Redesigning resilient infrastructure research

Thomas Seager, Susan Spierre Clark, Daniel A. Eisenberg, John E. Thomas, Margaret M. Hinrichs, Ryan Kofron, Camilla Nørgaard Jensen, Lauren R. McBurnett, Marcus Snell, David L. Alderson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

24 Scopus citations


Despite federal policy directives to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure systems to extreme weather and other adverse events, several knowledge and governance barriers currently frustrate progress towards policy goals, namely: (1) a lack of awareness of what constitutes resilience in diverse infrastructure applications, (2) a lack of judgement about how to create resilience, (3) a lack of incentives that motivate resilience creation, and (4) obstacles that prevent action or reform, even where incentives exist, within existing governance systems. In this chapter, we describe each of these barriers in greater detail and provide a catalog of theories for overcoming them. Regarding awareness, we contrast four different characterizations of resilience as rebound, robustness, graceful extensibility, and sustained adaptability. We apply Integral Theory to demonstrate the necessity of integrating multiple investigative perspectives. Further, we illustrate the importance of recognizing resilience as a set of processes, in addition to resources and outcomes, and the difficulty of measuring quality and quality of resilience actions. Regarding judgement, we position infrastructure as the principal mechanism by which human rights are realized as human capabilities, and propose applying theories of human development such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to identify the most critical infrastructure in terms of the services they provide to end users. Regarding a lack of incentives, we examine the modes and tools of financial analysis by which investments in resilience infrastructure may be prioritized and find two failings: the difficulty of estimating the monetary value of optionality, and the problem of exponential discounting of future cash flows. Regarding obstacles to action, we describe a hierarchy of adaptive actions applicable to physical infrastructure and the essential dimensions of organizational maturity that determine how these adaptive actions might be initiated. Additionally, we discuss the difficulty of education and training for resilient infrastructure systems and propose simulation gaming as an integrative research and education approach for capturing lessons learned from historical catastrophes, play-testing scenarios, sharing knowledge, and training a workforce prepared for the challenges of the post-industrial infrastructure age. Finally, we suggest establishing a National Network for Resilient Infrastructure Simulation to coordinate research and practice focused on interactive case studies in resilient infrastructure systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNATO Science for Peace and Security Series C
Subtitle of host publicationEnvironmental Security
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages39
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameNATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security
ISSN (Print)1874-6519


  • Adaptive governance
  • Critical infrastructure
  • Human resilience development
  • Integral theory
  • Organizational resilience
  • Resilience economics
  • Resilience engineering
  • Resilience processes
  • Resilient infrastructure education
  • Socio-technical systems integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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