Research Projects

PhD projects

Theory Development

PhD Projects

Serious research institutions should be intimately integrated with higher education environments, and the perhaps best way to pursue such cooperation is by financing, educating and offering a research context for doctoral students. The CRISMART staff includes several PhD students who are currently in the midst of conducting research and writing their dissertation for some of Sweden's and the world's leading universities in the area of crisis management. Current PhD projects at CRISMART include the following:

  • Stressing KnowledgeOrganisanisational closed-ness andknowledge acquisition under pressure, Mats Koraeus (mats.koraeus [at] fhs.se)
  • Police methods against organized crime, Fredrik Fors
  • The Changing Nature of Critical Infrastructure Protection, Lindy Newlove-Eriksson


Theory development

A number of CRISMART products, including the scientific work that founded the center, deals with theoretical, conceptual and methodological development. Often, advances are made in direct contact with empirical analysis as CRISMART is founded on an inductive approach to the research field. Nevertheless, generic knowledge has been compiled in a number of publications, mostly international and peer-reviewed. Below are the main bodies of knowledge to which CRISMART researchers have contributed.

Crisis decisionmaking process tracing

Crisis management studies at CRISMART have as a point of departure a synergy between psychological and organizational theoretical research, which we have chosen to call cognitive-institutional theory. In several of the scientific publications a specific part of the field is developed, while in four of the books an overarching theoretical description is provided.

The theory was first illustrated in ten cases from Sweden in the Swedish-language Krishantering på svenska ("Crisis Management in Swedish"). This was followed by Eric Stern's dissertation, Crisis Decisionmaking: A Cognitive-Institutional Approach, which in particular covered group dynamics in decisionmaking. Beyond Groupthink, edited by three CRISMART researchers, brought together some of the world's foremost political group psychologists to settle the one sided application of Irving Janis' theory on groupthink. In The Politics of Crisis Management four experienced crisis management researchers summarize their knowledge on all components of the anatomy of crisis. The book presents the challenges a leader faces in a crisis, built on four phases: making sense of a crisis, taking wise decisions, communicating a reasonable picture of the event and what measures can be taken, and being able to end the acute phase of the crisis in a way that maintains public trust. All of these phases involve cognitive and institutional elements.

Comparative case study research

A methodological cornerstone from the start of CRISMART has been the comparative case study. Built on the pioneering work of Eckstein, George, Bennet and Lijphart, CRISMART researchers have developed the "structured and focused comparison" (George) to fit the heterogeneous empirics one finds between transitional and mature democracies, as well as between different societal and policy sectors.

Leadership succession

In short, leader succession is a delicate thing. Its political risks are apparently high. Why should all this be the case? And why are some transitions so catastrophic while others appear to be smooth and successful? These are the central questions of this project. Paradoxically, despite the fact that leader successions are a hotly debated and intensely reported issue in the daily practice of every political system, there is a remarkable dearth of systematic research on this topic. (At least as far as leader succession in democratic systems is concerned: Kremlinologists, Peking watchers and their likes have been feverishly active in studying the turnover of leaders in communist systems).

This project provides an attempt to prepare the groundwork for the cross-national and longitudinal comparative research we propose to undertake on this topic in years to come. It sketches the contours of a conceptual language needed to study (i.e. describe, explain, evaluate) leader succession, and offers a preliminary typology of both leader and successor behavior prior to and following successions.

Organizational learning and change

One of CRISMART's ongoing research projects focuses on institutional design and crisis management. Most countries have, to one extent or another, preparedness plans in place to meet major challenges to society, such as natural disasters, threats to critical infrastructure, infectious diseases and terrorism. Such preparedness can be organized in many different ways; in other words, institutional design of crisis management systems vary between countries. Differences can be found in everything from planning arrangements and preparedness ahead of crisis and mechanisms for taking action during a crisis, to accountability structures and learning after crises.

For example, the division of responsibility between the local, regional and national level- that is, the degree of centralization- varies from country to country. Also the extent of the more generic and overarching structures in respect to the more sector-specific structures can vary. Crisis management functions can also be markedly different depending on institutionalization- some systems are implicit and formed ad hoc, while others have a more explicit and formal structure. Another aspect of institutional design in the area crisis management is the roll of politicians. To what extent is political leadership at different levels expected to take charge of normative and/or operative leadership is crisis situations, and how much is left for experts or civil servants? There are also differences in terms of division of responsibilities between public and private, where some countries put more responsibility on the public sector, while others count more on private companies, NGOs and private persons in the context of crisis management.

Institutional design

One of CRISMART's ongoing research projects focuses on institutional design and crisis management. Most countries have, to one extent or another, preparedness plans in place to meet major challenges to society, such as natural disasters, threats to critical infrastructure, infectious diseases and terrorism. Such preparedness can be organized in many different ways; in other words, institutional design of crisis management systems vary between countries. Differences can be found in everything from planning arrangements and preparedness ahead of crisis and mechanisms for taking action during a crisis, to accountability structures and learning after crises.

For example, the division of responsibility between the local, regional and national level- that is, the degree of centralization- varies from country to country. Also the extent of the more generic and overarching structures in respect to the more sector-specific structures can vary. Crisis management functions can also be markedly different depending on institutionalization- some systems are implicit and formed ad hoc, while others have a more explicit and formal structure. Another aspect of institutional design in the area crisis management is the roll of politicians. To what extent is political leadership at different levels expected to take charge of normative and/or operative leadership is crisis situations, and how much is left for experts or civil servants? There are also differences in terms of division of responsibilities between public and private, where some countries put more responsibility on the public sector, while others count more on private companies, NGOs and private persons in the context of crisis management.

Warning response problems

Understanding the security failures of September 11, 2001 and studying subsequent homeland security developments are important research areas that deserve careful scholarly attention. This project investigates the question of why so many policymakers were caught off guard by the September 11, 2001 attacks and examines the key factors that contribute to vulnerability and inhibited vigilance. Through an empirical exploration of three broad explanatory "cuts" derived from the relevant inter-disciplinary literature on policy failure—psychological, bureau- organizational, and agenda-political—Eric Stern and Charles Parker attempt to shed light on the sources of failure that may have contributed to the events of September 11.