David R Johnson

david johnson
Adjunct Mathematician
Off Site Office


Ph.D. in policy analysis, Pardee RAND Graduate School; M.S. in mathematics, University of Cambridge; B.S. in mathematics, North Carolina State University


David R. Johnson is an adjunct mathematician at the RAND Corporation whose interdisciplinary research focuses broadly on decision-making under deep uncertainty. He is also an assistant professor in industrial engineering and political science at Purdue University. Johnson has presented and published on a variety of climate change issues including coastal flood risk management, renewable energy policy, assessing infrastructure risks, and water scarcity management.

Since 2009, Johnson has been heavily engaged in client-focused work for the state of Louisiana. He was the lead developer of the flood risk model used to assess the impacts of a wide range of flood protection systems for Louisiana's 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast. He developed new statistical methods for estimating flood exceedance probabilities in protected areas like New Orleans, and has been working to identify robust strategies for nonstructural mitigation measures like elevating or floodproofing homes. This work is currently leading towards the state's 2017 Master Plan update. He also created a model of greenhouse gas emissions from the production of biomass for the National Energy Technology Laboratory and has worked with water agencies to build uncertainty into their long-range planning.

Johnson holds a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School, with concentrations in quantitative methods and economics. He previously earned a B.S. in mathematics from North Carolina State University and MASt in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Concurrent Non-RAND Positions

Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering & Political Science, Purdue University

Recent Projects

  • Managing Coastal Flood Risk
  • Sustainable Climate Risk Management
  • Louisiana Flood Risk Model Development
  • Adapting to Future Hurricane Risk Under Climate Change Uncertainty
  • Uncertainty in Carbon Emissions from Biomass

Selected Publications

D Johnson, J Fischbach, K Kuhn "Current and Future Flood Risk in Greater New Orleans," in Allison Plyer (ed.), The New Orleans Index at Ten Collection, The Data Center (EP-50906), 2015

D Johnson, J Fischbach, D Ortiz, "Estimating Surge-Based Flood Risk with the Coastal Louisiana Risk Assessment Model," Journal of Coastal Research, (S67):109-126, 2013

D Johnson, A Curtright, H Willis, "Identifying Key Drivers of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Biomass Feedstocks for Energy Production," Environmental Science & Policy, 33(11):109-119, 2013

J Fischbach, D Johnson, D Ortiz, B Bryant, M Hoover, J Ostwald, Coastal Louisiana Risk Assessment Model: Technical Description and 2012 Coastal Master Plan Analysis Results, RAND Corporation (TR-1259-CPRA), 2012

A Curtright, D Johnson, H Willis, T Skone, "Scenario Uncertainties in Estimating Direct Land-Use Change Emissions in Biomass-to-Energy Life Cycle Assessment," Biomass & Bioenergy, 47(12):240-249, 2012

D Johnson, H Willis, A Curtright, C Samaras, T Skone, "Incorporating Uncertainty into Estimates of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Biomass Production," Biomass & Bioenergy, 35(7):2619-2626, 2011

Honors & Awards

  • Gates Cambridge Scholar, University of Cambridge
  • Cazier Dissertation Award in Sustainability, Pardee RAND Graduate School