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Research Themes

We take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding hazard, risk, and resilience and actively translate our research into practice. Our research encompasses a range of academic disciplines, including the physical and social sciences, the arts and humanities, but also as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. 


 Hazards and Society research theme

Natural Hazards and Society 

Understanding hazards, their interrelationships and their impact on people and the environment. 

As the world becomes more globalised and interdependent the reach of unplanned and unprepared for risk and hazard events increases. Improving societal and individual resilience to negative impacts of these events is fundamental to responding to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

This work stream seeks to better understand the impact of natural hazards, how their effects travel through space and time, and across different social, political, economic, biomedical and physical domains, to help societies grow resilience through developing new ways to anticipate, prepare for and manage hazards. Outcomes of this research enhance resilience in vulnerable locations by increasing preparedness and building international collaboration through both response and pre-shock preparedness. 


 Financial Technologies for Disasters research theme

Financial Technologies for Disasters 

Exploring ways to improve resilience and better manage risks through innovative financial infrastructures. 

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and poor ethical management of humanitarian response organisations underlines the need to get financial support directly to those in need. The overarching aim of this work is to develop new tools and ways of working to ensure that funds are spent when and where they are needed, in a manner that assists the most vulnerable populations. Such funding should also respond to pressing needs for upfront investments to increase resilience and ensure continuity of cultural, societal, physical and human capital. 

This workstream is undertaking work to help direct and deliver funding directly to those most at risk to prepare for potential risks and hazards, but also recover from events when they occur. 

Recent Publications 

Guo, Y., Shachat, J., Walker, M.J. & Wei, L. (2020). Viral social media videos can raise pro-social behaviours when an epidemic arises. ESI Working Paper 20-15

How do we pay for COVID-19? Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience

COVID 19 UK Risk AssessmentInstitute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience 


 Disrupted Cities research theme

Disrupted Cities 

Rethinking the intersection of hazard, risk and vulnerability in cities. 

Approximately 2.7 billion inhabitants live in urban areas of the global South, most in medium and small cities. Cities are sites where rapid urbanisation, insecure livelihoods, climate change and insufficient infrastructure are creating a problematic reality for residents, but also local government and policymakers. In rapidly expanding cities, the governance capacities of the state are often unable to regulate urban development or provide the necessary infrastructure to adequately support the increase in populations. Moreover, some population groups are marginalized and excluded. 

This workstream is focused on understanding the reality of how people live their lives, the structures that define everyday life and how these are cross-cut by hazards and risks. We explore ways to grow resilience of these urban populations; resilience to what, from what and by whom. 


McFarlane, C. & Ruszczyk, H.A. CITIES 2030: Ideas and Practices for the Urban Future. Department of Geography and Institute for Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University

Ruszczyk, H.A. (2020). What I Learnt About the Concept of Liveability

De Coss-Corzo, A., Ruszczyk, H.A. & Stokes, K. (eds.) (2019). Labouring Urban Infrastructures. A workshop magazine.


 Hazard and Infrastructure research theme

Hazard, Risk and Infrastructure 

Revealing physical and human structures that provide the foundation for living. 

The devastation caused by hazard and risk events can be considerable, often breaking and interrupting our infrastructure. It is important to understand the consequence of hazard on infrastructure, but also how infrastructure is repaired post-event. Damage and repair (or not) of infrastructure can be the root cause of turning hazards into disasters, in turn making some members of communities yet more vulnerable. 

Infrastructure has traditionally been viewed as a discipline driven by engineering and physical sciences, encompassing the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of society that enable us to live our lives and take advantage of technological advances. However, the way in which humans choose to use and interact with physical infrastructure, especially the built environment, can determine the success or failure of developments and new technologies. 

In this workstream, we explore the multiple perspectives on infrastructure from understanding the consequences of damaged roads through to developing SMART cities to increase people’s resilience to extreme events. 


 Theories of the Future research theme

Critical Theories of the Future 

Rethinking the future of forecasting 

All efforts to minimize risk, prevent hazards and build resilience inherently attempt to predict the future. In a constantly shifting world, where geopolitical, socio-cultural, economic and climate-related changes all have a profound impact on human existence, these projections play an increasingly important role in human development. The quality of our future may depend on the quality of our forecasting. 

Predictive properties are embedded within a wide range of academic disciplines. These characteristics are often implicit and rarely interrogated. Fortune telling might be taboo among rigorous scholars, but all fields include assumptions about, or mechanisms for, imagining the future. Each field also includes its own suppositions and biases, which might remain unchecked and lead to errors in predictive judgment. 

Failing to assess and aggregate this diversity of skills and ideas hurts our ability to forecast because it thins the ‘wisdom of the crowd’. Instead, a self-critical and interdisciplinary dialogue is needed. 

This workstream critically interrogates transdisciplinary ideas of the future, as well as the nature and methods of prediction. It has three core aims: 

  • To create a forum for reflective and constructive academic discussion. 
  • To support the development of repeatable, transparent and ethical forecasting methods and practices. 
  • To engage with the public and private sectors as they attempt to assess risk, prevent hazards and develop greater resilience.