In the mid 1990s, a group of senior scholars in the social sciences noted the need for more systematic efforts to recruit, train, and mentor emerging scholars with an interest in hazards and disaster research. These scholars sought and received funding from the National Science Founation (NSF) to recruit what became the first of group of “Enabling Fellows.” These 13 social scientists from a range of backgrounds and interests, and their mentors, first met in Woods Hole, Mass., in the summer of 1996. Research and mentoring continued apace for the following two years.
Based on the success of the first round, a second round of the “enabling project” was undertaken in 2002-2004. The two iterations of the project provided considerable support for the enabling fellows, which, in turn, has yielded substantial scholarship on the part of this group of highly motivated scholars. As of late 2007, the two groups of fellows—27 in all—have produced over 42 peer reviewed articles, three books, 22 book chapters in the hazards and disasters field, and were awarded 18 research grants totaling over $3.2 million. Most of the enabling fellows from the first two rounds have continued successful careers in their disciplines and in hazards and disasters studies; many of these fellows are assuming leadership roles in their disciplines and in the research field, and several of the mentors in this year’s program are former fellows.
Hazards and disasters research--whether natural, technological, or intentional--has long relied on conciously interdisciplinary approaches to research and education. Current issues of concern include disaster vulnerability, community and infrastructure resilience, and the promotion of hazard mitigation, just to name a few. Successful research not only involves groups with different disciplinary backgrounds, but also transcends disciplinary boundaries to create new realms of knowledge.
At the same time, traditional disciplines in the social sciences have, particularly since the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, gained a greater appreciation for what these disciplines can bring to the study of these critical phenomena. At the same time, the disciplines—or, more precisely, the questions of greatest importance to these disciplines—have been profoundly influenced by risks, hazards, and disasters that have become manifest in recent decades.
We invite well-trained scholars from well-defined disciplinary programs as well as interdisciplinary fields to apply for a two-year program of research development and mentoring. We will select sixteen fellows who will engage in extended intellectual exchange with their mentor or mentors.
We seek scholars who have been hired into tenure-track positions at research universities, and who are beginning to establish their research careers. While we do seek scholars at PhD granting programs and institutions, we are not rigid in this criterion: our goal is to recruit fellows who are not only likely to be successful researchers, but who will also be instrumental in recruiting yet another generation of scholars interested in and trained to undertake research on hazards and disasters.