The American Meteorological Society has a new (1 yr old) journal Weather Climate and Society that is trying to integrate research across several disciplines. For people like myself, the birth of journals like this is comforting because it suggests there is a growing community of researchers interested in applying hard physical science to address social issues. This is a good thing. But like everyone trying to do this, they are running into real challenges. Here are portions of an editorial that resonated with some of my own experiences.
Jeffrey K. Lazo
....[A] colleague stopped by to ask my advice on a manuscript concept he was considering submitting to Weather, Climate, and Society. He is an outstanding research meteorologist who has been working with a team on models to improve flood warning systems in developing countries. He was interested in demonstrating the economic benefits of the improved warning system and wanted to apply a cost–loss model. Based on his reading of a number of articles in meteorological journals, the cost–loss model was the method of choice for demonstrating economic value.
My initial reaction was largely visceral, because I have a dislike for the cost–loss model. The cost–loss model has been used extensively in the meteorology literature as “the economic model,” but it does not really show up in the economics literature (I should note that my Ph.D. is in economics and, in six years of graduate school, I never once heard of the cost–loss model). A simple search for “cost–loss model” in AMS publications yields 161 hits. A similar search of the economic literature yielded none....
My concern is that the cost–loss model as used in most articles in the meteorology literature does not even begin to capture the full value of economics and build upon the extensive literature in economics on the value of information and decision making under uncertainty. It is simply too simple....
That said, the first issue of Weather, Climate, and Society contained an article based on a theoretical extension of the cost–loss model (Millner 2009; in fact, I recommend reading Millner for an explanation of the cost–loss model). In that article, Millner showed that incorporating a specific behavioral feature in the cost–loss model resulted in net benefit estimates potentially significantly lower than those derived from the basic model. His article demonstrated that behavioral aspects limit the effectiveness of the cost–loss model. I feel this should be read as a demonstration that the meteorological community needs to move beyond the cost–loss model. Building in part on the limitations of the cost–loss model that Millner’s work suggests, I encourage the meteorological community to move beyond the use of that model as the basis for defining economic value....
Weather, Climate, and Society aims to publish “scientific research and analysis on the interactions of weather and climate with society.” This editor’s opinion is that this will largely involve the integration of the social sciences applied to topics of hydrometeorological concern (including weather, water, and climate broadly defined). In light of the prior discussion on cost–loss models, this means we need to better integrate valid economics as economic theory, methods, and practice frame economics with analysis of hydrometeorological issues. More broadly, we need to use appropriate theories and methods from all of the social sciences and not necessarily “accepted” versions of social sciences from the physical sciences perspective.
All of the social sciences have extensive bodies of knowledge they can bring to the study of hydrometeorological issues. Some have a longer history of examining issues related to weather, water, and climate; for instance, sociologists have long studied evacuation decision making during hurricanes. However, for the most part the research and literature is rather thin at the intersection of social and physical sciences relevant to audiences of Weather, Climate, and Society.
Given this landscape, there are definite challenges for the authors, reviewers, and editors for this journal. First, is that most of us (authors, reviewers, and editors) are fairly new to this effort at developing a highly disciplinary but very broadly focused journal combining atmospheric and social sciences. There is a learning curve at this early stage of the journal, because we are all developing and setting standards and expectations. There have been and will continue to be some frustrations as these are clarified. However, as these are clarified and we move forward,Weather, Climate, and Society will be the premier journal for interdisciplinary work “at the interface of weather and/or climate and society.”
There are also difficulties in writing, reviewing, and editing manuscripts for such a highly interdisciplinary journal. For instance, authors, reviewers, and editors for economics journals are almost always economists. I suspect authors, reviewers, and editors for meteorology journals are almost always meteorologists, or at least in general from the “hard” sciences. In addition to meteorologists, authors, reviewers, and editors for Weather, Climate, and Society are from the “harder sciences” such as economists, sociologists, geographers, anthropologists, etc. One challenge for authors will be to maintain high standards for their research while also being able to respond to very diverse (and sometimes divergent) critiques from reviewers with expertise from different disciplines.
For the time being at least, this may make Weather, Climate, and Society the most difficult journal across all American Meteorological Society (AMS) publications to publish in and to be an editor for. However, it may well also make Weather, Climate, and Society the most valuable and dynamic journal in terms of moving the various disciplines forward in new, challenging, and interesting areas of societally relevant research, methods, and applications.(I hope I cut out enough of it that I'm not infringing on copyrights).