Causality, covariates and consensus in ISCRAM research: towards a more robust study design in a transdisciplinary community
by Zeno E. Franco, Nina Zumel, Kathy Blau, Knute Ayhens-Johnson, Larry E. Beutler
International Journal of Emergency Management (IJEM), Vol. 5, No. 1/2, 2008

Abstract: Research in disaster management encompasses a variety of academic disciplines. Yet, despite calls to expand the range of methodologies used and elaborate a nascent theory of disaster management, progress towards a transdisciplinary framework is slow. Some reasons for this are explored by focusing on the research efforts of the international community for Information Systems in Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM). Similar to the primary disciplines it draws from, ISCRAM research is typified by case study evaluations. As a result of poorly articulated case study methodologies and the lack of alternative methods, the confidence in causal and generalisability claims remains questionable. Performance evaluation techniques may close these gaps, but several limiting factors must first be addressed – in particular, parameterising and controlling for context variables must receive more attention. The need for well-explicated covariates, such as a disaster severity index that describes the relative impact between incident types, is explored in some detail. The relationship connecting the context and performance assessment variables is briefly considered. Finally, we suggest that the quality of research and theory building is contingent on a deeper, transdisciplinary dialogue about the nature of scientific evidence within ISCRAM – a discussion that may also gradually inform a general theory of disaster management.

Online publication date: Fri, 15-Aug-2008

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