What Methods Do Social Scientists Use to Study Disasters? An Analysis of the Social Science Extreme Events Research Network

Lori Peek, Heather Champeau, Jessica Austin, Mason Mathews, Haorui Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Methods matter. They influence what we know and who we come to know about in the context of hazards and disasters. Research methods are of profound importance to the scholarly advancement of the field and, accordingly, a growing number of publications focus on research methods and ethical practices associated with the study of extreme events. Still, notable gaps exist. The National Science Foundation-funded Social Science Extreme Events Research (SSEER) network was formed, in part, to respond to the need for more specific information about the status and expertise of the social science hazards and disaster research workforce. Drawing on data from 1,013 SSEER members located across five United Nations (UN) regions, this article reports on the demographic characteristics of SSEER researchers; provides a novel inventory of methods used by social science hazards and disaster researchers; and explores how methodological approaches vary by specific researcher attributes including discipline, professional status, researcher type based on level of involvement in the field, hazard/disaster type studied, and disaster phase studied. The results have implications for training, mentoring, and workforce development initiatives geared toward ensuring that a diverse next generation of social science researchers is prepared to study the root causes and social consequences of disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1066-1094
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • census
  • disasters
  • natural hazards
  • research methods
  • social sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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