Research

Research Excellence

Secure and Resilient Societies Global Challenge

A secure society is one that maintains a stable social order in which its citizens, assets and economy are protected.

Societal resilience is the ability to resist, or prepare and recover from adversity, particularly shocks, to maintain that secure state of society.  The SRS Challenge conducts research to support the creation and maintenance of integrated social, technical, economic, and political systems that enable societies to be secure and resilient.

The research is conducted in three themes:

  • Disaster Risk Management (DRM), concerned with preparation, prevention, response, and recovery from events (natural or human-induced) that have the potential to irretrievably damage a society.
  • Defence & Security (D&S) covers all aspects of military systems, but particularly focuses on hybrid threats, which combine subversive, non-military instruments of attack (e.g. cyber) with conventional military forces.
  • Population Resilience (PR) considers the properties and resources of a secure society and how they enable resilience in the face of changes (acting singly or in combination) to the fabric of society.

The themes are interrelated and are all cross-cut by sub-themes of Narrative and Communication, Sensing and Analysis, and Resource Management.

The overriding characteristic of all three themes is a complex and uncertain environment, in which many heterogeneous systems interact to produce outcomes that are difficult to predict in advance and do not have a fixed end state.   In an academic sense, the problems are transdisciplinary; in an operational sense, they are multi-faceted, dynamic and frequently involve actors with significantly different worldviews.

Disaster Risk Management

Recent decades have seen an unprecedented growth in the levels of urbanisation thus making cities at the frontline of global disaster risk. Cities (many of which are located in hazard-prone areas) are extremely vulnerable to the effects of natural hazards (with the frequency and severity of climate-induced hazards being particularly on the increase) and human-induced threats (such as terrorism and crime as well as poor construction practices). It is therefore critical that cities, infrastructure and buildings are developed in a resilient as well as sustainable manner.

The Disaster Risk Management Theme promotes research that not only contributes to the development and operation of the cities but also to the deeper understanding of hazards, methodologies and stakeholders (including the general public) that manage, work and live in these cities – and are affected by disasters.  The DRM theme takes a holistic multi-hazard multi-stakeholder approach to disasters and focuses on resilience to shocks as well as ‘slow-onset’ disasters.

The theme includes multi-disciplinary approaches to: anticipation, preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery with respect to a variety of natural hazards and human-induced threats. Areas of particular strength for Loughborough University’s researchers are flooding, earthquakes, chemical and explosive detection, disaster risk reduction for the built environment, and building resilience.

The Theme’s research focuses on:

 

  • Urban developmental activities that have directly contributed towards the creation of disaster risk (i.e. providing the evidence of how and why disaster risk is being increased);
  • Implementation of multi-hazard DRM activities (taking into account policy, economic, social, technical and environmental contexts);
  • Development of innovative solutions (structural and non-structural) that will enable stakeholders with responsibility for designing, planning, constructing, managing and redeveloping urban areas to integrate DRR principles into their practices (e.g. these solutions could include low-cost hazard monitoring, hazard defences, building designs, public awareness materials, early warning systems etc.);
  • Creation of pathways for making DRM more prominent, including formal and non-formal training and capacity development;
  • Citizen science support system which allows the general public to understand what they can do in order to reduce the risk of the disasters, on a day to day basis.

Defence and Security

The security of society is underpinned by effective defence capabilities, which require the integration of people, processes, infrastructure, equipment, and logistics; usually within highly complex, but reliable systems. The armed forces provide the fighting capability to defend the nation but, increasingly, they support civil resilience through humanitarian aid, counter-terrorism, and emergency response to major disasters.  Furthermore, societal security relies on protection provided by civil authorities and other agencies.  Increasingly, the boundaries between military and civilian protection are becoming blurred.

Research in this theme includes science and engineering technological contributions to capabilities, human and sociological aspects of defence capability, and systems integration.

Various technology contributions have included autonomous systems, wearable sensors, communications and signal processing, high energy systems, CBRN and toxicology, simulation, battle damage resilience, aircraft control systems, and systems architecting.

Work on processes has covered capability engineering and procurement processes.

Human factors research has included areas such as pilot training and training systems, team composition and performance, development of assistive technologies such as head-up displays, exercise, performance and rehabilitation, motivation, command and control, and human-machine interaction.

The effect of social media on defence and security has also been a feature of Loughborough research.

Loughborough work has contributed to UK defence (government and industry), and to NATO research activities. 

The complexity of the defence environment is increasing, so that transdisciplinary approaches are required to deal with hybrid threats.  Hybrid warfare is characterised as a combination of conventional, irregular, and cyber warfare that may include both state and non-state actors.  The term describes the growing complexity of the current threat environment and the security challenges of the future.  Only a transdisciplinary approach can address the intellectual challenges that hybrid warfare poses, requiring the engagement of a wide range of expertise from the technical and social sciences disciplines.

Example of defence projects

  • Toxi-Triage: The University is leading a pan-European, interdisciplinary project, exploring ways to improve civil preparedness in the event of a catastrophic chemical, biological, radioactive, or nuclear (CBRN) incident in Europe.
  • Assessment of open architectures within defence procurement: Loughborough led a project with ten industry and government organisations on open architectures; the results influence current procurement in the maritime domain.
  • SYMETA: Synthesizing 3D Metamaterials for RF, Microwave and THz Applications
  • Synthetic Weather For A Simulation Environment: improved simulation environment for aircrew training

Population Resilience

Across the globe we live in turbulent and chaotic times, both politically and socio-economically, where fixed conditions and structures are being disturbed and collapsing.   As societies, economies and both built and physical environments are transformed and reimagined in profound ways, many populations face new and adverse challenges which threaten their existence, sustainability, cohesion, and the loss of longstanding identities and relationships

At Loughborough University, our cutting-edge research on Secure and Resilient Societies advances understandings of how and why populations have different levels of resilience, recovery, and capacity to withstand and respond to pressures for change, or to realise the opportunities that change may bring. 

Recent examples of original and critical research from our experts in these fields include:

  • Migration (e.g. international (Ali Bilgic) and subnational mobilities (Darren Smith), everyday nationhood (Michael Skey/Marco Antonsich), citizenship (Sarah Mills))
  • Law and Order (e.g. youth crime (Stephen Case), drugs and alcohol rehabilitation (Mark Monaghan), civil conflicts (Kate Gough), human trafficking and organised crime (James Esson)), counter-terrorism (Caroline Kennedy-Pipe))
  • Educational inequalities (e.g. schooling and disabilities (Louise Holt), diaspora in the classroom (Elizabeth Mavroudi)
  • Ageing Societies (e.g. palliative care and grieving (Ruth Parry), dementia (Liz Peel))
  • Family life and community relationships (e.g. mental health and childhood (Jo Aldridge), changing communities (Chris Zebrowski/Dan Sage))

Findings from this research typifies the diverse and innovative ways that different local, regional and national populations are becoming more or less resilient to contemporary risks and hazards, as well as transformative societal, environmental, economic and political processes that may ‘shock’, distress or ‘threaten’ the existence and resilience of populations.