National Severe Storms Laboratory

Knowledge and Action: The Role of Social Sciences

Mark Shafer

Oklahoma Climatological Survey

30 June 2009, 4:00 PM

National Weather Center, Room 3910
120 David L. Boren Blvd.
University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK
Directions to the NWC (.pdf, 60 kb)

“Science has the power to illuminate, but not to solve, the deeper problems of mankind. For always after knowledge come choice and action. Both of them intensely personal.” This quote, from Paul Sears in Deserts on the March, was written in 1935, at the height of the Dust Bowl. Yet more than 70 years later, these words ring equally true. Physical Sciences have made great advancements in understanding nature, but turning knowledge into action is rapidly emerging as a major focus of research. Even the best warnings sometimes go unheeded. The reasons behind this are of great interest to a group of social scientists, including disciplines such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, communication, and economics.

Decades ago, C.P. Snow wrote that the middle ground between scientists and the literary public was where “creative chances occur.” This observation extends equally well to the physical and social sciences. Several efforts are tackling this “cultural divide”, fostering interactions between the two communities and thus more opportunities for creative chances.

This presentation will provide a brief summary of how physical scientists, social scientists, and policy-makers approach problems and highlight some programs that are helping to bridge those divides. In particular, OU’s Social Sciences Woven Into Meteorology (SSWIM), the American Meteorological Society’s Policy Program, and the Weather and Science * Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) initiatives will be discussed.