The Interdisciplinary Nature of the Field of Crisis Management: A Call for Research Collaboration

Article excerpt


Scholarly research, for the most part, is discipline-specific. However, the most dramatic advances in the social sciences are realized when research collaboration is encouraged. Multi-disciplinary authorship and input foster novel ideas, identifies mediating variables, includes transboundary issues, and most importantly, encourages critical analysis. For the consumers of research, collaborative investigatory efforts provide robust findings and inform public policy. Based on the importance of the heuristic value of research to knowledge in science, this article applies these principles to the field of crisis management, particularly from an international perspective.


The heuristic value of theory, and to some extent conceptual framework, prompts researchers to design and conduct investigatory efforts. This basic formulation instigates current research to surpass prior research in terms of refinement of design, diverse subject pool, multifactorial statistical analysis, and reporting of evermore intricate findings. In this manner (as the saying goes), science advances. And as a field advances, there seems to be an inevitable progression to specialization: this seems to be true for both the hard sciences (e.g., medicine) as well as social sciences (e.g., sociology). Such specialization fosters myopic vision, professional fraternalism, exclusivity, and a general avoidance or disregard of contrarian viewpoints or novel, unorthodox views.

In the history of science, it is rather evident that major advances in theory and application promulgate once a scientific field of study accepts and incorporates methods, theory, and viewpoints from other disciplines and fields, and specialty areas. Over the past 30 years, two examples come to mind: a) the initial rejection of holistic medicine (e.g., acupuncture) by traditional western medicine; today American medicine accepts many of the tenets, methods, and treatment approaches of complementary medicine; b) in psychology, cognitive-based theories and approaches were vehemently rejected by behaviorist proponents; today, cognitive-behavioral theory is not only the most popular treatment orientation, but also is well represented in the "scientific" journals and books in the field.

Relevancy to the Crisis Management Field

In this article, We a) present some data that the field of crisis management has now coalesced into a truly multi-disciplinary field and b) make the case that if the field is to advance, more inter-disciplinary and international research efforts need to be nurtured and promoted. Only in this manner can theoretical or conceptual models, interventions, and future investigatory efforts contribute to true advancement in crisis management but also enhance the quality of research findings for the public good (Lalonde, 2007).

The Expanse of the Crisis Management Literature Tracking Trends in Research

Writers and other investigators often have a need to survey the extant literature regarding specific issues, related topical areas, or prior research. Aside from conducting a "Literature review", a researcher can learn much on the extent of a specific literature by studying research-bibliographic trends (Reynolds & Sundberg, 1976). Another informative approach is to perform a "content" analysis of major scholarly texts or of a specific journal over a fixed number of years (Krippendorf f, 2004). Another very useful method is to conduct a topical "keyword" search in a specific disciplinary database or multiple databases concurrently (such as ABI/INFORM, Sociological Abstracts, Psychological Abstracts). By observing trends, over time, one can determine whether a certain topic, theory, statistical analysis, or intervention is popular at a specific point in time. Moreover, one can investigate where and when a specific research topic attracts research attention. Utilizing such strategies, we reported on trends in the OD field over the last 20 years (see Perdue & Piotrowski, 1991; Piotrowski & Armstrong, 2005). …