Q. What is social science?
“Social science is the process of describing, explaining and predicting human behavior and institutional structures in interaction with their environments…” NOAA Science Advisory Board

Social science is not a singular discipline but rather a collection of associated disciplines. For example:

  • Sociology and anthropology help understand issues such as vulnerability to weather and climate events and related demography (age, education, ethnicity) is also important to assessing who is at risk.
  • Economics can determine the benefits of NOAA’s products and services.
  • Psychology is also important for understanding people’s behavior, such as why some people go surfing while others evacuate when warned of a storm.
  • Communication is particularly important for understanding how to convey uncertainty related to weather variability and climate change.
  • Political science helps understand formal and informal governance structures including how to affect behavioral change by targeting key community groups, such as through the churches or fishermen associations.”


Q. How does social science differ from other sciences?
Social science focuses on people, more specifically, on the relationships among people


Q. Is social science a robust science?
Absolutely! Social science uses the scientific method just like other sciences.

The Scientific Method Ongoing Process



Q. What do social scientists do? (Adapted from the University of Kentucky College of Communication & Information)

  1. Social scientists attempt to develop theory by generalizing from a number of individual cases or examples  (Induction)
  2. They then make predictions from the general rules to a new set of events or cases (Deduction)
  3. They test their predictions
  4. With the knowledge gained from the tests, they reconsider the generalizations they made
  5. The process begins again


Q. What kind of data do social scientists collect?
Social scientists collect either quantitative or qualitative data or both depending on the study


Q. How does social science Help NOAA’s Mission?
Social Science helps NOAA:

  • Manage, mitigate and communicate risk – integrated risk assessment, risk communication and behavior
  • Value the agency’s products and services and valuing what is at risk – economic statistics and valuation studies
  • Link earth systems to human well-being (housing, job security, clean water access) – social indicators
  • Measure long-term successes and societal impacts – performance metrics