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Research Methods in Humanitarian Logistics

*Indexed in the Emerging Sources Citation Index and Scopus*

Guest Editors: Gyöngyi Kovács, Mohammad Moshtari, Hlekiwe Kachali, Pia Polsa

HUMLOG Institute, Hanken School of Economics, Finland

Submission deadline: June 15, 2018

Research in humanitarian logistics is maturing, and numerous calls have been issued for empirical research and also for mixed methods in humanitarian logistics and humanitarian operations research. Yet still, not only are there no mixed methods but empirical evidence in publications is scant; thereby undermining not just the rigor but also the relevance of humanitarian logistics research. There is no shortage of ideas, however. There is an abundance of conceptual papers, and of models that are based on assumptions only. Humanitarian logistics, humanitarian operations, and supply chain management, needs evidence-based decision-making, and therefore, empirical research.

Researchers in this field do struggle not only with gaining access to the field but also with the application of various methods. Yet there is no shortage of data – though data remains messy (Starr and van Wassenhove, 2014). Apart from the vast number of organisations, and their programmes, there is also more and more data online; and even endeavours to share data in this field, such as the Humanitarian Data Exchange, the humanitarian open street map etc. Questions rather arise as to the quality of the data, data gaps and missing data - vs. in fact big data (Gupta et al., 2017; and JHLSCM’s special issue 2016 Vol.6 No.3) – and the timing of the availability of relevant data for a particular decision.

Relevant data can also stem from other angles, e.g. forecasting the path of a hurricane is relevant for evacuation models, meteorological data is important for mobilisation, natural hazard patterns for facility location; migration data for planning for IDP and refugee programmes; agricultural production data for potential famines, and pandemic data for various health crises – not to speak of political risk monitoring for the outbreak of crises overall. Humanitarian logistics can, and does, borrow insights and theories from related disciplines – not just logistics, operations, and supply chain management, but disaster management, cartography, geology, meteorology, peace research, epidemiology and public health, to name a few – and could do more in this regard also when it comes to research methods.

Purpose and prospective themes of the special issue

The aim of this special issue is to help researchers in improving both the rigor and relevance of humanitarian logistics research. The specific focus of the issue is on the variety of research methods that are applicable in humanitarian logistics and supply chain management. The following range of topics is proposed:

  • The pros and cons of specific research methods in humanitarian logistics
  • Data collection techniques in humanitarian logistics: needs assessment, data mining, surveys, field research, case research, interview studies
  • Data analysis techniques in humanitarian logistics: big data analysis, statistical methods, qualitative analysis, simulation and modelling
  • How to establish a chain of evidence with a specific research method, and assess the quality of the research
  • Matching method and research question in humanitarian logistics
  • Incorporating data from related fields into humanitarian logistics decisions (e.g. from disaster management, cartography, geology, meteorology, peace research, epidemiology and public health)
  • The benefits of applying methods from other fields to humanitarian logistics
  • Ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions in humanitarian logistics

The list of themes and questions are meant to be illustrative only. We welcome a diversity of research on the topic, but are calling in particular not only for a generic discussion of a method but for articles that also illustrate the application of their methods and are honest about potential problems, pitfalls, and how to go about them.

Submission guidelines

In preparing manuscripts, authors are asked to follow the Author Guidelines available on the journal homepage at  To submit your paper online you must first create an author account at then follow the on-screen guidance which takes you through the submission process. If you have any queries about the submission process, please contact the journal’s Publisher, Claire Jackson, at [email protected].

Submission deadline: June 15, 2018


Gupta, S., Altay, N. and Luo, Z. (2017). Big data in humanitarian supply chain management: a review and further research directions, Annals of Operations Research, online Nov 2017, 1-21.
Kovács, G., Spens, K. and Moshtari, M. (Eds.). (2017). The Palgrave Handbook of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management. Springer.
Starr, M. and van Wassenhove, L.N. (2014). Introduction to the Special Issue on Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management, Production and Operations Management, 23(6), 925-937.