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Political reflexivity in post-bushfire research

Lisa Gibbs (Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia)
Colin MacDougall (Discipline of Public Health, School of Medicine, and Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia)
Karen Block (Jack Brockhoff Child Health and Wellbeing Program, McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 4 November 2014




Post-disaster research presents particular challenges for the qualitative researcher due to the wider contextual demands of media attention, public debates and intense scrutiny of policy and service delivery. It highlights the importance of reflexive practice to identify and address any unintended influences on the research processes and outcomes. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


In this paper the authors present three case studies of post-bushfire research to demonstrate how the authors adopted a reflexive approach to address external pressures on the conduct and presentation of the research.


There are various types of reflexivity identified in the literature to identify influences on the research participant and the research findings arising, for example, from the way the researcher shapes the research findings (personal reflexivity), and the influence of the research process (epistemological reflexivity). In this paper the authors argue for a different reflexivity: one that is political and has a direct influence on the researcher.

Practical implications

Adoption of political reflexivity is an important tool in post-disaster research to ensure that external influences do not undermine the integrity of the research processes, findings and dissemination.


The importance of reflexivity in research is well recognized as a means of addressing power and unintended influences on research participants and research processes. The authors introduce the notion of political reflexivity to this debate in recognition of the need to address the potential for research findings and reports to be compromised by political agendas.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the investigators involved in the various bushfire research studies referred to in this paper, in particular the leadership of Professor Elizabeth Waters, and the funding received from the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), the Australian Research Council, the Country Fire Authority and the Jack Brockhoff Foundation as part of their research allocations. They also express their appreciation for the contribution of the many researchers, practitioners and service providers who are involved in the named bushfire research studies as listed in this paper.


Gibbs, L., MacDougall, C. and Block, K. (2014), "Political reflexivity in post-bushfire research", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 259-271.



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