Find here information about my main current and previous research projects.

1) Local Resilience Capacity Building for Flood Mitigation

While coming decades are likely to see a higher flood risk in Europe and greater socio-economic damage, traditional flood risk management approach has become inefficient. New approaches, such as capacity building, have recently been incorporated in natural hazards prevention policy. However, further evaluation is required. In this project we focus on the development of two related local resilient capacities that are crucial to reduce risk and mitigate adverse consequences: social capacity and civic capacity. Social capacity has been defined as the resources available at various levels (individuals, organizations, communities) that can be used to anticipate, respond to, cope with, recover from and adapt to external stressors. Civic capacity, which could be understood as one of these resources, refers to the ability that a community has to articulate different stakeholders (governmental and non-governmental) concerning with collective problems.

This project aims to a) design two consistent tools to assess and develop social and civic capacities to cope with flood risk at local level, b) apply these tools in 6 pilot urban case studies in different European river basins in order to identify good practices and illuminate how these capacities could be built and, c) disseminate our results through a Guideline on social and civic capacity building.

This applied project uses a participatory capacity building approach. Taking into account the EU Floods Directive commitment with public participation, this proposal aims to move forward in this direction, fostering a culture of prevention and opening up new opportunities to build and replicate resilient capacities at local level. Main applicant and PI for the Netherlands: prof.dr. Dave Huitema.

2) Enhancing smart disaster governance: Assessing the potential of the net-centric approach (2014-2018).

This project is funded by NWO (The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) in the programme Smart Governance, and co-funded by Dutch Safety Regions (Groningen, Noord-Holland-Noord, Utrecht, Rotterdam-Rijnmond), the Netherlands Institute for Safety, DLOC Police, Cordaid, and Oxfam Novib. I am the project leader and PI. The co-applicants are: Julie Fergusson, Peter Groenewegen, Arjen Boin and Bartel van de Walle. Jeroen Wolbers is the project’s postdoc researcher; Femke Mulder and Arjen Schmidt are the project’s PhD candidates.


In the project we will identify disaster response practices and conditions that can lead to net-centric governance. We define netcentric governance as the organization of a response to disasters by making use of self-directed networks of heterogeneous stakeholders, in an environment enabled by shared technological and organizational infrastructure. We will study whether net-centric governance offers an alternative for formal top-down command and control practices, by drawing on the potential of community networks.

Netcentric governance is studied in two different social contexts. Humanitarian work represents weak governmental response structures, but ample experience with social media. The Dutch context represents an over-regulated governmental response structure, but less experience with the use of social media in disaster response. Net-centric governance in these cases can support heterogeneous response networks, building on interconnected goals and ensuring better cooperation.

We will combine ethnographic studies with network analysis and semantic analysis, to understand response practices and to chart patterns in information streams among and between heterogeneous networks. The Safety Regions’ project ‘Netcentisch Werken’ for crisis response in the Netherlands, and Ushahidi and CrisisMappers, citizen-based social media platforms in humanitarian relief as used by NGOs, provide the cases.

3) Continuation, Coordination and Cooperation of Disaster and Humanitarian Response: A Netcentric C3 Approach to Emergency Management and Citizen Participation (2013-2014).

This project addresses the need for smart governance of disaster and humanitarian response. Response efforts are often dominated by top-down, protocol-driven control and command approaches by formal authorities. However, participatory, citizen-led efforts are increasingly prevalent, providing insight into local needs and opportunities, and informal support where authorities run aground. By combining field studies with social network analysis, this project aims to further develop ‘netcentric’ disaster and emergency management approaches as a form of networked organizing, supported (but not determined) by technologies (including social media) and organizational procedures. The project is funded by the NWO (The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) Smart Governance program.


I was the principal investigator of this project in which I worked together with the co-applicants dr. Julie Fergusson, dr. Bartel van de Walle, prof.dr. Peter Groenewegen, prof.dr. Scott Poole.

4) Netcentric Work in Dutch safety organizations: an organization-cultural perspective (2011-2012).

This research project was funded by the Dutch organization Crisisplein, a project organization of the Netherlands Institute for Safety (IFV). Other researchers involved: Jaap de Heer and Jeroen Wolbers.

Netcentric work means that the emergency response professionals (police, fire fighters and ambulance services) together with administrators (e.g. representatives of the municipality) collect real-time information about a crisis situation and about each others’ actions in order to create a common operational picture. The aim of the research is to understand how the ‘colors’ or specific cultures of the professional organizations enable or constrain the multi-disciplinary cooperation during netcentric work. The outcomes will be used to 1) facilitate the implementation of Netcentric Work in the Dutch Safety Regions; 2) provide cases to be used in the curricula of the Netherlands Institute for Safety; 3) improve the information sharing practices of the professionals; 4) improve the multi-disciplinary practices of the professionals. This is the report (in Dutch) that we published as an outcome of the project: Netcentrisch Werken in ontwikkeling.

5) Networks and Crisis: simulation and modelling (2010-2013)

This project was part of the KNAW student assistant project runned by the Network Institute. It aimed to develop an innovative analysis of organizational command and control problems involved in the response to crises and disasters. Strict procedures are necessary to provide reliably functioning emergency response systems, consisting of police, fire fighters and medical services. These also need to cooperate with other organizations whose operations are interrupted by the crisis and general public at the scene. Yet real world crises are considerably more complex and differ from the scenarios envisioned by organizational (command) structures, which creates coordination problems. A combination of situational improvisation and decentralized leadership may provide a solution, called net-centric operations. Through formalization and modelling of an incident we worked on 1. Gaining insight on the usefulness of data taken from a public inquiry report; 2. Develop a methodology to test critical properties of the formal trace of the events; 3 Develop a model that can reproduce the conditions of the original trace, and allow for further simulations; 4 Draw useful insights from the simulations with the agent model. In this project I worked with computer scientist, dr. Tibor Bosse and dr. Natalie van der Wal, and with the students David Passenier, Julienka Mollee, Allen Grabo, Jan Bim, Anne-Meike de Wiljes, Kamil Majdanik and Katrin Ingibergsdottir.

6) Surveillance Technologies in Practice (2009-2013).

I was the coordinator of the project Surveillance Technologies in Practice in the COST Action IS0807 Living in Surveillance Societies. Our contribution in the programme basically had three main objectives:

– we brought together researchers from various disciplinary fields that were (and still are) active in surveillance-studies. In doing so, we were able to build a more coherent body of knowledge about such issues as surveillance and public policy, surveillance and citizens, surveillance and the use of technology and surveillance and private companies.
– we integrated the knowledge about these issues from the EU members states in the broader EU research community by organizing international research cooperation and by presenting our research findings in international workshops and conferences,
– in doing so, we raised the profile of the national surveillance research in the wider EU area.


This is one of the edited volumes that we published: Webster, C.W.R., G.Galdon Clavell, N. Zurawski, F.K. Boersma, B. Ságvári, C. Backman and C. Leleux (eds.) (2012). Living in Surveillance Societies: The State of Surveillance. Stirling: University of Stirling.

7) The Production of Knowledge in Higher Education Institutes (2006-2011).

This project was on knowledge creation, production and sharing in organizational networks and chains with heterogeneous partners such as Higher Education Institutes, governmental research institutes, industrial Research and Development (R&D) departments and interest groups. In particular I studied the (global) transformation of Higher Education (HE) institutes. In this project I was interested in the question: (how) do policy makers at universities anticipate upon internationalization of HE, and (how) do researchers and teachers give meaning to transformations in HE. In this research I work(ed) with the Centre for International Cooperation (CIS) in Amsterdam. A publication that came out of this project: Boersma, F.K., C. Reinecke and M. Gibbons (2008). Organizing the University-Industry relationship: a case study of research policy and curriculum restructuring at the North-West University in South Africa, Tertiary Education and Management, 14(3): 209-226.

8) Research into the cultural consequences of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems for organizational change (2002-2006).

The focus of this project was on the organisational cultural consequences of integrated business systems such as ERPs. It was carried out at the VU University Amsterdam. During the 1990s these systems have been introduced as very promising. However, these systems also became associated with new organisational problems and side effects. They can consequently be characterized as highly demanding technologies. Our project evaluated theoretically from a critical cultural studies perspective, and methodically through discourse analyses, the tensions between the promises of the virtual and the demands of everyday user practices regarding integrated business systems. The outcome of this research was of value to the debate on the virtualisation of organisations and the new economy. I carried out this project with Sytze Kingma. The project resulted in various publications in journals and books. This is one example: Boersma, F.K. and S.F. Kingma (2005). Developing a cultural perspective on ERP, Business Process Management Journal, 11(2): 123-136.

9) The history of Industrial Research (1997-2002).

My PhD research project resulted in the book Boersma, F.K. (2002). Inventing Structures for Industrial Research. A History of the Philips Nat. Lab., 1914-1946. Amsterdam, Aksant Academic Publishers. For this book I won the European Business History Association Dissertation Award. I also published the results in various academic papers. I did this research at the Eindhoven University of Technology and towards the end of the project as a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University

The research project was about the early history of the Philips Natuurkundig Laboratorium (the Philips Physics Laboratory, abbreviated as: Nat.Lab.). The Nat.Lab.’s history started when, in the winter of 1913-14, Gerard Philips and his brother Anton decided to found a research organization as a separate part of their company in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The Philips brothers hired Gilles Holst and others to carry out scientific experiments. The first ambition was to improve the existing light bulb technology and later to create new products like X-ray tubes and radio sets.

Holst became the leader and organizer of the research laboratory. Scientists who worked with him proved the business value of industrial research for the Philips company. The Nat.Lab. story indicates that it was not enough for Philips to simply have a tradition of innovation – the company also needed to create a structure and value a culture that permitted the coordination between people and resources that was necessary for developing innovations in an industrial context.

I have shown in my book that the Nat.Lab. history in the first decades of the twentieth century can be seen as part of a broader development internationally: the commodification of research. During the first decades of the twentieth century, the function of the industrial research laboratory became institutionalized. The institutionalization process of industrial research involved an intentional structuring of the research organization in the company, in which various persons worked together in specific business contexts: inventing structures.

10) Networks of innovation (1996).

My first academic research project was on Networks of innovation in South-East Netherlands (economic cluster) at the Eindhoven University of Technology. I participated in this project as a junior researcher, shortly after my graduation and before I started working on my PhD project. The usefulness of the economic network approach in analyzing innovation was central in this project. The project was initiated and headed by dr. Marius Meeus and dr. Leon Oerlemans, currently professors of innovation at the Tilburg University. The project resulted in a benchmark that covered the innovation objectives, constraints resources, linkages and outputs of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the greater Eindhoven region. The outcome of the study was that more than 90% of innovations are achieved with contributions from external parties and SMEs maintain relationships with customers, suppliers, and even competitors, more than with public and private knowledge institutes. The regional networks of SMEs result mostly in incremental innovation.