Beyond regulatory capture: Coproducing expertise for critical infrastructure protection [Regulation & Governance, 2017]

Complex industries such as petroleum production, civil aviation, and nuclear power produce “public risks” that are widely distributed and temporally remote, and thus tend to be ignored by the risk producers. Regulation is perhaps the most common policy tool for governing such risks, but requires expert knowledge that often resides solely within the industries. Hence, many scholars and policymakers raise concerns about “regulatory capture,” wherein regulation serves private interests rather than the public good. This paper argues that regulatory capture framing has tended to limit understanding of expertise and its role in governing public risks. Most studies of regulatory capture treat expertise as a source of knowledge and skills that are created exogenously to political processes, and which can therefore be politically neutral. By contrast, we draw on work in science and technology studies that highlight the value-laden and relational nature of knowledge and expertise, showing how its formation is endogenous to political processes. Thus, we argue for both broadening analyses of regulatory capture to consider the historically contingent and uncertain process of creating expert knowledge, and going beyond the capture framing by considering the challenge of negotiating different epistemologies and ways of life. We illustrate this analytic strategy by examining the history of and current debate about critical infrastructure protection standards to protect the United States electric power grid from cyberattack. We conclude by considering the broader implications of these findings for governing public risks.

Participatory risk network analysis: A tool for disaster reduction practitioners [International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 2017]

Disaster risk is the product of a complex set of networked processes. Development professionals often use participatory tools to help understand disasters. However, such tools are not designed to capture the interconnections that shape risk. Using flooding in the slums of Freetown, Sierra Leone, as a case study, this article demonstrates how the tools of network analysis can be employed to develop network maps using participatory datasets and discusses the utility of such displays in designing interventions to reduce risk. The article suggests that networked approaches to risk analysis are uniquely suited to capturing the intricate processes that shape disaster risk and can provide a path forward for developing policies and interventions that seek to address complex phenomena. The article includes an Appendix A with instructions for those seeking to conduct participatory network analysis.

The influence of religion on disaster risk reduction and resilience: a case study of Typhoon Haiyan-affected areas in the Philippines [2017 article in the Youth Science-Policy Interface Publication Special Edition on Disaster Risk Reduction]

We are human too! Concern Worldwide’s efforts to reduce risks for the homeless migrants of Dhaka, Bangladesh [2017 article in Migrants and disaster risk reduction: Practices of Inclusion. International Organization for Migration, Council of Europe, and Overseas Development Institute]

Building cyber-resilience of interconnected critical infrastructures: what is the role of public utility commissions [2017 article for the Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group newsletter]

Urban challenges and opportunities for FEMA during the Trump administration [2017 white paper]

Seven disaster researchers and I have written a brief paper on the challenges likely to be faced by emergency management, especially by FEMA and in sanctuary cities (cities where there is no cooperation with federal officials in identifying undocumented immigrants). In short, some of President Trump’s policy decisions have the potential to affect disaster risk in the United States and have direct and indirect impacts on FEMA’s operations in urban spaces. For instance, reductions in public entitlement programs can increase vulnerability and reduce capacities to cope and to recover among the poorest and most marginalized urban residents. This will hit women, children, older people, people living with disabilities and various religious and ethnic/ racial groups particularly hard. One only as to keep an eye on the attack on the water sacred (and physiologically necessary) to native Americans in North Dakota to see what is likely to happen. Relaxed environmental regulation can intensify hazards and cascading hazard impacts. Policies based on denial of climate science will likely accelerate the impact of climate-related hazards in some highly exposed urban areas within the administration’s four-year term. President Trump has already attempted to censor EPA scientists and others. Public access to federal science data is under threat. Devolving risk management more fully to state level can make it more difficult to manage trans-boundary risks. Privatizing prevention, response, and recovery can make it more difficult for the poor to access the services they need. Blocking federal funding to sanctuary cities can reduce their ability to manage emergencies effectively. Xenophobic rhetoric and aggressive pursuit of an anti-immigrant policy will likely drive undocumented residents ‘underground’ and make them less accessible to care providers in cities and less likely to participate in emergency preparedness programs.

Risk, Cities, and Asia: The Path Forward [2016 policy article for the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction]

Disaster risk reduction: key terms and concepts [2016 online lecture]

Using examples from Afghanistan, Haiti, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, and Niger, this free online lecture provides an overview of key DRR concepts (such as hazard, risk, vulnerability, mitigation, preparedness) and shows the difference between resilience and hazard based approaches to reducing risk. The lecture is 1:40 long and should be useful for anyone who wants a basic grounding in DRR. 

https://vimeo.com/175616373

Password is: nire

What’s the difference between reliability and resilience? [2016 article in the Industrial Control Systems Joint Working Group newsletter]

Disaster risk reduction for community resilience: a synthesis of lessons from more than a decade of disaster risk reduction programming  [2015 report for Concern Worldwide]

This publication is a synthesis of lessons from more than a decade of Concern Worldwide’s disaster risk reduction programming looking at the area of community resilience. The publication is part of a series documenting Concern’s approach to disaster risk reduction. The series consists of five context papers focusing on DRR approaches in mountainous, dryland, coastal, urban, and riverine contexts.  The publication explains Concern’s approach to DRR and community resilience and offers a lessons and guidance on how to use DRR to build resilience.  Concern’s DRR advisor, Dom Hunt, and I developed the report based on the data I collected in 10 countries while working with Concern.  Policymakers and practitioners focused on DRR or resilience should find the report particularly relevant.   

Concern disaster risk reduction: coastal contexts [2015 report for Concern Worldwide]

Based on research in Port au Prince, Haiti; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Nairobi, Kenya; and Freetown, Sierra Leone, this publication describes Concern’s approach to DRR and offers lessons and guidance on how to use DRR to address hazards typically found in coastal areas – cyclones/hurricanes and their associated storm surges, salinisation, coastal erosion and, in some cases, tsunami.

The publication presents lessons learned in the following areas:

• Preparedness

• Natural resource management

• Structural measures

Concern disaster risk reduction: urban contexts [2015 report for Concern Worldwide]

Based on research in Port au Prince, Haiti; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Nairobi, Kenya; and Freetown, Sierra Leone, this publication describes Concern’s approach to DRR and offers lessons and guidance on how to use DRR to address hazards typically found in urban areas – conflict, criminality, discrimination and marginalisation, unemployment, price spikes, contagious diseases, floods, and fires.

The publication presents lessons learned in the following areas:

• Risk analysis

• Building social inclusion

• Service provision

• Preparedness and response to crisis

Concern disaster risk reduction: dryland contexts [2015 report for Concern Worldwide]

Based on research in Kenya and Niger, this publication describes Concern’s approach to DRR and offers lessons and guidance on how to use DRR to address hazards typically found in dryland areas – drought, desertification, and, often, conflict.

The publication presents lessons learned in the following areas:

• Governance and systems strengthening

• Service provision

• Early warning early action

Concern disaster risk reduction: riverine contexts [2015 report for Concern Worldwide]

Based on research in Zambia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Mozambique, this publication describes Concern’s approach to DRR and offers lessons and guidance on how to use DRR to address hazards typically found in riverine areas – seasonal floods, water erosion and water pollution, as well as secondary hazards such as water borne disease.

The publication presents lessons learned in the following areas:

• Preparedness

• Natural resource management

• Structural measures

Concern disaster risk reduction: mountain contexts [2015 report for Concern Worldwide]

Based on research in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Haiti, this publication describes Concern’s approach to DRR and offers lessons and guidance on how to use DRR to address hazards typically found in mountainous areas – quick onset and flash flooding; landslides; water erosion; and, in some cases, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The publication presents lessons learned in the following areas:

• Preparedness

• Natural resource management

• Structural measures

Local DRR is not a panacea [2015 blog post in the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere]

Supporting ‘local level’ actors is often lauded as the solution for risk reduction.  However, risk is the product of national and international processes as much as it is local. Solely focusing on local risk reduction has the danger of ignoring these broader factors giving rise to risk.

Disaster risk reduction: photos from around the world [2015 article for Stand.ie]

This article showcases some positive examples of disaster risk reduction that I observed during my travels with Concern.  Disaster risk reduction has its own unique language that is filled with technical words like hazard, mitigation, preparedness, early warning/early action, extensive and intensive risk, and resilience, so it can be quite confusing for the average lay-person.  I wanted to show the simple every-day practices of reducing risk.  I also wanted an excuse to share a few photos from my travels.

The World Humanitarian Summit Irish Consultative Process core papers on academia, diaspora, NGO, and public sector [4 papers written in 2015]

The University College Dublin Centre for Humanitarian Action is taking the lead for the World Humanitarian Summit Irish Consultative Process. I provided the analysis to develop the academia, diaspora, NGO, and public sector core papers.  Analysis was intense, involving around 120 hours works in just a week’s time, but I think the final results turned out well.  I’m particularly proud of the methodology I used to develop the coding frame and to visualise the qualitative data–I haven’t seen NVivio used in this way for other research. 

Resilience: The Holy Grail or Yet Another Hype? [2015 book chapter in The Humanitarian Challenge]

Country papers on disaster risk reduction in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, Mozambique, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Zambia [8 reports written between 2013-2014]

These reports describe how Concern is reducing risk in different countries.  Writing these papers was a big part of my disaster risk reduction (DRR) documentation work.  To help ensure consistency and comparison between countries each reports follows the same format and uses similar types of data (observations, photographs, individual and group interviews, and secondary data).  The reports are long, ranging from 30-50 pages each, and I was writing them while also working for UCD and working on my PhD, so they provided a good opportunity to practice writing quickly, to a deadline.  The reports are designed for policymakers and practitioners, many of whom are not native English speakers, so I focused on the practical components of risk management and wrote in a clear and easy to understand manner. The executive summaries are available online; email me for the full reports.

Working in development: Child health in Sierra Leone [2014 article for Stand.ie]

Afghanistan’s Disaster Risk Reduction Story [2013 article for Knowledge Matters: Concern’s Knowledge Quarterly Review]