Duncan Shaw

Duncan Shaw


Personal profile


Prof. Duncan Shaw is Professor of Operational Research and Critical Systems, a position he took in January 2015. He is Honorary Professor in the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) which is based in the School of Arts Languages and Cultures.

Duncan was previously Professor of Operational Research and Critical Systems at Warwick Business School (2012-2014) and Aston Business School (2008-2011). He held Lecturer and Senior Lecturer positions at Aston University (2001-2008). Before his academic posts, Duncan worked in the nuclear industry and (briefly) for an electronics company.

Duncan co-founded and co-chairs the National Consortium for Societal Resilience [UK+] which was established to enhance local resilience by sharing information across local resilience partnerships. Our consortium  members from local government cover 97% of the UK public (www.ambs.ac.uk/ncsr).

He leads the ESRC-funded Recovery, Renewal, Resilience project which is supporting local government across the world on their COVID-19 recovery planning, including writing ISO22393 and producing The Manchester Briefing (www.ambs.ac.uk/covidrecovery) and its database of +600 lessons on COVID-19 recovery and renewal (https://recoverydatabase.manchester.ac.uk/lessons).

He has a First Class Honours and a Ph.D. in Management Science, both from Strathclyde University (Glasgow, UK). He has a D.Sc from Warwick University and is a Fellow of the Operational Research Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Research interests

External funding

Duncan has attracted research funding in excess of £15.2m. His projects include:

  • EPSRC and MoD: Resilience Beyond Observed Capabilities. £2.25m. Taking steps now to enhance societal resilience as a local resilience capability so we are prepared for a major crisis that may happen in 2051. 2022-25.
  • ESRC and partners: Recovering from COVID-19: Informing, supporting and developing guidance for local resilience. £1,012,728. This project works across a number of local, national and international partners to develop a framework for planning recovery and renewal from the crisis. 2020-2022.
  • ESRC: Managing spontaneous volunteers in the response and recovery to natural disasters. £30,000. This project works with national and local government in Chile and Argentina to implement plans for involving spontaneous volunteer in disaster response. 2018
  • ESRC: Supporting disaster response through the implementation of ISO22319. £21,750. This project implements Duncan's spontaneous volunteer guidance with national and local government in Serbia. 2018-19.
  • EPSRC: Techno-Economic framework for Resilient and Sustainable Electrification. 2018-2021. £1,193,416.
  • European Commission: City to city local peer review for Disaster Risk Reduction. 2017-2019 €1,115,398. This project develops and evaluated a method for improving cities DRR through peer review.
  • Department of Health £1,750,000: DoH: National evaluation of the New Care Models programme. 
  • EPSRC: Disaster management and resilience in electric power systems. 2017-2019. £500,338. This project develops simulation models to improve the resilience of power systems to earthquake in Chile as well as develops community resilience to poower outages.
  • Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): Researching the potential involvement of citizens in emergency response to flooding. £80,000. This project sought to understand the role of volunteers.
  • AMBS: £650,884: Alliance Manchester Strategic Research Fund: Health Services Research Centre
  • European Commission, Exchange of Experts: Supported writing the initial proposal for this 6 country exchange of experts on civil protection and resilience from widespread flooding. Participates in exchanges.
  • Economic and Social Research Council: Supporting the development of integrated service delivery to allow the public smoother access to policing in this £220,000 project with a local police force
  • Economic and Social Research Council: Previously Principal Investigator for the £2.4m ESRC-funded project which works very closely with a range of West Midlands organizations to have sustainable impact on their performance through Engaging Research for Business Transformation (Erebus).
  • European Commission: Previously Principal Investigator for the €1m (Fec), 2-year project called Disaster 2.0: Using Web 2.0 applications and Semantic Technologies to strengthen public resilience to disasters
  • European Commission: Principal Investigator for the €660,000 (Fec), 3-year project called Evacuation Responsiveness by Government Organisations (ERGO).
  • Nuclear Installations Inspectorate: Two main projects – one on Waste and Source-matter Analysis which developed IAEA guidance for the safe reduction of nuclear waste. The other project on performance assessment.
  • National Institute for Health Research: Co-Investigator with academics from with Manchester Business School on a £150,000 project examining research and development needs on emergency planning in healthcare.
  • Lincolnshire County Council Emergency Planning: Developing a strategy for ensuring vulnerable populations are prepared for catastrophic floods.
  • Economic and Social Research Council: Principal Investigator on an ESRC-funded seminar series on Emergency Response Preparedness in the UK which brings together expert practitioners and academics to discuss the way forward for research and practice on emergency preparedness.
  • Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, UK: Building analytical tools for the 'New Dimension' programme to investigate decontamination of a population and the national allocation of emergency resources. These models have been transferred to Australia's emergency services.
  • Department of Communities and Local Government, UK: Appointed to a multi-disciplinary expert panel to provide external peer review and independent challenge to their overall research programme in fire and resilience.
  • Department of Communities and Local Government, UK: Analysing the impact on key performance indicators of maintenance schedules for emergency vehicles.
  • Nuclear Installation Inspectorate: A range of projects in the nuclear industry including: designing a waste management decision making methodology; engaging stakeholders in the governance of nuclear-related matters; peer reviewing the simulation of nuclear plants/sites.
  • Health and Safety Executive: Multi-criteria decision making methodology; identifying and analysing options for waste minimisation.
  • Facilitator and trainer to many organisations e.g. AstraZeneca, Scottish Executive, Fire Service College, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory [dstl], Birmingham City Council: .

External duties

Duncan Shaw is frequently an independent assessor for research councils (e.g. ESRC, EPSRC) as well as provides commissioned expert independent reviews for government departments (e.g. HSE, Cabinet Office, CLG, DoH), NGOs (RNLI), and is an Expert Reviewer as well as an Evaluator for the European Commission. He has worked extensively with large and small organisations that are concerned about significant safety and security issues, in particular with governments. For example, Duncan has run research projects with senior officials from governments (or companies) of following countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and, of course, numerous national and local government departments in the UK. Duncan has provided keynote presentations to academic conferences as well as practitioner events, such as to NATO, GmF, GESA, Kerhaus, Office of Nuclear Regulation, the IAEA, High Commission for Civil Protection (France), Ministry of Security and Justice (Netherlands), Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (Germany). He has presented alongside the Secretary of State Ministry of the Interior (Germany); Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (the Netherlands); Minister of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Germany); an Ambassador of a Royal Family, and numerous senior officials. He has sat on international advisory committees and task forces for a breadth of organisations such as the International Organization for Migration (IoM, Geneva), the International Standards Organization (ISO, Geneva), the United Nations. In the UK he sits in advisory committees for the British Standards Institute, Cabinet Office, Department of Communities and Local Government, Home Office as well as numerous Local Authority panels (e.g. for Somerset County Council, Lincolnshire County Council, Association of Greater Manchester Authorities). He has moderated sessions for the UN at the ISO General Assembly and presented his research findings at both organisations. 

In 2020, Duncan won the British Standards Institute annual award for Standards Maker. He was also part of the team that won the award for their fast-track of the standard on "Safe working conditions during COVID-19 pandemic". 

Standards Work

Duncan works extensively with standardisation bodies to disseminate research findings through standards. Via an international ballot, we was elected to be chair of Working Group 5 on Community Resilience in Technical Committee 292 (Societal Security) for the International Standards Organisation. He previously chaired Working Group 6 on Mass Evacuation in Technical Committee 223 (Security and Resilience) for the International Standards Organisation. He used the findings from his EU research to develop the international standard on ‘Planning for mass evacuation’ (ISO22315) and used finding from his DEFRA study to publish the standard on ‘Involving Spontaneous Volunteers in Disaster Response' (ISO22319), and from another DEFRA project to write 'Supporting vulnerable people in an emergency' (ISO22395). Based on a Home Office project he wrote ISO22392 'Conducting peer reviews'. He is Chair of SSM1/7 for the British Standards Institute and, numerous times, has been Head of UK Delegation and a UK Principal Expert to ISO Plenaries.


Duncan has many impact case studies underway. Three of these are:

  • Conducting a funded research project that directly led to the UK Government establishing a new national committee that is led by Department of Communities and Local Government and the Cabinet Office. That committee (which Duncan participated in) wrote new non-statutory guide relevant to all of England's Local Authorities. Fifteen Local Authorities have been particularly notable in pioneering the implementation of the research findings, some of which have conducted major exercises involving over 500 staff to test the plans and policies that were informed by the initial research. He sat on their policy development boards as well as formally evaluated the exercises. The initial research has also led to 5 nations changing their guidance, including the work being translated into local languages and formally adopted by many national agencies as good practice (such as Chile, Argentina, and Serbia). This research project has begun a new narrative in the UK which has resulted in two major practitioner conferences (each involving over 100 people) and has had widespread international profile. (2015-present)
  • Working with the International Organization of Migrations in the production of the MEND guide which has had widespread impact across developing countries and the organizations that operate in those contexts (http://www.globalcccmcluster.org/system/files/publications/MEND_download.pdf)
  • Working on peer review methodology for national and local government to support disaster risk reduction activities. This has been applied by Duncan and others in a range of countries, participularly in the Middle East and parts of the approach have been used in Europe (UK, Italy, Portugal) as part of a UK government project. delegationfor a national government.

Duncan was part of the team who won the prestigious 2018 Newton prize (and its £200k prize money) for the delivery of the EPSRC project "Disaster management and resilience in electric power systems".

Group facilitation

Duncan also has a strong interest in strategy development and has been a group facilitator in over 100 strategic planning workshops working with the top management teams in the likes of: West Mercia Constabulary; Scottish Ambulance Service; Reliance Security; Group 4; as well as non-CRISIS organisations such as: Argos Direct, Mettis Aerospace, Whitbread, Calor Gas and Severn Trent Water.

Other research

COVID-19 related activities

Duncan leads a cross-university team that produces The Manchester Briefing which is a weekly document of lessons from across the world for government officials on responding and recovering to the virus. This document shares the team's thinking on Recovery and Renewal from the effects of COVID-19, is circulated to 40,000 people globally, and is freely available from www.ambs.ac.uk/covidrecovery

He supports practitioners in thinking about developing Recovery and Renewal strategies to address the effects of COVID-19, and on supporting volunteers as they work with people who are particularly vulnerable to the virus. Just some examples include:  

  • Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN) - which is a Rockefeller/World Bank initiative - on reviewing/developing tools for planning recovery   
  • Local government - Strategic, Tactical and Recovery coordination groups across three Local Resilience Forums as well as Humanitarian Aid cells that support vulnerable people and the voluntary sector
  • Training and workshops - he runs webinars and workshops for government on Recovery and Renewal. He contributes to the UK Cabinet Office's COVID-19 training on Recovery which is for all Local Authorities in the UK
  • National committees - e.g. Voluntary and Communities Sector Emergencies Partnership; Cabinet Office Recovery Network; C-19 National Strategic Group (cross government department group); C-19 Working Foresight Group

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute
  • Dalton Nuclear Institute
  • Healthier Futures


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