What is “The Malpractice Factor”

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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According to Elias M. Awad's book Who Owns Knowledge: Ethical and Legal Issues, the business and knowledge management fields are witnessing a growing number of liabilities placed against professionals who are responsible for the management, control, production, or profession of information.

Chapter 14 of Awad's book's subsection titled "The Malpractice Factor" specifically focuses on the growing concern over the standards by which professionals of this field need to be held accountable in order to declare their work satisfactory to the public; satisfactory enough indeed not to commit "malpractice".

This being said, malpractice (within Awad's field, which is knowledge management) is defined as

negligence applied to knowledge developers for design defects in systems tailored specifically for professional use.

However, Awad argues that in order to consider someone's work as "defective", or "unsuitable", the individual who is responsible for knowledge management must be considered an expert in the field. Yet,  many careers within the field of knowledge management may or may not require license or certification. Hence, it would be hard to declare someone an "expert" without enough validation to support the claim of expertise.

Similarly, the field itself lacks a set of specific standards, benchmarks, and knowledge-based foundations that can be used as a type of rubric to certify someone as an expert in that field, either. This is a problem, because, without clear criteria, it is impossible to determine what is considered rightful or wrongful when the question of performance is placed. 

As a result, there is a risk of the general public's "hyping" of knowledge information systems technology, hence rendering it "responsible" for everything that goes on in situations requiring its usage. Concisely, the "malpractice factor" that Award insists upon is the certification and standardization of practices within the knowledge management field in order to validate any claims of malpractice. That is the factor that he focuses on.

A good example of a malpractice placed upon knowledge management systems, according to Awad, is the National Weather Service's lawsuit by the families of four fishermen who consulted it to plan a fishing trip. Considering that weather is unpredictable, regardless of technology, common sense tells us that it would be nearly impossible to blame the NWS for the fact that a storm did occur that day, and the fishermen died at sea.

However, the lawsuit did go through and malpractice was declared. Notice how nothing really is in place to determine the validity of the claim. Still, it is precisely this lack of value which rendered the NWS too weak to defend themselves against the claims of the people.

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