Home » My Thesis » Conclusions: The Discipline of Disaster Studies and Sciences

Conclusions: The Discipline of Disaster Studies and Sciences

The results of the research confirm my hypotheses about the possible use of KDViz to answer questions about the nature of EDM and its body of knowledge:

  1. KDViz and co-citation analysis (when used with awareness of the limitations of the method and the data) are appropriate and useful tools for the analysis of the EDM literature.  These tools reveal structures and relationships within the field that cannot be seen otherwise.
  2. The authors, documents, and journals that make up EDM exist in a widely dispersed network.  This dispersion can result in knowledge held in one part of the network being missed by those at greater link distances away.
  3. The body of knowledge as represented by the authors, articles, and journals in these visualizations appears primarily academic/scientific in nature, suggesting that an acceptable professional body of knowledge does not yet exist for what is generally referred to as “EM”.
  4. Visualizations show that EDM has developed a disciplinary structure and underlying organization. This structure and organization is of far greater multidisciplinary breadth than generally appreciated, and includes disciplines and fields of study from across the earth sciences, social/behavioral  sciences, and the health/medical sciences.  The field no longer falls under the primary purview of Sociology, or Geography, or Public Administration.  The breadth of the structure and organization is also greater than expressed by the terms “emergency management”  and  “emergency and disaster management”. In fact, these appear as subdisciplinary fields or specialties within the larger discipline.
  5.   The term “Disaster Studies and Sciences” (DSS)  better captures the nature of the larger discipline.

The framework for DSS is presented below, using the JCA visualization as a foundation:

DSS Framework

Expanded diagram of possible disciplinary structure of DSS.  This is not meant to be either exhaustive or complete.

Expanded diagram of possible disciplinary structure of DSS. This is not meant to be either exhaustive or complete.

The broad framework presented is descriptive, not normative, as it is based upon what is actually published in the disaster-related literature.  Even without a theoretical basis, the field’s literature has developed a natural logic in its organization that has been represented in the visualizations.   For example, the subject of climate change appears in the above visualization (just to the upper right of center) in the area between the Hazards and Human Dimensions Branches, where different divisions of the two branches converge to understand the nature, implications, and strategies needed to deal with, coming global changes.

The inclusion of some organizational divisions, such as Complex Emergencies/International Development/Humanitarian Relief, may not be well-received by some who object on conceptual grounds to the inclusion of issues such as famine and war.  For myself,  I feel that the study/practice of humanitarianism, aid, and relief, form a significant, and perhaps, overlooked part of the field.  The fact that this area has naturally developed within the literature may be evidence that complex emergencies, war, famine, etc., are conceptually connected to other disasters (my more recent readings of late into complexity science suggests that the ideas of complexity and the workings of self-organized systems may be a  fundamental missing link conceptually….but that is just a thought).

Some may also find the very inclusion of Hazard Sciences bothersome.  My position is that, even if one believes that too much focus has been placed upon the concept of hazard in the past, the understanding and study of hazards is an essential aspect of the discipline.

The distinctions between different areas are also greatest at higher levels of organization.  The boundaries become less distinct, with more “crossing over” as one moves to smaller levels of organization.  This should be expected within a multidisciplinary field that is not only quite dispersed, but also rather small in terms of the number of citations it generates.

There are a number of ways future research can expand upon the findings of the thesis: using KDViz to create profiles of different disaster-related journals; visualizing single topic areas (e.g. evacuation behavior; warning response behavior; vulnerability); analyzing and summarizing the field’s published output during a single year, such as the year just past (2012); comparing results to those using  a different citation index database (e.g. Scopus); and investigating the possible use of Google Scholar as a KDViz data source.


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