Reflections and recommendations on transitioning from pre- to post-disaster research



Roxburgh N, Pariyar U, Roxburgh H & Stringer LC (2021) Reflections and recommendations on transitioning from pre- to post-disaster research. Area, 53 (1), pp. 134-142.

Fieldwork often takes place in dynamic, uncertain environments. This is especially true of fieldwork in developing countries. Occasionally events can occur that have significant repercussions for ongoing research involving human participants. For example, political and social unrest, terror attacks, economic crises, epidemics, and natural disasters all have the potential to derail fieldwork plans and to radically alter the circumstances in which researchers operate. However, literature on how to anticipate and navigate these repercussions is limited. While a number of papers have reflected on the difficulties of conducting post‐crisis fieldwork, few have discussed the rather different challenge of dealing with, and adapting to, events that occur during ongoing work. In this paper, we discuss how the 2015 Nepal earthquake – which occurred while we were conducting fieldwork in one of the affected areas – forced us to reassess our research agenda, profoundly affected our relationship with the community we had been working in, and evoked challenging ethical questions in respect to our obligations to our research participants. Based on our reflections, we suggest eight issues that researchers who are engaged in fieldwork in high‐risk or post disaster locations should give consideration to. The issues include matters relating to research design, fieldwork risk and ethics assessment, interaction with research participants, and researcher support.

crises; ethics; fieldwork; Nepal; positionality; reflexive

Area: Volume 53, Issue 1

Publication date31/03/2021
Publication date online23/09/2020
Date accepted by journal08/09/2020

People (1)


Miss Heather Purshouse

Miss Heather Purshouse

PhD Researcher, Biological and Environmental Sciences