PD5.1 Reflecting on the Past, Present, and Future of NWS Service Assessments: Integrating Social Science into a Multidisciplinary Approach to Link Information to Knowledge and Society

Tuesday, 14 January 2020: 3:00 PM
151B (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Vankita Brown, NOAA/NWS, Silver Spring, MD; and A. Brinson, C. Ellis, J. Garmon, L. Johnson, M. J. Moreland, L. D. Williams, C. Woods, and S. Van Cooten

For more than 60 years, the National Weather Service (NWS) has conducted national service assessments for significant hydrometeorological, oceanographic, or geological events. Service assessments evaluate NWS performance and ensure the effectiveness of products and services in meeting the mission. The goal of service assessments is to evaluate the performance of the NWS and improve the ability of the NWS to protect life and property by identifying and sharing best practices in operations and procedures, recommending service enhancements, and addressing service deficiencies. Traditionally, this process – which serves as an evaluative mechanism to assess activities before, during, and after events to determine the usefulness of NWS products and services – has been composed of assessment teams that have been predominantly meteorologists. However, given the lack of capacity within NWS to adequately address topics concerning the human dimensions of weather, NWS must reach across other line offices within NOAA and outside of government to gather the appropriate expertise. In lieu of this expertise, NWS staff, most of whom are not trained in the science of collecting social and behavioral data, must devise a plan to collect data from its various partners and stakeholders.

After the National Weather Service convenes these multi-disciplinary teams with varying expertise to address the issues for each service assessment, team members generally meet for the first time when deployed to assessments and are tasked with conducting in person interviews with key stakeholders, including emergency managers, media personnel, state and local government officials, and affected Weather Service personnel. Often times, these assessment team members have limited experience with cognitive or in-person interviews. However, since 2008 the NWS has implemented a nuanced approach for conducting Service Assessments that includes enlisting social scientists as team members as a part of this investigative process. Although enlisting social scientists on the assessment team provides expertise in social and behavioral data collection, the data collection challenge remains for those who are not trained in social science methods. Despite these challenges, the inclusion of social and behavioral scientists has resulted in a more robust process that has benefited greatly from the diverse perspectives offered. This approach of Integrating social science has resulted in a more holistic understanding of societal impacts, and in turn, informed the assessment team in ways that equal more meaningful recommendations and best practices to improve product and service delivery.

This panel will discuss the benefits of integrating physical and social science for a multidisciplinary approach, the challenges and needs to implement a more robust inclusive approach (e.g., training, research design), and outcomes for linking the knowledge ascertained from multidisciplinary service assessments to policy and society. Though this panel will focus on NWS service assessments, it also serves as a forum for the broader challenge of integrating social and physical science in order to further understand how the weather community can inform and benefit society.

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