Consensus Report

Integrating Social and Behavioral Sciences Within the Weather Enterprise (2017)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Our ability to observe and predict severe weather events has improved markedly over the last few decades. Forecasts and warnings are being made with greater accuracy, geographic specificity, and lead time, which allows people and communities to take appropriate protective measures. Yet, as many recent hazardous weather events have illustrated, social and behavioral factors -- including people’s contexts, experiences, knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes -- shape responses to weather risks.

A better understanding of social and behavioral factors is needed to improve hazard monitoring, assessment, forecasting, and communication processes, and to aid emergency management and inform protective action strategies such as evacuations. Social and behavioral science insights can also aid strategies to develop more resilient urban infrastructure and other efforts to improve weather readiness, and to assure effective long-term recovery from weather disasters.

Government agencies, private sector weather companies, and academic research institutions in the weather enterprise all have critical roles to play in advancing the support for and application of research at the intersection of weather and social and behavioral sciences. This report suggests a 3-pronged approach to: (1) invest in leadership to build awareness of the many ways social and behavioral science can help advance goals of the weather enterprise, (2) build sustainable institutional capacity to support and apply social and behavioral science research; and (3) invest in research that will fill critical knowledge gaps.