agencies, consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations. The desired outcomes of such a workforce will be significant advances in knowledge, junior researchers who build on and extend the work of previous generations, and policy makers and practitioners who make knowledge-driven decisions (see Chapter 8). The challenge of maintaining and expanding a research workforce capable of realizing such accomplishments is essential to meet. Existing and emerging societal risks and knowledge gaps related to them demand a vigorous and sustained response from the social sciences.
As highlighted in Chapter 2, there are any number of societal changes that will put added pressure on the hazards and disaster research work-
force. The emergence of a more diverse society, with racial and ethnic minorities comprising an ever-increasing percentage of the population, is an important demographic shift that will require greater attention to hazard vulnerability and mitigation. Changing settlement patterns will continue to have direct implications for emergency preparedness and response. Well-being and quality-of-life issues will continue to have important implications for disaster recovery. The growing threat of terrorism is a key element in a changing risk environment, calling for new core researchers who will develop and apply knowledge in coping with multidimensional threats. Environmental alterations such as global climate change will also create new demands on the hazards and disaster workforce, forcing a reconsideration of its size and composition as the frequency and severity of such disasters as floods and droughts increase as a result of changing climatic conditions.
Notwithstanding the above and other societal trends and changes highlighted in Chapter 2, the supply of core, periodic, and situational hazards and disaster researchers in the social sciences has been too low historically, and the current composition of the research workforce clearly is inadequate. A historically larger workforce would have deepened our understanding of the five core topics of hazards and disaster research identified in Figures 1.1 and 1.2, providing the basis for stemming the rising costs of hazards and disasters. The aging of the research workforce is a serious issue that must be addressed as soon as possible. An increase in the number of hazards and disaster researchers from underrepresented social science disciplines such as political science, economics, and anthropology will be required. Also required will be greater representation of racial and ethnic minorities who can provide better entrée to minority communities and greater cultural sensitivity when dealing with minority populations. The involvement of women in the field should continue to be encouraged and monitored carefully to avoid any possible slippage in their degree of participation in research and related professional activities. Increasing gender parity should remain an important goal for the field.
Human Resource Development
Various institutional sectors—including government, academia, and professional associations—should have a major role in shaping the social science hazards and disaster research workforce to meet future needs. Building and sustaining a viable workforce is a competitive process wherein potential recruits have various career options from which to choose. Developing the needed workforce of the future can be characterized as involving four elements: recruitment, education, retention, and reward. Systems of reward underlie recruitment, education, and retention efforts.
Whether they are extrinsic or intrinsic in nature, rewards provide the basis for success in recruiting and educating new workforce members and obtaining long-term commitments from them. Various stakeholders—in government, academia, professional organizations, or the private sector—are part of any reward system that aims to achieve recruitment, education, and retention goals. The more collaborative the efforts of stakeholders are, the more successful they are likely to be overall. Such collaboration may involve the establishment of partnerships and the leveraging of vital resources. Thus, a holistic strategy would best further the development of human resources in the hazards and disaster research community.
One of the basic extrinsic rewards of any workforce, of course, is that it provides a means of earning a living. But aside from this purely financial outcome, there are intrinsic rewards that come to those involved in a research workforce such as creating and applying new knowledge. And because hazards and disasters are global risks, having the opportunity to conduct research in an international as well as domestic context is an important inducement for entering the field. Such extrinsic and intrinsic rewards are only important when they become specific incentives, proactively marketed to potential recruits by multiple stakeholders. Experience suggests that once recruited, the complexities and importance of the subject matter will be more than sufficient to keep researchers involved on at least a periodic, and hopefully a sustained, basis. The admixture of situational, periodic, and core researchers is healthy and beneficial for the field. Perhaps the ideal blending would be like a pyramid, with a large number of situational researchers at the base, a significant number who become periodic researchers, leading to a vital number of core researchers.
Recommendation 9.1: Relevant stakeholders should develop an integrated strategy to enhance the capacity of the social science hazards and disaster research community to respond to societal needs, which are expected to grow, for knowledge creation and application. A workshop should be organized to serve as a launching pad for facilitating communication, coordination, and planning among stakeholders from government, academia, professional associations, and the private sector. Representatives from the NSF and DHS should play key roles in the workshop because of their historical (NSF) and more recent (DHS) shared commitment to foster the next generation of hazards and disaster researchers.
As noted above, the social science hazards and disaster research workforce is estimated by this committee to be about 200, which is very small in comparison to other relevant disciplines such as earthquake engineering
and earthquake science. For example, the vast majority of EERI’s approximately 2,400 members come from these two disciplines. Among other benefits, a larger social science hazards and disaster research workforce would contribute to meeting both the substantial disciplinary research needs and opportunities identified in Chapters 3 and 4 and the interdisciplinary needs and opportunities associated with them that are identified in Chapter 5 (see Figure 5.2).
The future development of the hazards and disaster research workforce within the social sciences requires an integrated strategy. Key components of that strategy should be stakeholder policies and initiatives that include specific incentives for the recruitment, education, and retention of new researchers. The strategy should necessarily build on the many strengths of the existing workforce, as noted above and highlighted throughout this report. The strategy should synergistically leverage the resources of government, academia, professional associations, and the private sector. The initial planning workshop would launch the effort, and the involvement of both NSF and DHS is essential. Working collaboratively with other stakeholders, NSF and DHS should ultimately develop complementary or joint programs that strengthen social science research in this field. These programs should include educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, opportunities for junior faculty members, and financial incentives for becoming engaged in the field. New programs should be developed where there are unmet needs, and these programs should complement successful existing ones. Existing programs that have proved their effectiveness should be continued whenever possible. Underpinning an integrative approach should be a system of data collection that provides real-time information on the status of the workforce and the outcomes of various programs. The resulting database would enable multiple stakeholders to make knowledge-based decisions about future commitments and investments.
Recommendation 9.2: NSF should expand its investments in both undergraduate and graduate education to increase the size of the social science hazards and disaster research workforce and its capacity to conduct needed disciplinary, multidisciplinary, and interdisciplinary research on the core topics discussed in this report. NSF should also give special consideration to investing in innovative ways to further workforce development, especially when they involve partnerships such as NSF’s recent joint initiative with the Public Entity Research Institute (PERI) and the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center at the University of Colorado. This initiative, discussed below, exempli-
fies the collaboration needed across government, academia, professional associations, and the private sector.
Recommendation 9.3: In parallel fashion, DHS should make a conscious effort to increase significantly the number of awards its makes to social science students through its scholarship and fellowship program. Because much that must be investigated about the terrorist threat is related to social and institutional forces, more social scientists need to be recruited to adequately study them. With its broader cross-hazards congressional mandate, DHS should contribute to a larger social science hazards and disaster research workforce, one that complements research in other science and engineering disciplines.
Recommendation 9.4: NSF and DHS should consider ways that they can cooperate programmatically to enhance the social science hazards and disaster research workforce. Jointly sponsored university research and education programs by the two agencies would be of major benefit to the nation.
Recommendations 9.2 through 9.4 should be viewed in tandem. Because its mission is to nurture science in the United States, since its inception NSF has supported science and engineering education at both the undergraduate and the graduate levels. Currently, NSF grantees may receive support enabling them to include both undergraduate and graduate students on the same projects. Indeed, NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) program is aimed specifically at the inclusion of undergraduates on NSF-funded research projects. It also provides the opportunity to establish what are termed REU sites. These sites provide summer research opportunities for 15 to 20 undergraduate students from different colleges and universities, most often between their junior and senior years. A recently awarded REU site program to the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware is the first of its kind for this field and is a very positive development because it enables a sizable group of undergraduate students to undergo intense summer research training at a common location. NSF funding of such social science REU sites, as well as REU funding provided for individual research projects through supplemental grants, is essential for building the next generation of hazards and disaster researchers. Well before NSF established its REU program, some of today’s core hazards and disaster researchers were first introduced to the field as undergraduate students and subsequently retained their interest as they moved on to graduate school and then into the research profession. It is important that this vital NSF support for REUs continues to be available, allowing core researchers to seek new recruits without having to wait
until students reach the graduate level. Undergraduate students comprise an important talent pool that can help meet future human resource needs in the field.
In 2003, and with NSF support, the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) and the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado established a joint program of dissertation fellowships for graduate students in science and engineering disciplines to work on topics related to natural, technological, and human-induced hazards. Initially established as a two-year pilot effort, the aim of the program was to attract new researchers to the field, including social scientists, to meet the growing need for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research. Ten fellows were selected each year during the pilot phase of the program. This innovative program complements other graduate and undergraduate student enabling efforts made possible through NSF funding as well as its enabling projects for junior faculty. The committee recommends that NSF increase its support for this type of program, particularly in terms of the number of dissertation awards given to social science graduate students in order to create a more balanced multidisciplinary workforce.
NSF has been the major supporter of undergraduate and graduate education for the social science hazards and disaster research field at least since the creation of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) more than 25 years ago. This has enabled the workforce to remain at a fairly steady state. Given the expected new demands on the social science hazards and disaster research community, it is an opportune time for NSF to leverage its efforts with those of the recently established DHS. DHS has launched its own programs to support higher education, including its undergraduate scholarship and graduate fellowship program. This program is intended for undergraduate and graduate students interested in research careers that help advance knowledge about societal prevention of and response to terrorism. The program, which is open to students in a variety of science and technology fields, provides multiple-year support. Some 58 awards were made to undergraduate students and 48 to graduate students in 2004, the second year of the program. Notably, however, only 13 scholarships were awarded to social science undergraduate majors and only 5 fellowships were awarded to social science graduate students (Petonito, 2004). The social science proportion of awards should be increased substantially. Additionally, opportunities should be provided for such DHS awardees to work with core hazards and disaster researchers within the social sciences. There would be no better mentors for preparing new initiates to hazards and disaster research.
Thus far, DHS has also sponsored, on a competitive basis, four university-based Homeland Security Centers for research on terrorism, and recently announced plans to fund a fifth one. The first center, estab-
lished at the University of Southern California, has a major social science component. The most recently established center at the University of Maryland focuses almost exclusively on social science and criminal justice issues. The fifth center will also have a major social science emphasis. As noted earlier, all DHS centers of excellence are mandated to support both research and education. By supporting both graduate and undergraduate students, these DHS-sponsored centers, and perhaps others in the planning stage, will play a major role in developing the hazards and disaster workforce of the future.
Finally, the committee sees direct collaboration among stakeholders as a vital strategy, particularly between such key entities as NSF and DHS. For many years, NSF has been working with the university community and supporting the integration of research and higher education, multidisciplinary hazards and disaster research, and center-based research and education. Thus NSF has significant experience to share with DHS, which is now moving into these areas in significant ways. As noted above, through its current and planned university investments, DHS has in a very short time become a key agency in developing the future hazards and disaster research workforce. Direct collaboration between NSF and DHS would therefore result in greater efficiency through the leveraging of scarce resources for higher education. It would also further the integration of this field, which—without due diligence—might grow apart: DHS-funded researchers who are focused primarily on terrorism; and NSF-sponsored researchers who give attention to other types of societal risks. The two groups will learn much from each other if meaningful and sustainable connections are fostered. To this end, the committee believes that a crosshazards research and education agenda is the preferred strategy. Through their respective policies and programs, NSF and DHS should collaborate directly in making this perspective salient to academic and other stakeholders.
Recommendation 9.5: As the leader in furthering U.S. science through research and workforce development, NSF should make greater use of its enabling mechanisms, including standard research grants, center grants, grant supplements, and REU programs to attract more minorities to the social science hazards and disaster research workforce.
As noted above, minorities interested in the social sciences have not been attracted to the hazards and disaster research field. It is possible that many minority persons do not consider hazards and disaster research because of greater opportunities to study chronic social problems in their communities such as poverty and crime. The fact that there are so few minority role models in the field is another major barrier to the greater participation of minorities. Thus, more aggressive minority recruitment
efforts are essential to make the workforce more diverse. A more diverse workforce would result in needed new research perspectives, increased linkages to the growing minority communities in the United States, a greater understanding of the vulnerabilities of these communities, and new opportunities to significantly reduce these vulnerabilites.
Major recruiting efforts should focus on institutions with large numbers of underrepresented minorities such as Hispanics and African-Americans. Public community colleges are potential venues because they tend to have higher percentages of minority students than traditional four-year colleges or research universities. A possible model for social science was a program in the geosciences established with NSF support in 2001 for local community colleges and high schools in the Long Beach, California, region. This program involved giving minority participants an intensive summer research experience. Some of the resulting research projects dealt specifically with hazards. Additionally, minority-serving institutions in general are fertile recruiting grounds for the hazards and disaster research pipeline. These institutions include both historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and many other institutions that have large enrollments of Hispanics and Native Americans. NSF should encourage majority academic institutions with social science hazards and disaster research programs to seek opportunities to diversify the workforce by establishing collaborations and direct partnerships with students and faculty of minority-serving institutions.
The committee also strongly encourages NSF to further the establishment of hazards and disaster research programs at minority-serving institutions. Such an NSF initiative would be a major step at a time when not only a larger social science hazards and disaster research workforce is needed, but a much more diversified one as well. This would attract new faculty and student talent from the minority community to the field. And in keeping with the spirit of Recommendation 9.4, NSF and DHS should consider jointly sponsoring such programs. In addition to leveraging agency resources, this kind of cooperation would serve as a means to further cross-hazards dialogue and research.
Assigning individuals with specific responsibilities for furthering diversity in majority institutions might also provide needed breakthroughs in diversity recruitment. The Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), for example, has appointed a diversity program director with the responsibility for reaching out to underrepresented groups in earthquake engineering and assisting them in pursuing engineering degrees. Such an outreach specialist is needed at all three NSF-funded earthquake engineering research centers, but the assigned role should be more broadly defined. Because the centers have a multidisciplinary research agenda, but no underrepresented minority social scientists involved
in their research programs, outreach specialists should have the added responsibility of increasing the participation of minority social scientists. Such diversity program directors should also give attention to the continuing recruitment of women social scientists. The committee suggests a similar approach to furthering diversity within the new or planned DHS-sponsored centers. Given their extensive resources and networks, research centers of various sizes and missions can do much more to enhance the diversity of the social science hazards and disaster research workforce.
Recommendation 9.6: The NSF Enabling Project for junior faculty development (discussed below) should be continued if the second pilot proves to be a success.
Recognizing that the social science hazards and disaster research community needed to supplement traditional means of recruiting and training new talent, in 1996 NSF funded what became known as the Enabling Project. The Enabling Project began as an innovative experiment under the auspices of Texas A&M University. It involved the mentoring of 13 junior faculty members, chosen nationally on a competitive basis, by 6 core social science hazards and disaster researchers from several different universities. Many of the 13 assistant professors had no previous involvement with the hazards and disaster research field, but were judged as having significant potential for eventually contributing to its advancement. The Enabling Project was designed to realize this potential. Its two-year program included workshops, mentoring sessions by senior faculty mentors, and the preparation of project proposal drafts by the Enabling Fellows. Overall the program was a notable success. Several of the fellows received funding for proposals they submitted to NSF, and most remain part of the workforce.
The success of the first two-year Enabling Project led to NSF funding the second Enabling Project, administered through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This two-year follow-up project was initiated in 2003 with a slightly expanded pool of 15 fellows working with 8 mentors. The fellows were selected competitively as before and again mentored by core faculty members in the field. While it is still too early for a final assessment of the second Enabling Project, early indications suggest that it was a success as well. In fact, the quality of this class of fellows was so high that three received competitive awards from NSF and other sources before the mentoring on proposal development was completed. Also, the second cohort demonstrated a significant interest in multidisciplinary research and, like the first Enabling Project, had a solid representation of participants from various social science disciplines. One major shortcoming of the two projects is that neither has had much success in attracting minority participation. Only one person from an underrepresented minority group was in the first cohort and none was in the second cohort. Women fared
better, with three participating in the first Enabling Project and five in the second.
The mentoring the fellows receive from core hazards and disaster researchers puts them rather quickly on the track to join the ranks of the social science hazards and disaster research workforce. If the program is continued by NSF, a more focused strategy should be developed to overcome constraints on the inclusion of promising minority scholars. At a minimum, collaboration with the few minority researchers in the field and minority-serving institutions should be part of the enabling strategy. Additionally, focused efforts should be made to boost the level of participation of junior women faculty in the program, increasing their numbers above those seen in the first two Enabling Projects.
Recommendation 9.7: Stakeholders in government, academia, professional societies, and the private sector should be open to exploring a variety of innovative approaches for developing the future social science hazards and disaster research workforce.
NSF’s Enabling Projects offer the lesson that alternative educational paradigms provide novel opportunities for developing the social science hazards and disaster research workforce. All learning in preparation for joining the field and shoring up existing skills does not take place in the classroom. Student chapters for aspiring practitioners in professional associations and continuing education activities come immediately to mind. Both of these tools have been used by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI)—in the first instance, to recruit the next generation of earthquake engineers and, in the second, to increase the expertise of the existing generation and related professionals. Various types of internships in hazards-related government agencies and professional associations also warrant consideration as further means of providing valuable experience for future workforce members. Internships provide benefits to both the interns and their host organizations. Finally, social science professional organizations should give increased emphasis to workforce development at their workshops and conferences. By being “student friendly,” such meetings can become valuable recruitment opportunities. More meeting organizers should follow the lead of the Natural Hazards Center and the Hazards Specialty Group, discussed above, both of which have workshop orientations for students and organize special sessions at which students can present their work and forge networks with each other as well as with senior professionals in the field.
The above and potentially other workforce development strategies cannot replace more traditional approaches. Instead, they should be seen as parts of a more holistic strategy. The strategy must be geared to expanding the pools of core, periodic, and situational hazards and disaster researchers. The strategy must evolve from collaborative efforts by stakeholders in government, academia, professional associations, and the private sector. It must approach hazards and disasters inclusively rather than separately as societal risks. Sensitive to what is known about societal response to hazards and disasters, the strategy must emphasize the need for a larger, more skilled, and more diverse social science workforce to address what is not known. While disasters remain nonroutine events in societies or their larger subsystems, the actual and potential impacts of these events equate with their increasing prominence as public policy issues. Addressing these issues will require the best efforts of social science researchers and also their willingness to collaborate with each other and their counterparts in the natural sciences and engineering.