In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the National Science Foundation is funding dozens of behavioral science research projects through a quick-response grant program designed to help the researchers collect ephemeral data. The funded research will cover a wide spectrum of topics, from investigating how hurricane victims used family networks to seek support and shelter, to investigating whether stereotyping and prejudice played a role in the hurricane response.
The Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER) program-which distributes grants of up to $200,000-allows researchers to bypass the foundation's normally lengthy process of sending proposals out for review by outside scientists, which can take six months or more. Researchers are always welcome to apply for SGER grants, but after the hurricane, several NSF departments specifically requested hurricane-related research proposals.
"The thing that makes a SGER is time urgency," says Amber Story, a program director in social psychology at NSF. "The farther you get away from the event, the harder it will be to collect data."
Several departments at NSF are distributing behavioral science SGERs, including the social psychology program and the interdisciplinary program in human and social dynamics. All together, the foundation received more than 200 grant proposals specific to Hurricane Katrina by the end of October and is funding more than 30 of them. NSF is also funding Katrina-related social science research through the National Hazards Center, a research institute based at the University of Colorado.