Synthesis Efforts in Disaster Recovery Research

August 2012 (VOL. 30, NO. 2)

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This paper reports on the progress made in disaster recovery research over the previous decades with an emphasis on the “synthesis” research, which combines different recovery concepts, dimensions, and influences into a new, unified whole. By its very nature, synthesis research has taken a broader view of disaster recovery and has tended to be more multi-disciplinary in its perspective. An examination of the literature related to urban disaster recovery and recovery management mainly from the U.S. and Japan found that, over the past 40 years, synthesis researchers have undertaken both empirical and qualitative studies of disaster cases, attempted to model and measure the process of recovery, and developed a more multi-disciplinary, comprehensive understanding of the disaster recovery process. Advances in remote sensing and computer modeling have been critical to advancing the field. There is an emerging consensus definition of disaster recovery as a complex, nonlinear process that involves physical as well as social, economic, and institutional recovery dimensions. As well, emerging theoretical constructs for urban disaster recovery are rooted in systems theory and aspects of decision theory are applicable in developing management approaches for the recovery process. Looking ahead, there is a time-critical opportunity for the research community to develop some consensus views and to work to refine the understanding of both the process of disaster recovery and its management.