The recently established PEER Center is committed to integrating social science and earthquake engineering research. How should integration proceed? What can social scientists contribute to PEER’s interest in performance-based engineering? These and other questions were addressed at a PEER Workshop on Planning, Policy Analysis and Economics in Earthquake Research which was convened (May 14-15, 1998) to help develop an appropriate research agenda.
Generally, it appears that whereas performance-based engineering seeks optimal solutions to the achievement of given standards, social scientists can contribute to the derivation of optimal standards. In this sense, the complementarity of social science and earthquake engineering is clear. The details, of course, are where the interesting issues lie. There is no single social science perspective. And, the aggregation of individuals’ preferences to some social welfare function from which optimal standards of structural design can be inferred is problematic. These two thoughts were repeated in various forms throughout the two days of the meetings. Day One featured three papers by distinguished social scientists who were not known for previous research in the earthquake field but who were expected to be insightful. Their presentations as well as illuminating commentary from three discussants and spirited discussions from the workshop participants set the stage. Follow-up group discussions on Day Two sought to translate the discussions into tangi- ble research questions.
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