Professor Paresh Wankhade was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in autumn 2023. He is Professor of Leadership and Management and Director of Research at the Edge Hill University Business School. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Emergency Services International Journal of Emergency Services (IJES), a leading journal in the field. He is recognised as one of the foremost international scholars and visionaries leading research on emergency services, a field which can often be overlooked in social sciences research.
Paresh holds many leadership roles including as Strategic Advisory Board Lead of the Larrey Society (2016); board member of the European Academy of Management (EURAM) (2018-2021); and Trustee of the Fire Service Research and Training Trust (2018-Present). Through these roles he has worked closely with practitioners to ensure that his research is recognised in what are traditionally STEM-dominated professional areas. A corner stone of his research is co-production of knowledge with professionals and practitioners in this space and this is demonstrated with several publications, including developing the UK’s first integrated doctorate in emergency services management.
His research has been unique in underlining the need to move away from a myopic and dysfunctional dominance of response-time targets on organisational service delivery and to place greater focus on staff welfare. His research has also informed key recommendations within the Welsh Government 2018 Review of ‘Amber’ category of calls (serious but not life threatening) resulting in the ‘non-imposition’ of any new target for these categories of calls, unlike the practice in England.
Why do the social sciences matter?
Social science research matters because it enriches our understanding of human society, informs policies and decisions, and plays a vital role in addressing the complex challenges and opportunities that shape our world. This knowledge is invaluable for addressing societal challenges, from improving public health and risk to life, to reducing crime rates. Importantly, it offers insights into how to mitigate these problems and improve overall wellbeing. It has a direct and lasting impact on individuals, communities, and societies as a whole. I firmly believe that social science research contributes to improving the quality of life for individuals and communities by addressing a wide range of social, economic, political, and cultural issues.
What inspires you about your work?
My inspiration for working in emergency services research comes from a variety of sources and personal motivations. I thrive in interdisciplinary environments and enjoy learning from diverse perspectives. Emergency services research often involves collaboration with professionals from various disciplines, including social scientists, engineers, policy makers healthcare providers, and emergency responders. I enjoy problem-solving and finding innovative solutions and emergency services research often involves tackling complex and challenging problems related to disaster response, preparedness, and recovery. It also helps to pursue my passion for continuous learning since the field of emergency services is dynamic, ever-evolving and relatively unrecognised in social science research. Finally, knowing that your research can directly influence policy decisions and emergency response practices is a huge motivating factor and seeing tangible improvements in how emergency services are delivered based on your work can be highly rewarding.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
There are several pressing challenges that warrant the attention of social scientists in this field over the next three years. Understanding the social and the behavioural aspects of climate change, as well as the social consequences of environmental degradation, in my view, is critical. This includes researching ways to mitigate climate change, adapt to its effects, and promote sustainable practices. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for robust pandemic preparedness and response plans. Within my own research, we are witnessing the damaging impact the pandemic has had on the mental health, wellbeing and personal resilience of emergency responders. Social scientists can play a critical role in evaluating and improving the readiness of emergency services for future health crises and building community resilience. Social science research can help explore the psychological wellbeing of both responders and the general public and develop interventions to support mental health and community resilience.
Looking ahead, these challenges underscore the need for ongoing research and innovation in the field of emergency services management. Addressing these urgent issues requires a multidisciplinary approach that combines the expertise of social scientists, emergency responders, policymakers, and technologists. Collaboration and a commitment to evidence-based practices will be essential in building more resilient and adaptive emergency services systems for the future.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
I am thrilled, humbled and honoured to be elected to the Fellowship of the Academy and to join this community of distinguished scholars. Researching emergency services through a social science lens can provide valuable insights into the complex interplay between these services and society, helping to improve their effectiveness, equity, and overall impact on communities. I look forward to this opportunity to support the work of the Academy and further contribute to its commitment to advancing knowledge and addressing societal challenges.