New publication explores structured decision making

New publications look at science communicationA new publication from Oregon Sea Grant looks at structured ways in which groups of people can come together to understand a problem and overcome common human errors in judgment as they evaluate potential solutions.

Structured Decision Making: Using decision research to improve stakeholder participation and results is the latest title in Oregon Sea Grant’s series on the research and practice of public science communication.

Written by Robyn S. Wilson, assistant professor of Risk and Decision Science, at The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Joseph L. Arvai, Svare Chair in Applied Decision Research at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business and Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Economy, the 12-page publication looks at recent research on group decision-making, and offers guidelines for developing a process that’s likely to produce results.

“Stakeholders” – those who have an interest in a particular project or problem – are often invited to take part in public hearings, workshops and meetings; many times, the authors note, the results are less than satisfying for everyone involved. Too often, such meetings “give the impression that opportunities for input are simply a diversion to draw attention away from where the “real” decisions are being made.”

Better results can be achieved, the authors suggest, by  using structured, research-proven processes in which participants have an opportunity to “understand the problem, express and clarify their issue-specific values and concerns, and carefully weigh the pros and cons of different actions or options.”

The new publication provides an overview of structured decision making (SDM), an outline of how it can work, and discussion of pitfalls that can get in the way of success. References to specific SDM tools are included.

Other titles in the Sea Grant series look at topics including:

  • Insights from behavioral research for those who communicate with the public
  • Common assumptions about public communication
  • Public outreach and behavior change
  • Understanding specific stakeholder communities

All five publications are available as free downloads, in printable .pdf and text-only versions, from the Oregon Sea Grant Web site.

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