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Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise (2018)

Chapter: 6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise

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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
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CHAPTER 6

A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise

This chapter explores how to make progress in addressing all the challenges and needs discussed in the previous chapters. We start by acknowledging how this issue is embedded in a larger challenge to identify appropriate roles for the different sectors of the weather enterprise overall (see Section 6.1). We then explore possible options for making progress on several fronts, including mechanisms for federal support of social and behavioral science (SBS)-weather research, public–private partnerships for supporting such research, platforms for intersectoral and interagency engagement, and opportunities to enhance interdisciplinary education and training (see Section 6.2).

6.1 THE CHALLENGE OF STRATEGIC PLANNING ACROSS THE WEATHER ENTERPRISE

The U.S. weather enterprise has previously been defined as the synergistic, interdependent relationship between the academic/research community, the public sector, and the private sector that provides weather services to the nation. The government’s traditional role within this relationship is the protection of life and property and the enhancement of national security and the national economy. This public-sector role is grounded in the sustainability and dependability of observational data, and in weather forecast products, to which there is free and open access. The private sector’s traditional role is to create and market customized and tailored weather products and services to a broad customer base of private individuals, government agencies, and businesses in a multitude of sectors. The academic community’s traditional role is to improve understanding of meteorological processes (as part of the larger “Earth

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
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System”), perform basic and applied research that leads to innovation, and train the next generation. These traditional roles, however, have changed over time and continue to evolve at an increasing velocity, with this rate of change likely to increase in the coming years. Such changes are blurring the clear distinctions among sectoral responsibilities. This is seen, for instance, in the growth of commercial weather models and satellite and in situ data observations, in university- and private sector–operated weather observing networks, and in government meteorologists engaging directly with core partners to provide impact-based decision support services.

Collaboration among the three sectors has been viewed as a particular strength of the U.S. approach to the weather services, and this enterprise has had some tremendous successes over the past few decades. Yet, each sector maintains its independence and develops and plans its own strategies; and there has never been any strategic planning process that looks to optimize the effectiveness and efficiency of the enterprise as a whole. One of the main recommendations to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service (NOAA/NWS) in the report Weather Services for the Nation: Becoming Second to None (NRC, 2012) is to “leverage the entire enterprise.” This recommendation stems from the recognition that to address expanding needs in a time of accelerating scientific and technological advancement, as well as uncertain and likely constrained budget resources, all available skills and competencies across the enterprise will have to be optimally coordinated and applied. The community continues to explore options to work together more strategically as an enterprise. For instance, there are ongoing discussions about possibly creating a process to periodically synthesize and prioritize research needs based on widespread input from across the scientific community (e.g., some have proposed launching something similar to the Decadal Survey of Earth Science and Applications from Space currently carried out by the National Academies [NASEM, 2017b]). No such plans have yet been implemented, however.

While it is beyond the scope of this study to address these longstanding challenges, it is necessary to acknowledge this important underlying context, as any recommendations for more effectively supporting and applying SBS research are embedded in and inherently constrained by these broader weather enterprise challenges. The primary conclusion of the report Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services (NRC, 2003b) was that “it is counterproductive and diversionary to establish detailed and rigid boundaries for each sector, outlining who can do what and with which tools. Instead, efforts should focus on improving the processes by which the public and private providers of weather services interact” (p. 3). This earlier suggestion rings true in the current context as well, given the dramatic changes to the weather enterprise occurring today and expected in the coming years. Thus, in the following

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

sections, we focus on opportunities for progress that are flexible in terms of how they may be pursued and what institutional actors may be involved.

For similar reasons, rigidly defining what integration of SBS within the weather enterprise should ultimately look like is difficult as well. But at the broadest level, the aim is to have people with diverse SBS backgrounds serving as active collaborators throughout all stages of weather enterprise activities, including the fundamental strategic planning efforts noted above, and employed as respected professionals throughout public, private, and academic sector organizations.

6.2 STEPS FORWARD WITHIN AND AMONG SECTORS

While SBS research is an enterprise-wide concern and responsibility, NOAA should continue to play a central role in driving forward this research. A stronger, more coherent foundation for SBS research and application requires improvements in terms of sustained attention, increased funding and staffing, and more robust institutional structure, including the inclusion of social science perspectives at leadership and planning levels.

Mechanisms for Federal Support of SBS Research

As discussed in Chapter 3, NOAA’s approach to supporting SBS-weather research over the past several years has been an ad hoc mix of different types of efforts, including in-house and directly competed studies, support for a variety of community- and capacity-building efforts, supplemental support for National Science Foundation (NSF) funding opportunities, and contractor-led activities. While most all of these individual efforts have made important contributions, collectively they have been lacking in terms of building a coherent guiding vision, a critical mass, and sustained, stable momentum for this field of research; in terms of effective operational application of new insights gained; and in terms of encompassing the full “end-to-end” weather communication pathways that predominate today, which include, for instance, emergency managers, private-sector companies, broadcasters, weather apps, and social media.

Below are several possible options for new institutional arrangements to advance federal support of SBS for the weather enterprise on a more sustained basis:

  • Establish a special interdisciplinary research program jointly between NOAA and NSF, and possibly other interested agencies, to fund large-scale research proposals related to integrating SBS in the weather enterprise. The program could be designed specifically to support multi- and interdisciplinary research
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

    by requiring co-principal investigators (Co-PIs) from social and physical sciences. Perhaps as well, special funding could be reserved for proposals that include Co-PIs from the private sector (see Box 6.1 for examples).

  • Establish a NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Laboratory or Cooperative Institute dedicated to SBS-weather research, analogous to the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) focused on numerical modeling and the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
  • focused on severe storms. This approach would put SBS on a more equal footing with other sciences within NOAA; it would help create a critical mass of social sciences expertise within the agency, and with that increased depth, it would enhance capacity within NOAA to develop interdisciplinary collaborations. It would also encourage research and applications testing that directly meets the needs of NWS. It would also provide a more stable base by protecting social science funding from the operational overruns and budget constraints of the service Line Offices. We recognize, however, that garnering the needed resources and actually establishing such a laboratory could be a difficult and lengthy process, and that this approach may face barriers in terms of infusing social science into the service components of NOAA.

  • Develop strong social science programs within some of the existing NOAA Cooperative Institutes. For instance, there is great potential for expanding cross-disciplinary testbed activities within:
    • the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS) at the University of Oklahoma, for SBS studies related to severe convective weather and tornados;
    • the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, for SBS studies related to hurricanes and storm surge;
    • the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University and/or the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin, for SBS studies related to forecasters’ use of new satellite data; and
    • the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado, for SBS studies on the characterization and communication of weather forecast uncertainty information.

    This approach offers the advantage of allowing NOAA to efficiently tap social-science resources across the whole of academia, but like the previous option, it may face increased challenges related to infusing social sciences into the service-based components of NOAA.

  • Identify new collaborations with social scientists across a variety of relevant disciplines by building on the internal expertise and external professional networks of other parts of NOAA. In particular this may include NOAA’s National Sea Grant Program,1 which has connections to a broad network of state universities; the societal impacts programs within the OAR Climate Program Office, such as the Regional Integrated Science and Assessments (RISA)

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1 See programs information at http://seagrant.noaa.gov.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
  • program;2 and the Economics and Social Science Program within the National Marine Fisheries Service.

  • Capitalize on the fact that many NWS Weather Forecast Offices are co-located with university campuses by building more formal connections to SBS-related campus departments, which could develop new collaborations and applications of social science within weather operations.
  • Develop a University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)-based program, not physically confined just to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) (Boulder) but operating in a distributed fashion across some or all of the member campuses. This approach would encompass a broader range of research universities than those represented by the NOAA Cooperative Institutes, and it could help facilitate the infusion of social science not just into NOAA but across a broad range of other federal agencies.
  • Enhance SBS representation and research capacity at Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), either through strengthening capacity at existing FFRDCs like UCAR/NCAR, or establishing a new FFRDC that focuses specifically on the application of social sciences. Such a step would raise the visibility of social science for weather applications; however, it may fail to capture the opportunities provided by being “close to the customer.”
  • Establish a Center of Excellence as a mechanism to directly link research to operational actors. (See discussion of the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] Centers of Excellence in Chapter 3.)

A truly successful program—one that is able to respond to the needs of the weather enterprise and of the American public—would likely need to be a combination of some of these different approaches. Such diversity would foster innovation and ensure that the needed research efforts could remain robust in the face of budget cuts and other events that might befall any one agency or entity. We suggest the immediate commencement of a planning process that involves strong representation of SBS expertise and representatives of the key federal agencies, private-sector weather companies, and other weather enterprise partners to explore the different options described above for supporting new collaborative efforts among physical and social scientists. By supporting a variety of “startup-scale” efforts, widely distributed geographically and topically, the most effective of these efforts can be identified and expanded to reach the needed critical mass and stability.

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2 See programs details at http://cpo.noaa.gov/ClimateDivisions/ClimateandSocietalInteractions/RISAProgram.aspx.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

Staffing considerations. Advancing any of these options successfully will require that NOAA’s leadership and management staff entrain more people with the expertise necessary for planning and managing SBS research activities who can provide consistent institutional knowledge of how SBS research is most effectively implemented, not only within NOAA’s weather-related operations but also end-to-end across the weather enterprise. This need has been spelled out in earlier reports, including Completing the Forecast: Characterizing and Communicating Uncertainty for Better Decisions Using Weather and Climate Forecasts (NRC, 2006a), which suggests that NWS needs to acquire core in-house expertise in relevant social sciences in order to (i) conduct research, particularly in response to short-term needs; (ii) help NWS identify priority research questions and appropriate methods for answering them; (iii) help NWS identify and engage relevant external social science or other expertise; and (iv) assist with product development.

Public–Private Partnerships to Support SBS Research

The input from private-sector companies collected by this Committee indicates that it is unrealistic to expect commercial companies to actively support fundamental social science research or to openly share proprietary marketing studies. However, some private companies are willing to explore and likely to engage in some cooperative social science research efforts, and eventually this willingness may spread to additional companies—particularly if this research is of a general, high-level nature that would not delve into the competitive dynamics of any particular market.

One possible mechanism for facilitating such joint research support is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA): a vehicle for a government agency and a private company or university to work together on research and development. A CRADA is intended to speed the commercialization of technology, optimize resources, and protect the private company involved, in part by allowing research results to be kept confidential for up to 5 years. It may be worth considering a cooperative initiative among interested private companies and appropriate federal agencies as partners in a CRADA that is focused on doing foundational and/or applied SBS research. NOAA already has one CRADA established with several large companies, including IBM, Microsoft, and others, for the “Big Data Project,”3 which can be explored as an opportunity for cross-sector efforts to gather and mine data of key relevance to SBS-weather research.

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3 See details at http://www.noaa.gov/big-data-project.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

There are some existing institutions that offer potentially useful models of innovative platforms for joint public–private research planning and funding in a focused area of societal concern, such as the following:

  • The Health Effects Institute (HEI) is a nonprofit independent research organization focused on health effects of air pollution (HEI, 2017). HEI research is jointly funded by federal agency programs (primarily from EPA) and a consortium of private-sector stakeholders (mostly from the auto industry). The research is strategically targeted to address stakeholder needs and concerns, and the research outcomes are rigorously reviewed and openly shared.
  • The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is an independent, nonprofit, scientific research and communications organization supported by property insurers and reinsurers (IBHS, 2017). IBHS conducts scientific research to identify and promote the most effective ways to strengthen homes, businesses, and communities against natural disasters and other causes of loss.

While an institution that is primarily focused on SBS-weather research could differ in some fundamental ways from these examples, the basic mechanisms used by these institutions may nonetheless be instructive.

Platforms for Intersectoral and Interagency Engagement

Just as important as the mechanisms for supporting research are mechanisms for cooperation in agenda-setting activities, community-building programs, and information sharing venues at the SBS-weather interface. As discussed in Chapter 3, successful past activities of this type were often stymied by a lack of continuity and sustained funding. Box 6.2 offers an example that illustrates how effective intersectoral engagement has been sustained in the realm of aviation. Additionally, we suggest below some options for sustained platforms for dialogue and strategic planning among public, private, and academic sectors of the weather enterprise.

  • The National Academies report Fair Weather: Effective Partnerships in Weather and Climate Services (2003b) explicitly pointed to AMS as a good “neutral host” for convening discussions about intersector partnerships. In that same vein, there are a number of existing American Meteorological Society (AMS) platforms that can continue to be utilized for engagement:
    • The AMS Commission on the Weather, Water and Climate Enterprise (CWWCE) is tasked to develop and implement programs that address the needs and concerns of all sectors of the weather, water, and climate enterprise; to provide appropriate venues and opportunities for communi-
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

      cations; and to engage the government, academic, and private sectors on pressing and strategic issues on behalf of the Society. The CWWCE could thus be an ideal incubator for SBS enterprise-wide planning.

    • The AMS Commission of Professional Affairs has Boards representing Broadcast Meteorologists, Certified Consulting Meteorologists, and Operational Government Meteorologists. These groups and others in the Commission all stand to benefit from advancing the development and application of SBS insights.
    • The AMS Board on Societal Impacts—under the Scientific and Technological Activities Commission—could provide a useful platform for some types of interdisciplinary planning processes, perhaps in partnership with the NWA Societal Impacts of Weather and Climate Committee (discussed below).
  • The National Weather Association (NWA) likewise offers an important platform for facilitating inter-sectoral, interagency engagement regarding the SBS. NWA membership is comprised of many NWS operational forecasters, as well as broadcast meteorologists and other private-sector meteorologists. Moreover, NWA has a Societal Impacts of Weather and Climate Committee that could be also the focal point for conversation.
  • New working groups could be established within AASHTO (The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, a nonprofit association representing state highway and transportation departments) and/or the Transportation Research Board’s standing committee structure to provide
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
  • platforms focused on identifying and discussing critical SBS research specifically for road weather concerns.

  • The newly formed Alliance for Integrative Approaches to Extreme Environmental Events (described in Chapter 3) can potentially offer a new means to facilitate research planning and discussion at the SBS-weather interface. The value of this option, however, will depend on many details of how the Alliance is actually implemented and whether a stable source of funding for the organization can be secured.
  • Many interdisciplinary and SBS professional associations offer opportunities to develop weather-focused interest groups, or to strengthen their weather hazard focus within existing interest groups. These could include, for example, the risk communication specialty group of the Society for Risk Analysis or the environmental communications division of the National Communications Association. Researchers addressing weather-related topics can be found in most if not all of the major disciplinary SBS associations, such as the American Psychological Association, Psychonomics, the American Sociological Association, the American Political Science Association, the National Communications Association, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as in interdisciplinary associations such as the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Social Studies of Science. The newly formed Behavioral Science and Policy Association illustrates a growing interest in the study of how fundamental social and behavioral sciences can inform problems of public interest.
  • Other important opportunities for cross-sector collaboration can occur in research-to-operations projects that include SBS scientists, operational meteorologists both in NWS and in the private sector, and physical-science academics, focusing on practical questions of mutual interest to all such groups.

For fostering more interagency cooperation and collaboration, one can look to the array of methods the Federal government currently employs. Some key examples of the facilitating organizations and methods for research related to the weather enterprise include the following:

  • The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), a part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), has been the principal means within the executive branch for science and technology (S&T) coordination across the Federal research enterprise. NSTC has included several committees, subcommittees, and working groups that directly relate to SBS and the weather enterprise. For example, the Committee on Science includes an SBS subcommittee charged with coordination and collaboration of research
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
  • agendas across federal agencies and departments. The Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources, and Sustainability includes a Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction that advises the OSTP and others about risk reduction, including mitigating weather-related disasters. The Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education includes several subcommittees charged with guidance for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development efforts across the federal government.

  • Congressionally authorized interagency working groups have been created for the purpose of coordination, some for specific priorities within the weather enterprise. For example, The National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program was authorized to “achieve major measureable reductions in the loss of live and property from windstorms through a coordinated Federal effort, in cooperation with other levels of government, academia, and the private sector aimed at improving understanding of windstorms and their impacts and developing and encouraging the implementation of cost-effective mitigation measures to reduce those impacts.”4
  • Agency and program level workgroups are one of the most common sources for supporting interagency coordination and encouraging broad stakeholder participation in initiatives and programs. These groups may be formal continuing organizations such as NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation “Ambassadors” program and Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Youth Preparedness “Affirmers” program, or more single-purpose or hazard-focused workshops convened and funded by one or more agencies to discuss a specific topic.
  • University-based centers with federal funding. Federal agencies fund research in universities that include interagency collaboration as part of the research development. For instance, see the discussion of DHS Centers of Excellence in Chapter 3.
  • Workshops and conferences sponsored by national organizations. Large national organizations with a common interest related to the weather enterprise provide significant opportunities for informal, practitioner-level federal coordination, through annual conferences and workshops that bring together stakeholders from different sectors, roles, and disciplines. The informal information sharing and opportunities for collaboration that result from these

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4 Public Law 114-52, September 30, 2015. National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015. 42 U.S. Code 15701.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

meetings should not be underestimated. A good example is the Symposium on Building a Weather Ready Nation held as part of the AMS annual meeting.

There are numerous opportunities for strengthening integration of SBS through these existing mechanisms. For example, the NSTC Committee on Science’s SBS subcommittee could be requested to lead a work group, with other committees and agency liaisons, to review opportunities and develop plans for collaboration across the weather enterprise. Or NOAA could lead new interagency efforts, for instance, by:

  • establishing an official work group for coordinating SBS-weather research across academic research centers, funded through key agencies (e.g., NOAA, NSF, DHS, Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], U.S. Geological Society [USGS]);
  • hosting an informal interagency work group to share research, applications, and practices that integrate SBS within the weather enterprise;
  • developing with other agencies and stakeholder organizations a regular conference topic track on integration of SBS in the weather enterprise;
  • working with other agencies to host a regular webinar series highlighting SBS research contributing to weather enterprise objectives.

Education and Training to Advance SBS in the Weather Enterprise

Fully engaging SBS in the ways discussed in this report would be a major departure from the current state of affairs within the weather enterprise, which would require changes in the culture and operation of NOAA and many of its partner organizations. A critical element in bringing about such changes is to augment the training of professionals throughout the weather enterprise. Below we suggest some possible steps forward in advancing the training of future professionals currently at various stages in their study and of professionals working today. In advancing these training efforts, it is important to learn from the successes and limitations of past capacity-building activities (such as those described in 3.1d) and to ensure that new efforts be accompanied by tracking and evaluation in order to identify successes and inform course corrections.

For training of future professionals, some options include:

  • Universities can develop new courses of study for people who wish to study the social and behavioral dimensions of weather, and initiate a project to develop high-quality source materials for such courses. This could include invited literature reviews and position papers co-authored by social scientists and meteorologists that focus on topics at the interface of the two. These
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
  • could be based on disciplinary lines (e.g., How can Sociology, Psychology, Economics, etc. contribute to the activities of the weather enterprise?), or could be focused around specific weather-related activities (e.g., How can SBS insights improve the communication of forecasts and warnings, post-event assessments?).

  • To facilitate those seeking a deeper immersion in learning at the weather/society interface, some universities could develop joint programs that offer degrees spanning both meteorological sciences and SBS disciplines. While developing interdisciplinary joint degree programs is certainly no trivial undertaking, there are a growing number of such programs that could provide useful models to build on. We note for example Columbia University’s M.A. program in “Climate and Society”5 designed to help young professionals and academics work at the nexus of social science, climate science, and public policy. Developing a comparable program focused on weather-timescale dynamics seems a feasible and worthwhile goal for a number of universities around the United States.
  • Universities, together with private-sector weather companies and relevant federal agency offices, can develop internship opportunities for advanced undergraduate and graduate students majoring in various social science disciplines to work within the weather enterprise, including both private-sector and government placements, to expose them to the opportunities and challenges of the profession and to create opportunities for post-doctoral training that supports both social and physical science PhDs who want to broaden their horizons by learning, interacting, and collaborating with peers and more senior professionals from other disciplines.

We note also the importance of encouraging underrepresented groups to become active scholars and practitioners working at this weather/society interface. A recent AMS statement about enhancing diversity within the atmospheric sciences6 articulates why such diversity is so valuable to society—a need that is all the more important for helping shape research on the social dimensions of weather enterprise operations:

The effective engagement, recruitment, and retention of underrepresented and underserved groups within the atmospheric sciences are vitally important. Increased diversity promotes innovation and strengthens our community’s ability to tackle research questions of great complexity and social consequence through the contribution of a wide

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5 See http://climatesociety.ei.columbia.edu.

6 From a May 2017 AMS statement: see statement at https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/about-ams/ams-statements/statements-of-the-ams-in-force/bachelor-s-degree-in-atmospheric-science1.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

range of perspectives and expertise. The environmental science literacy of the general public will be enhanced by their engagement with a diverse atmospheric science workforce that is well connected to all segments of society.

This issue relates to earlier discussion about trust as a key factor shaping how people respond to hazardous weather information. More diversity in the weather enterprise will bring in additional voices and perspectives to help establish trust with critical audiences, increasing both the relevance and the uptake of weather information.

For training of professionals, some options might include:

  • Developing short workshops that provide weather professionals (meteorologists, forecasters, broadcasters) and physical science academics with basic understanding of key SBS research topics and methodologies and of critical new insights being gained through SBS research. (More discussion of this concept below).
  • For physical scientists and social scientists who want opportunities for more in-depth study and learning about issues at the interface of weather and society, new mid-career training opportunities could be developed, perhaps in the form of quarter, semester, or year-long research leaves.7 Similar opportunities could be created with interested private companies.

One recent encouraging development is that a small group of SBS experts within NOAA (coming from NWS, OAR, SeaGrant programs) are developing a series of educational modules aimed at helping the agency’s forecasters, hydrologists, and other physical scientists gain some basic understanding of SBS disciplines, concepts, and research methods and to identify potential applications of these approaches in the weather enterprise. The Committee was told that these modules would also include (i) examples of how SBS studies have helped to improve specific NWS products and processes in the past; (ii) explanation of the standards and requirements for sound SBS research, to illustrate why this research can often be a lengthy process (and conversely, to illustrate why sound research cannot be done “on the fly” and why not every SBS study can provide simple, immediate, and definitive answers); and (iii) practical information about where to find resources and SBS scholars, and how to engage researchers who have the expertise appropriate for addressing different types of research questions.

As of this writing, this effort is just a small pilot project being tested out with an initial cohort of roughly 20 NWS/Weather Forecast Office (WFO) employees from around the country. It will involve a combination of in-person training sessions and virtual webinar

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7 See, for example, this NSF mid-career fellowship program: https://www.nsf.gov/sbe/ses/mms/midaward.jsp.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

sessions over a period of about 6 months. There is not yet any identified source of sustained funding to ensure this activity can expand or continue for the long term.

The Committee cannot comment on the specific program content, or evaluate the effectiveness of this specific effort. We do however, strongly support the initiative, and we believe that if this effort is broadly and strategically implemented, it could have valuable impacts—both to enlighten those who remain skeptical about the value of SBS research, and to provide “grounding” for those already eager to engage SBS in their work. The Committee thus strongly encourages that such efforts continue, but with the following caveats:

  • The material being used for these courses should be carefully peer reviewed by independent experts in the relevant SBS disciplines.
  • There needs to be a broader strategic vision developed for how this program will be sustained and expanded over time, how it will build on past SBS-related training programs (e.g., from Weather and Society * Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) workshops), and how it will ensure these modules are consistent and complementary with other related training programs (e.g., trainings currently provided for Integrated Warning Teams, Science & Operations Officers).
  • Training should also make it clear for participants that gaining an introductory-level understanding of SBS concepts is not a substitute for actually working with credentialed SBS experts. While the concepts learned might help inform outreach and communication duties, actual SBS research cannot be done as an “amateur” effort.

If the initial pilot efforts prove successful, there is a wide array of other stakeholders across the weather enterprise who would likely benefit from such a program, such as individuals in private-sector companies and university settings, broadcast meteorologists, and emergency and transportation managers. These programs could be expanded through creative new partnerships, for instance, with trainings hosted at scientific and professional meetings of AMS and NWA (both for their student and their professional-level members) and at UCAR member meetings (for the academic community). NOAA could also work with groups that are highly experienced in developing and administering training programs within the weather enterprise, such as:

  • FEMA’s Emergency Management Higher Education Program (FEMA, 2017a)
  • The DHS Centers of Excellence programs (described in Chapter 3)
  • NCAR’s COMET program (UCAR, 2017)

The NWS’s Operations Workforce Analysis and the consequent “Evolve” initiative provide further motivation for SBS-related training. The forecaster’s role increasingly involves

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

working closely with core partners to communicate information about high-impact weather threats to support effective decision-making (see the Section 2.1 discussion of IDSS). Consequently, there is a growing need to train and prepare forecasters to meet these new job requirements, which go beyond what forecasters primarily are educated and trained to do (i.e., understanding and forecasting weather phenomena).

The type of social science training courses discussed above can fulfill some aspects of these emerging forecaster training needs if the courses include a focus on effectively translating new SBS insights into practice within an operational environment, if they can be made available to all forecasters in the near future, and if they are updated regularly as critical new SBS insights emerge. One example of a recent IDSS-relevant course for forecasters (and others) that could be built on is Communicating Forecast Uncertainty developed by COMET.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

Alongside these efforts to help meteorologists gain a better and deeper understanding of SBS concepts and research methods, parallel efforts in the other direction should be encouraged. Advancing the integration of SBS and weather requires enticing more social scientists to explore and pursue opportunities for actively working at this interface. Most social scientists have little familiarity with meteorology, NWS operations, or the weather enterprise more broadly (beyond being regular consumers of weather information), so a well-designed training course about weather enterprise “basics” could help social scientists better understand what a rich field of study this presents.

Many of the actors listed above—NWS, AMS, NWA, UCAR—could develop short courses for social science students and professionals about basic concepts of weather preparedness, forecast development and communication, and response. Short courses

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×

could include field visits to local WFOs, weather company offices, and broadcast meteorology studios to illustrate the real-world environment of today’s weather enterprise. Outreach for these sorts of trainings could be offered through university social science departments and relevant SBS professional societies and conferences. Here too there is no pretense that this training would equip social scientists to “do” meteorology. Rather, the goal is to help them feel conversant enough in basic concepts and terminology to feel comfortable proactively engaging with their physical science counterparts and to proactively seek new research opportunities at this interface.

Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
Page 123
Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
×
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Suggested Citation:"6 A Framework to Sustainably Support and Effectively Use Social and Behavioral Science Research in the Weather Enterprise." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24865.
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Next: 7 Summary of Key Findings and Recommendations »
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Our ability to observe and forecast severe weather events has improved markedly over the past few decades. Forecasts of snow and ice storms, hurricanes and storm surge, extreme heat, and other severe weather events are made with greater accuracy, geographic specificity, and lead time to allow people and communities to take appropriate protective measures. Yet hazardous weather continues to cause loss of life and result in other preventable social costs.

There is growing recognition that a host of social and behavioral factors affect how we prepare for, observe, predict, respond to, and are impacted by weather hazards. For example, an individual’s response to a severe weather event may depend on their understanding of the forecast, prior experience with severe weather, concerns about their other family members or property, their capacity to take the recommended protective actions, and numerous other factors. Indeed, it is these factors that can determine whether or not a potential hazard becomes an actual disaster. Thus, it is essential to bring to bear expertise in the social and behavioral sciences (SBS)—including disciplines such as anthropology, communication, demography, economics, geography, political science, psychology, and sociology—to understand how people’s knowledge, experiences, perceptions, and attitudes shape their responses to weather risks and to understand how human cognitive and social dynamics affect the forecast process itself.

Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise explores and provides guidance on the challenges of integrating social and behavioral sciences within the weather enterprise. It assesses current SBS activities, describes the potential value of improved integration of SBS and barriers that impede this integration, develops a research agenda, and identifies infrastructural and institutional arrangements for successfully pursuing SBS-weather research and the transfer of relevant findings to operational settings.

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