Per Becker

Per Becker

Professor of Risk and Sustainability, Professor

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Personal profile

Research

I am Professor of Risk and Sustainability at the Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety, as well as Extraordinary Professor at the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University (South Africa). I am also affiliated to Lund University Centre for Risk Assessment and Management (LUCRAM) and to the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow (Scotland). I have an interdisciplinary background with a PhD in Sociology and another PhD in Engineering (+MRes in Politics, MSc in Development Studies, BSc in Fire Safety Engineering).

My research interests focus on the systemic interactions between the physical environment, social organisation and social behaviour in relation to societal safety and sustainability. Especially on issues of risk and vulnerability, on what makes society resilient to disturbances, disruptions and disasters, and on capacity development as an intentional process for increasing such resilience.

Societal impact

My research group has had significant impact on policy and practice concerning issues of risk and sustainability. Perhaps most notably, as a leading scientific provider of knowledge cited in global UN policies concerning capacity development for disaster risk management and related climate change adaptation (e.g. UNDRR 2019), or as a trusted partner to a range of local authorities, governmental agencies and international organizations.

I have been managing a research centre connected to a triple-helix collaboration between industry, government, and the university, called Training Regions, and I was the inaugural director for the reformed Centre for Societal Resilience, with the explicit mission of promoting a resilient society by providing new knowledge, processes, methods and tools, and by supporting initiatives that apply them in practice. Although the centre was absorbed by the university's faculty structure a number of years ago, the research and impact focus remain.

Teaching

Teaching and learning has always been a keen interest and priority for me. I have studied teaching and learning (44,5 ECTS), worked with professional training courses, developed the Master of Disaster Management together with University of Copenhagen, initiated and supported the development of our MSc in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation, and designed and convened a number of master's courses. I was awarded the distinction of Excellent Teaching Practitioner (ETP) in 2009, as the first at our division, and I have had an active role in pedagogical development since then.

I am convening master's courses on Critical Issues in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change adaptation, and on Research Methodology and Methods. I am also convening the thesis course for our master's students and a doctoral course in Theories of Power. I lecture on courses on Societal Resilience and on Risk-based Land-use Planning, and I am regularly invited to teach at other universities (e.g. University of Glasgow, University of Oxford, Manchester University, University of Copenhagen, Uppsala University).

Outreach

I am a firm believer that scientific outputs have no value in themselves in such an applied field as mine, but are made valuable when instigating, influencing or informing the understanding and praxis of actors addressing issues of risk and sustainability in the real world; be it global policy-makers or private citizens. I have therefore focused a significant part of my career on collaborating and communicating with actors in wider society. This has, however, not only facilitated for my research to have significant actual impact, but also provided me with important insights into the contexts, actors, and problems I am researching.

I work regularly with local and national authorties, the Red Cross/Crescent Movement, UN agencies and other international organizations. I have published or presented popular scientific pieces of my own making and contributed articles in well-known popular scientific magazines. I have also engaged with both Swedish and international mass media, both as the author of debate articles in leading Swedish newspapers (DN Debatt and Di Debatt) and through a range of interviews in leading newspapers (e.g. San Francisco Chronicle, DN, Aftonbladet), TV (SVT Rapport) and radio (Voice of America, P1, P4).

Professional work

I have combined academia with a career in humanitarian assistance and international development cooperation focused on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The early part of my career, I worked in the private sector and in the fire and rescue services in Sweden. In 2000 I started to work for SRSA, which was partly a Swedish governmental humanitarian and development aid organisation that since 2008 is part of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB). After various positions within SRSA, I was appointed Head of Capacity Development and Recovery Section, which I was until coming back to academia in 2007. 

I still sometimes work in the field for MSB and have been a Delegate for the International Red Cross/Crescent Movement since 2005. I work regularly for international organisations, mainly on shorter missions but also on longer field postings. Most recently as Risk Reduction and Preparedness Specialist for UNICEF in the South Pacific and as Regional Disaster Risk Management Coordinator for IFRC in Dakar. I have experience from working in Sweden, Fiji, UK, Kiribati, Senegal, Solomon Islands, Tanzania, Tuvalu, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Vanuatu, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Chad, El Salvador, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, with visits to many other places.

UKÄ subject classification

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Sociology
  • Other Civil Engineering
  • Political Science

Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Risk
  • Vulnerability
  • Resilience
  • Governance
  • Systems thinking
  • New institutionalism
  • Governmentality
  • Organization theory
  • Interactionism
  • Disaster risk management
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Capacity development
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Quantitative research methods
  • Mixed research methods
  • Social network analysis
  • Sustainable development

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