U.S. EPA and Structured Decision Making
December 16, 2014

Last month, fifty scientists, program leads and managers from the Sustainable and Healthy Communities Research Program of the US Environmental Protection Agency, attended a 3-day workshop on Structured Decision Making (SDM) in Raleigh, North Carolina. The course, led by Graham Long, Lee Failing and Christian Beaudrie, was designed to provide participants with a practical approach for supporting communities on projects ranging from green infrastructure to estuary management. It was also designed to provide insight into the potential role of SDM in operationalizing SHC’s sustainability strategy. The course provided a framework and set of tools to help EPA Programs and Research answer some of the following questions:

  • What is the problem the community is trying to solve? How can EPA research help?
  • What are the objectives? In other words, what do communities ultimately care about? What are decision-makers trying to achieve?
  • How will EPA or communities measure progress toward objectives? Are the measures meaningful to stakeholders?
  • What are the decision alternatives? In other words, how will communities achieve their objectives?
  • How well do decision alternatives achieve multiple objectives? What models, tools, and science are needed to estimate consequences? What are the critical uncertainties?
  • What are the benefits and costs of decision alternatives to different sectors of society? What are the key trade-offs and how can they be addressed?

Feedback indicates the training was a success: The course “exceeded expectations”, was “well done and informative,” and “the first decision-related seminar that explained the ‘how’ of, building objectives (ends) and the means (policies/approaches) while linking the process through an influence diagram”. 

Lee & Graham in action: