Doing Disaster Research Well: Critical Reflections On The Concepts And Methods

Keywords: Disaster research methodologies, disaster science, reflexive methodologies

The increasing incidence and consequences of disasters have prompted a growing research interest in disaster sciences. Disaster research is fundamentally a practical endeavor, where researchers are seeking to make lives safer by understanding disasters and finding the mechanisms by which the consequences of disasters can be lessened. Knowing if we are doing our research well (enough) is a critical step if we want our research to make an impact in society, and on people’s lives.

The benefit of researching disaster is gained through the cross-over between many disciplines. Although challenging, the unique research traditions brought by these multiple disciplines have enabled rich conversations that have implications for theory and practice in the field. While there is a steady production of research on disasters, the reach of disaster science into multiple disciplines creates a need for a systematic consideration of disaster research methods. This undertaking entails reflections about methodology, bridging disciplinary divides, and formulating theories – all of which ultimately determine the impact that disaster researchers are aiming for.

By drawing together researchers from various fields working on understanding the dynamics of disasters, this panel will contribute to the scholarly conversation about the underlying assumptions when conducting disaster research. We invite authors to reflect critically on the practical impact and craft of disaster research, including especially methodologies, the process of theorizing, and how these activities help to bridge the multiple disciplines on which disaster studies rely.

The panel will be devoted to engaging issues that might include, but are not limited to the following:

  • How can findings from disaster research be made significant to society?
  • How can we bridge the divides within the disaster research community (e.g. natural vs. man-made hazards; technical vs. social aspects of disaster risk; etc.)?
  • What types of data can be used to advance the science of disasters?
  • What are considerations for conducting ethical disaster research?
  • What are the considerations for conducting research after the disaster has occurred? What lessons can be learned from quick response research?
  • What are the considerations for ensuring that disaster indicators such as risk and vulnerability are grounded in empirical evidence?
  • Are there implications for conducting research in developing countries as opposed to developed countries?
  • Is there a role for Big Data in disaster research?
  • How can one use non-traditional sources of data (e.g. oral histories, archives, memory, diaries, secondary media such as movies and novels) in theorizing disasters?

The panel will be organized as a conference track, where authors will present their work and have the chance to obtain constructive feedback from the group as a whole and from a designated discussant.



Buchanan, D.A. & Denyer, D., 2013. Researching Tomorrow’s Crisis: Methodological Innovations and Wider Implications. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(2), pp.205–224.
Buchanan, David A. & Denyer, D. (forthcoming in 2018). Research in Extreme Contexts In D.A. Buchanan & A. Bryman (Eds.), Unconventional Methodology in Organization and Management Research
Quarantelli, E.L., Lagadec P., & Boin, A. (2007). A Heuristic Approach to Future Disasters and Crises: New, Old, and In-Between Types In H. Rodriguez, E.L. Quarantelli, & R. Dynes (Eds.), Handbook of Disaster Research (pp. 16-41). New York City: Springer Science.
Stallings, R.A. (2007). Methodological Issues In H. Rodriguez, E.L. Quarantelli, & R. Dynes (Eds.), Handbook of Disaster Research (pp. 16-41). New York City: Springer Science.
Stallings, R.A. (2003) Methods of Disaster Research. Exlibris Publication.



Dr. Francesc Miralles (

Francesc Miralles is the Dean of Academics in La Salle Campus Barcelona (Ramon Llull University). He teaches subjects related to Research Methods, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management. His current research interests are in Crisis Management, Business Ecosystems, Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. He was also the Education Dean of EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie Initial Training Networks project on ‘An IT and Networked-Enabled Firm’s Approach to Crisis Management’ in 2012-2016.

Dr. James Kendra (

James Kendra is a Professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and Director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware. Previously he was coordinator of the Emergency Administration and Planning Program in the Department of Public Administration at the University of North Texas. His research interests focus on individual and organizational responses to risk, improvisation and creativity during crisis, post-disaster shelter and housing, disaster research ethics, and planning for behavioral health services. He is the author, with Tricia Wachtendorf, of American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11.

Dr. Timothy Prior (

Tim Prior is head of the Risk and Resilience Research Team at the Center for Security Studies (CSS). His research has focused on risk and decision making under uncertainty, particularly in relation to individual, community and organizational preparation and response to environmental risk. His most recent work has focused on the development and deployment of resilience in civil protection strategy, organisational learning in disaster management, and the possibility of mapping groups of socially vulnerable people for more effective urban resilience planning.