Breaking Through Developing Multidisciplinary Solutions to Global Grand Challenges

Resilient Communities: Strengthening Post-Disaster Recovery by Understanding Interdependent Social and Physical Networks


Seungyoon Lee
Associate Professor of Communication
Rosalee Clawson
Department Head and Professor of Political Science
Abhijit Deshmukh
Professor and James J. Solberg Head of Industrial Engineering
Daniel Kelly
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Megan Sapp Nelson
Associate Professor of Library Science
Justin Seipel
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Satish Ukkusuri
Professor of Civil Engineering

Project Summary

Globally, disasters remain among the most likely and devastating events that individuals will encounter. According to the Emergency Events Database, over the past three decades natural disasters have killed 2.5 million people and inflicted billions of dollars in property damage. To facilitate successful rebuilding of communities, a systems approach is needed that considers the interdependence between physical and social networks. Such an approach is critical at this juncture because the nexus of climate change, an aging infrastructure, weakened social capital, and increasing social inequality strains our society’s ability to rebuild successful post-disaster communities.

This research team is working to develop policy recommendations based on systems science that consider the interdependence of communities’ physical infrastructure with their social networks. This will ultimately enable citizens and other key stakeholders to rebuild stronger post-disaster communities, enhance community resilience, and reduce economic losses in disasters. This pilot study involves the modeling of interdependent networks with various community characteristics based on empirical data to be collected from several small towns in southern Indiana (Henryville, Marysville, New Pekin, and Chelsea) that were hit by deadly tornadoes in March 2012. The recovery effort is ongoing, with many of the homes, businesses, and community facilities having been rebuilt in 2013 and some still under construction. The team has held qualitative interviews with key disaster response personnel, field visits to the targeted communities, distributed questionnaires, and coded data. A dissemination strategy for their work includes a workshop, publishing in academic journals, targeted policy papers for emergency manager and disaster response personnel, and potentially an edited volume.

Principal Investigator Bio

Seung Yoon Lee
Associate Professor of Communication

Professor Lee's research interest focuses on the evolution of communication, knowledge, and collaboration networks in and across organizations over time. Her current emphasis is on applying theories of socio-cultural evolution to complex forms of networks including multiplex and multimodal networks. Her ongoing projects examine the evolution of creative interaction and social ties in project teams; the role of network ties among people and organizations in disaster recovery; and the determinants and outcomes of multiplex ties in various settings. Professor Lee has received the 2009 W. Charles Redding Dissertation Award from the Organizational Communication Division of the International Communication Association. She teaches courses on social network analysis, organizational communication as well as research methods and statistics.


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