Research Scientists

William Burns, Ph.D.

is currently a research scientist at Decision Research, a consultant at the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) and teaches part-time in the College of Business at Cal State University San Marcos. His early work focused on the public’s response to natural disasters and technological accidents while on the faculty at the University of Iowa and University of California Davis. This research was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and has been published in academic journals such as Management Science and Risk Analysis.

Influenced by the events of September 11th and hurricane Katrina he has resumed his academic research and now is focusing on modeling public response and the subsequent economic impacts of disasters (special emphasis on terrorism) on urban areas. A paper (with Paul Slovic) “Predicting Public Response to a Terrorist Strike” was awarded ‘Best Paper’ at the 2005 Society for Risk Analysis Conference. Investigations over the near future seek to develop a new generation of research focused on a dynamic rather than a static portrayal of risk perception, risk-related behavior, and policy preference. In a similar fashion, this program of research also explores new economic models that may be linked to behavioral measures of risk in order to accurately predict economic impacts.

Curriculum Vitae

Burns, W. J. (2009, December). Comparing the economic consequences of three disasters: Accounting for fear and perceived risk. Paper presented at the Society for Risk Analysis conference, Baltimore, MD.


James Giesecke (Monash U.), William J. Burns (Decision Research), Adam Rose (USC), Tony Barrett (ABS), and Marnie Griffith (Monash U.). (2012, August). Regional Dynamics Under Adverse Physical and Behavioral Shocks: The Economic Consequences of a Chlorine Terrorist Attack in the Los Angeles Financial District. In P. Nijkamp, A. Rose, & K. Kourtit (Eds.), Regional Science Matters: Studied Dedicated to Walter Isard. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

Public Response to Threat:
Cross-Disciplinary Contributions and Collaboration

Eugene, Oregon
August 10-11, 2009

Financial Crisis: Business Survey Summary Results

Download: The Financial Crisis: Perceptions of Business Leaders and Public PowerPoint presentation, January 8, 2009

Download: Business Survey Round One Nov 2008

Acknowledgments. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers SES-0901036 and SES-0728934.


Dr. Burns was interviewed on "The Takeaway", a co-production of PRI (Public Radio International) and WNYC Radio in collaboration with the BBC World Service, The New York Times and WGBH Boston.  Hosted John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji.

Listen to the interview from October 20, 2008: "We have nothing to fear but… the economy, not terrorism":

"Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many Americans have equated fear with terrorist acts. But new research shows that a greater fear has finally trumped terror: the current financial crisis."



Risk Perception and the Economic Crisis: A Longitudinal Study of the Decay of Perceived Risk

Survey 1 (PDF)

Survey 2 (PDF)

Survey 3 (PDF)

Survey 4 (PDF)

Survey 5 (PDF)

Survey 6 (PDF)

Survey 7 (PDF)


Burns, William J. (2009, January 5). The Path Well Taken: Making the Right Decisions about Risks from Terrorism. Cato Unbound, Lead Essay. Retrieved January 8, 2009, from

Burns, William J. and Paul Slovic (2008). "The Diffusion of Fear: Modeling Community Response to a Terrorist Strike". Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation, 5(1). Download PDF

The Diffusion of Fear: Modeling Community Response to a Terrorist Strike paper supplemental information- Download PDF


Risk-Communication Tools

Risk Communication Exercise: Dirty Bomb in an Urban Area Download PDF



Czech Republic PyroMeeting Conference May 13, 2008

Download the PowerPoint presentation

BERI Symposium Presentation April 29, 2008

Download the PowerPoint presentation

Fear and Economic Impacts: CSUSM Research Colloquium March 20, 2008

Download the PowerPoint presentation

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