Management of Complex Knowledge in Planning for Sustainable Development: The Use of Multi-Criteria Decision Aids
Journal article, 2008
The vision of sustainable development entails new and complex planning situations, confronting local policy makers with changing political conditions, different content in decision making and planning and new working methods. Moreover, the call for sustainable development has been a major driving force towards an increasingly multi-stakeholder planning system. This situation requires competence in working in, and managing, groups of actors, including not only experts and project owners but also other categories of stakeholders. Among other qualities, such competence requires a working strategy aimed at integrating various, and sometimes incommensurable, forms of knowledge to construct a relevant and valid knowledge base prior to decision making. Consequently, there lies great potential in methods that facilitate the evaluation of strategies for infrastructural development across multiple knowledge areas, so-called multicriteria decision aids (MCDAs). In the present article, observations from six case studies are discussed, where the common denominators are infrastructural planning, multi-stakeholder participation and the use of MCDAs as interactive decision support. Three MCDAs are discussed – NAIADE, SCA and STRAD – with an emphasis on how they function in their procedural context. Accordingly, this is not an analysis of MCDA algorithms, of software programming aspects or of MCDAs as context-independent ‘decision machines’—the focus is on MCDAs as actor systems, not as expert systems. The analysis is carried out across four main themes: (a) symmetrical management of different forms of knowledge; (b) management of heterogeneity, pluralism and conflict; (c) functionality and ease of use; and (d) transparency and trust. It shows that STRAD, by far, seems to be the most useful MCDA in interactive settings. NAIADE and SCA are roughly equivalent but have their strengths and weaknesses in different areas. Moreover, it was found that some MCDA issues require further attention, i.e., regarding transparency and understandability; qualitative/quantitative knowledge input; switching between different modes of weighting; software flexibility; as well as graphic and user interfaces.
Multi-criteria decision aids