FEEDBACK FROM THE FIELD: Disaster Research in the Social Sciences: Lessons Learned, Challenges, and Future Trajectories

August 2004 (VOL. 22, NO. 2)

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The Disaster Research Center (DRC) at the University of Delaware, with the financial support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the College of Arts and Sciences, held a two-day conference titled “Disaster Research in the Social Sciences: Lessons Learned, Challenges, and Future Trajectories.” The conference highlighted the interdisciplinary and international nature of the disaster research field and focused on: 1) the growth and development of the field of disasters, from the perspective of the Social Sciences; 2) theoretical, methodological, and public policy contributions of the field; 3) lessons learned and best practices that have emerged from this area of research; and 4) future trajectories or opportunities for Social Science research in the study of disasters. \r\nConference participants included leading scholars and researchers, practitioners, representatives from funding organizations, and graduate and undergraduate students. The conference allowed participants to discuss substantive, theoretical, and methodological issues and concerns relevant to the field as well as to generate new research initiatives that will contribute to our understanding and knowledge regarding the study of disasters. Substantive and critical issues discussed during this two-day conference included: the growth and development of disaster research in the Social Sciences; theoretical and methodological contributions and challenges in disaster research; impact of disaster research for practitioners; the role and importance of multi- and inter-disciplinary research in the disaster field; the development of an international research agenda; the role of research centers in training the new generation of researchers; funding disaster research and priorities for the future in a post-9/11 environment; major research areas and issues that need to be developed and explored over the next decade at both the national and international level; and efforts to establish collaborative research initiatives across disciplines and geographical boundaries. \r\nDRC was the first Social Science research center in the world devoted to the study of disasters, so it was appropriate and timely that a conference of such magnitude was held at the University of Delaware at a particularly historical moment for the DRC and the field of disaster studies. This conference not only provided a stimulating intellectual environment but it also presented an opportunity to celebrate DRC’s 40th anniversary and to examine the impact and contributions of the Center to the field of disaster research both nationally and internationally. Moreover, during the two-day event, conference participants had an opportunity to pay tribute to Enrico L. Quarantelli and Russell R. Dynes, two of the founding fathers of DRC and disaster research from a social science perspective.\r\n