Black Swans and Perfect Storms: Challenges in disaster management and resilience research

The evolving hazards and risk landscape, and the global trends in urbanisation, technology and societal behaviours have significant influence on how we plan against and recover from extreme events. The implications of the broad typology of extreme events – based on the levels of uncertainty, its duration, the warning-time window – on resilience planning are explored. The characteristics of “black swans”, “perfect storms” and cascading failures are described. The data/information requirements and the critical research and development challenges from the perspective—and for the benefit—of key stakeholders, considering their primary decision goals and context, are identified. Understanding system interdependencies and developing methods of assessing or modelling the broader socioeconomic impacts of extreme events on communities and industries are key challenges. These could provide guidance in setting priorities for disaster management and resilience planning investments. Other emerging research challenges such as sense-making and decision-making under deep uncertainties, incomplete information and sometimes intense pressure are explored.

Greg Foliente

Professor Greg Foliente

Deputy Director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS)
Enterprise Professor in the Melbourne School of Engineering

Professor Greg Foliente is Enterprise Professor in the Melbourne School of Engineering and Deputy Director of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS). He leads interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, education, consulting and collaboration initiatives that advance innovation in the built environment and urban systems sectors, with a primary focus towards improved sustainability, liveability and resilience. He has an international reputation in research innovation and science leadership that have been recognised through numerous honours and awards (18 so far including the ASCE James Croes medal), invitations as a keynote speaker in international conferences (35 so far) and to esteemed positions in international scientific committees and leading overseas institutions. His research has encompassed diverse areas that include engineering safety and performance assessment under extreme events, quantitative risk analysis and system reliability, disaster mitigation, socio-economic impacts and resilient design, spatial diffusion of technology and innovation, and more recently, urban community wellbeing and resilience. He is a strategic leader and facilitator, with a number of internationally recognised achievements and successful projects, including those undertaken with industry, UN agencies, the World Bank, AusAID and various Australian federal departments and state agencies.