Patrick Roberts

Photo of Patrick Roberts
Political Scientist
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. in government, University of Virginia; M.A. in political science, Claremont Graduate University; B.A. in politics, University of Dallas


Patrick S. Roberts is a political scientist with a focus on public management and the policy process. He has substantive expertise in homeland security, nonproliferation, intelligence and national security, disaster riskand emergency management. His work helps organizations improve decision-making through collaborative and evidence-based processes, and to navigate risk under conditions of uncertainty.

Roberts is the author of Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected (Cambridge, 2013). He has published in a variety of scholarly and popular journals. His research has been funded by: the National Science Foundation; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the United States Naval Laboratories; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and the Social Science Research Council. He serves on the editorial board of Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy. 

Roberts is an associate professor at Virginia Tech. He served as a foreign policy advisor in the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, funded by a Council on Foreign Relations Stanton International Affairs Fellowship. He has also been the Ghaemian Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Heidelberg Center for American Studies in Germany. 

He holds a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Virginia. He spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow, one at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and another at the Program on Constitutional Government at Harvard University.

Previous Positions

Associate Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, VA; Associate Chair and Program Director for Center for Public Administration and Policy Northern Virginia Programs, Virginia Tech; Senior Foreign Policy Advisor, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, State Department, Washington, DC, (Council on Foreign Relations Stanton International Affairs Fellow in Nuclear Security); Visiting Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ; Ghaemian Scholar in Residence, Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg, Germany; Postdoctoral Fellow, Program on Constitutional Government, Department of Government, Harvard University; Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University; Reporter and editor, Associated Press, Albany, New York

Recent Projects

  • Smart and Connected Communities—Caution: Heavy Load Ahead
  • Building Urban Resilience: Flood and Climate Change Preparedness in U.S and Korean Cities
  • Seasonal Climate Signals: Developing A Community of Practice in Emergency Management of Droughts and Floods
  • Emergency Management in Rural America: Decision-Makers’ Use of Climate Science in Flood Planning and Management

Selected Publications

Patrick S. Roberts, Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected, Cambridge University Press, 2013

Patrick S. Roberts "Homeland Security Law and Policy in A Changing Environment," in Tom Karako and Melanie Marlowe, National Security Law and Policy: A Reader, Center for Strategic and International Studies (forthcoming)

Patrick S. Roberts, "Natural hazards governance in democratic states with developed economies," Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science, (http://dx.), 2019

Kris Wernstedt, Patrick S. Roberts, Joseph Arvai, and Kelly Redmond, "How Emergency Managers (Mis?)Interpret Forecasts," Disasters , 43(1), 2019

Patrick S. Roberts and Kris Wernstedt, "Herbert Simon’s Forgotten Legacy for Improving Decision Processes," International Public Management Journal, 2019

Patrick S. Roberts and Robert P. Saldin, "Why Presidents Sometimes Do Not Use Intelligence Information," Political Science Quarterly, 131(4), 2017

Derek Larson and Patrick S. Roberts, "How Two Traditions of Privacy Defenses in Image Capture Technology Inform the Debate over Drones," I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, 13(2), 2017

Patrick S. Roberts, "The Forgotten Lessons of Civil Defense for the Homeland Security Era," Journal of Policy History, 26(3), 2014

Honors & Awards

  • Best Poster Award, Democratizing Technologies: Assessing the Roles of NGOs in Shaping Technological Futures Conference, Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California Santa Barbara
  • Excellence in Scholarship Award, Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies




  • Circuit board with chip with image of missile, photo by guirong hao/Getty Images

    AI for Peace

    The United States should apply lessons from the 70-year history of governing nuclear technology by building a framework for governing AI military technology. An AI for Peace program should articulate the dangers of this new technology, principles to manage the dangers, and a structure to shape the incentives for other states.

    Dec 13, 2019 War on the Rocks