Timeline: Academic institutions, research and training centres

This timeline reveals that already in the first half of the 20th century, several global and national scientific organisations (called associations, unions, councils) with a focus on natural hazard research were set up, laying the foundation for scientific work on hazards and disasters (and ways to reduce their impact) in the following decades.

This work was continued in the 1960s by the creation of various scientific institutions, mainly in the United States and Japan, aimed at carrying out research to improve the understanding of atmospheric phenomena (e.g. NCAR (USA)), earthquake engineering (e.g. IAEE (Japan)) and the use of science and technology for risk reduction (e.g. NRCDP (Japan)).

Overall, most of the institutions at that time applied a strong technocratic, engineering and hazard focused approach. However, already early on, research was carried out on human behaviour in crises and the sociology of disasters. A pioneering institution in this regard was the Disaster Research Centre (Ohio, USA), established in 1963, the first centre in the world devoted to the social scientific study of disasters. Later, other institutions, also in the USA, started researching the social dimensions of disasters and hazards, such as the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center (University of Colorado, Boulder, USA), set up in 1976. Other US academic institutions focused on professional development and (self-study) training courses (e.g. University of Wisconsin-Disaster Management Center (UWDMC), set up in 1982).

Over time, also hazard-specific research institutes and information centres were established, such as the International Tsunami Information Centre (ITIC) (Honolulu, USA) (1965), the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) (1971), the Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC), Middlesex University (UK) (1972), the International Drought Information Center (IDIC) at the University of Nebraska (USA) (1988), the Dartmouth Flood Observatory (DFO) (Dartmouth College, New Hampshire (USA)) (1993), the Global Fire Management Facility/Global Fire Monitoring Centre, Freiburg University (Germany) (1998) and the Earthquakes and Megacities Initiative (EMI), (Quezon City, Philippines) (1998).

Special mention should be made of the establishment of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) (Brussels, Belgium) and its Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) (1988), which is up to now the main database and source of disaster statistics and trend analysis worldwide.

In the United Kingdom, in the early seventies, several initiatives and academic institutes were set up, which over time put the UK more prominently on the global disaster research agenda. These included the London Technical Group (1971) (later International Disaster Institute), the Bradford Disaster Research Unit (BDRU) (UK) (1973), the Cranfield Disaster Management Centre (CDMC) (with a focus on training) (1985), the Oxford Center for Disaster Studies (1993) and the Hazard Centre at University College of London (1997).

Even so, in the United Kingdom in 1977, the "Disasters" Journal saw the light, which up to today is considered one of the most influential academic journals in the disaster and risk reduction sphere. Around the same period, the "Mass Emergencies" (1975) journal started, promoting research on social and behavioural aspects of disasters. In the following decades, the "Australian Journal of Emergency Management" (1986), "Natural Hazards" (1988), "Disaster Prevention and Management" (1992), the "Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies" (1997) and the "Environmental Hazards" Journal (1999) all significantly enhanced the research capacity and knowledge base on hazards, disasters and disaster risk.

Several academic and research centres played a specific role in establishing a bridge between environmental science, climate change (adaptation) and disaster risk reduction. These included the Institute for Environmental Studies at University of Toronto (Canada) (est. 1979) (under the leadership of Prof. Ian Burton), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), (Laxenburg, Austria) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), (Germany) (1992).

From the mid-1980s onwards, (academic) institutions in the Global South were established to promote research, training, professional development and provision of technical advice/support, sometimes in a regional context. Examples include the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (Bangkok, Thailand) (1986), the National University of Colombia- Institute for Environmental Studies/ Instituto de Estudios Ambientales (IDEA) (Colombia)( 1989), La Red/FLACSO (Costa Rica) (1992) and the Disaster Mitigation for Sustainable Livelihoods Programme (DiMP) at the University of Cape Town, (South Africa).

Is this page useful?

Yes No
Report an issue on this page

Thank you. If you have 2 minutes, we would benefit from additional feedback (link opens in a new window).