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Jack R. Friedman, Ph.D.

I am a social scientist who studies and designs solutions to address how the science of hazards can be better integrated into decision support services for emergency managers and the multiple publics that they serve. Located in the Natural Hazards Mission Area, I work with both Risk Reduction and the Office of Emergency Management to create real-world decision support tools.

I joined the Natural Hazards Mission Area as a Social Scientist at the beginning of December 2022. I came to the USGS from the University of Oklahoma’s Center for Applied Social Research where I was a Senior Research Scientist (2011-2022). I tend to approach problems with the eye of an ethnographic researcher: I seek to understand local perspectives (including the cultures of organizations), cultural models, histories, ways of thinking, and real-world resources/constraints/structures to identify and address gaps, tensions, and potential points of (often unrecognized) synchronicity between people and groups.

Decision Support Tool Development
I have experience applying social science to improve the delivery of science to decision-makers. Before starting work with USGS, I collaborated with NOAA and the NWS (2015-2022) to design, test, and develop methods for the broad implementation of the Brief Vulnerability Overview Tool (BVOT) — a GIS-based tool that displays local vulnerabilities associated with specific weather hazards that is integrated into the everyday workflow of NWS meteorologists. The goal of all decision support-focused work should be to ensure that scientific findings can be transitioned into an actionable and operationalizable form for the end users. This takes careful research and a commitment to open dialogue and changes in business-as-usual practices from all parties - but the result is something that can truly protect lives, property, and the nation's critical resources.

Drought and Socio-Ecological Systems
I have experience conducting socio-ecological and coupled human and natural systems research on drought and water limitations. Before starting work with USGS, I led a research team (2013-2018) that examined socio-ecological responses to drought and drought management across the state of Oklahoma, including working with tribal partners and agricultural communities. In addition, I was the PI (2015-2019) on a project that examined cultural and cognitive barriers to “whole river” solutions to water limitations — before, during, and after formal periods of drought — along the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. 

Mental Health
I have almost a decade of research experience in psychiatry, mental health, and mental health care. Mental health care is critical for people and communities that are impacted by natural hazards. At the same time, many scientists who study natural hazards and seek to protect people with their science are at risk of suffering from stress, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress. As such, I hope to contribute to raising awareness of mental health issues and to help mitigate the risks associated with these challenges.