Home » My Thesis » Bodies of Knowledge Part I » Bodies of Knowledge Part II

Bodies of Knowledge Part II

A body of knowledge can refer to both an abstract concept and a concrete document.  In most academic/scientific disciplines, and many well-established professions, their body of knowledge exists in the abstract and develops over time  in an almost organic fashion.  In academic/scientific disciplines, their general body of knowledge comes closest to concrete representation in current, comprehensive, undergraduate introductory textbooks (I myself can still remember Gleitman, Gross, and Reisberg’s  Psychology being recommended by faculty in my psychology department as the best overall summary of the discipline).

Would-be scholars and future professional practitioners must also usually pass some form of comprehensive examination in their field’s body of knowledge.  Doctoral students are frequently required to pass a comprehensive examination in their discipline as one of the requirements for earning a PhD and joining the community of scholars.  In professions like Medicine, where there is also no formal body, a candidate’s mastery of the professional body of knowledge is tested through license and board specialization exams.

Some professions and candidate-professions, on the other hand, establish formal Body of Knowledge (BOK) or Common Body of Knowledge (CBOK) documents through their professional organizations.  These documents establish the scope, requirements and minimum standards for practice.  Examples of BOKs and articles on their creation can be found here.

To date,  EDM has two efforts underway related to its body of knowledge: the International Association of Emergency Managers’ CEM/AEM examination and the FEMA Higher Education Project’s Body of Knowledge.

Neither of the efforts are ultimately satisfactory in establishing either a disciplinary or professional body of knowledge.  In the case of the CEM examination, the study guide recommends a person preparing for the 100-item multiple choice exam    “”‘Brush up’ on basic emergency management literature. A listing of publications from which all exam questions were derived is included on the back of this brochure.” (p. 4).  The publication list referred to, with the exception of the Stafford Act and several presidential directives, is composed entirely of FEMA independent study courses.   Only the list for the Australia-specific test includes actual journal articles or other non-institutional publications.  In addition to the source documents used to create the exam, little information can be found on test and test-item construction, validity, and reliability.  The evidence does not support a belief the exam validly samples from a full and accurate representation of the EDM body of knowledge required for practice.

In the case of FEMA’s Body of Knowledge, the yearly survey of academics and practitioners started in 2006, was originally conceived as part of a plan to create an EM BOK and update the CEM/AEM exam questions (Spiewak, 2005).  There is usefulness in seeing the recommendations of those within the field.  However, the methodology and results have several problems: works being included that are certainly not part of EDM (e.g. Volcano, The Movie); works that questionably belong to EM’s body of knowledge as they are not the product of the field itself (e.g. laws and regulations; FEMA materials and self-study courses; NFPA 1600, etc);  inclusion of all works under the umbrella of “emergency management”; and though it indirectly acknowledges that academics and practitioners may have different recommendations, it does not attempt to separate works that are part of the academic foundation from those related to professional practice.  Perhaps more worrying is the fact that few, if any,  journal articles (though entire journal titles have found their way onto the lists) or conference papers appear over a six-year period.

Thus, neither of these approaches is satisfactory as a tool for identifying and examining the possible disciplinary and professional bodies of knowledge in EDM.  A new approach is needed.

This is where co-citation analysis and knowledge domain visualization enters the picture.


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