The Ethics of Quick-Response Disaster Research

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
James KENDRA, School of Public Policy and Administration and Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA
Research on hazard and disaster is essential, owing to continuing shifts in the nature and prevalence of various dangers. Quick response disaster research, a method for studying disaster made prominent at the Disaster Research Center, remains an important part of the scholar’s data-gathering methods. To reach the scene of a disaster as early as possible allows the researcher to make observations that might not be possible otherwise, such as the fleeting decisionmaking context, challenges defined and overcome, or events whose import might be dulled, diluted, or magnified in retrospective accounts such as after-action reports. Yet recent critics assert that quick response research is improper, even deviant. Using actual quick response field studies as cases, this presentation will rebut current misunderstandings about the nature and practice of quick response research, finding that research does not consume scarce local supplies; research does not distract officials from their duties; and people in affected areas retain their ability to give informed consent. Prudent research practices, familiar from all domains of social science research, are adequate in the disaster setting. Given that freedom of speech and inquiry are highly treasured human rights, this paper concludes by asserting that quick response disaster research, like all research, is an important element of freedom whose curtailment would itself be ethically suspect.