Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making

Book review: Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making.
Igor Linkov, Elizabeth Ferguson and Victor S. Magar, editors. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands. 2008. $99.00. 450 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-1402090257.

By Amlan Mukherjee

Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making (NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security)Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making is based on papers presented at the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Risk, Uncertainty and Decision Analysis for Environmental Security and Non-chemical Stressors, held at Estoril, Portugal, in April 2007. The collection is organized into four relevant topics that highlight the challenges in decision-analysis for environmental security. The editors have coherently prefaced the book with a discussion of scenarios that require time-critical responses, as well as scenarios that can afford careful deliberative planning.

Decision making and risk assessment across this continuum, defined by “urgency of the problem” at hand across diverse domains, call for similar methods that are subject to varying constraints of time, available cognitive resources, and domain complexity. In this collection, the editors have gathered a diverse set of research experiences that provide the reader with an understanding of such compelling challenges.

This Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making volume successfully integrates the individual papers within a systems framework. Figure 1 in the Preface and in Cormier's paper seems to set the integrative platform that binds the book. In addition, Linkov et al.'s paper on the cognitive aspects of business innovation, Neslo et al.'s paper on stakeholder priority preference modeling, and Gu et al.'s paper on expert and novice differences in seeking information emphasize the human cognitive aspects of decision making at both the individual and the interactive levels.

Organizing the collection using the system paradigm, and emphasizing the cognitive aspects of stakeholders in decision making, is a definite contribution to the field of risk assessment and decision making.

Consideration of trade-off and complexity in decision making is well reviewed in the section dealing with multicriteria decision analysis. Of particular relevance to environmental engineering is Rogers et al.'s work, which considers multicriteria decision analysis and life-cycle assessment within the context of uncertain, incomplete, or variable information.

This Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making work is very timely, as management strategies are turning to life-cycle assessments for quantifying and comparing environmental impacts of comparable processes and identifying ways to reduce global warming potential and greenhouse gas emissions. Using the Stochastic Multiobjective Acceptability Analysis (SMAA) method to characterize the variability in how decision makers value different components of a process provides a very good example of the deliberative decision-making process involved.

The study of time-critical risk assessment and decision making remains a challenge for researchers, especially because of the variability in human cognitive ability and perception of risk. It often calls for an estimation of human behavior and response to situations that make them vulnerable (e.g., in the case of natural disasters). Communicating risks appropriately in such situations and managing situations as they evolve are difficult time-critical decision-making problems.

In this context, the review of lessons learned in flood risk management as presented by Ganoulis is a very valuable contribution. Plum's paper provides the perspective of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in communicating environmental and community risk to the lay public. Gu et al.'s paper also provides a very good example of how interactive simulation environments can be used to fruitfully study how decision makers seek information when responding to time-critical scenarios.

The Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making collection is limited in addressing emergent uncertainty and risk in dynamic adaptive systems. Gu et al. and Grebenkov et al. consider and discuss systems that entail dynamic complexity, and Guinto et al. discuss adaptive management strategies. Similar discussions regarding dynamic complexity use multicriteria decision-making analysis methods to assess decision outcomes. However, there is limited consideration of the evolution of interrelated constraints and dynamic feedback in systems with diverse stakeholder preferences.

In conclusion, Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making provides a very good reader for graduate students and researchers within academia, as well as for managers in practice. The case studies provide a rich set of experiences to further the discussion in the field of risk assessment and decision-making. While the book does not develop foundational theory, it provides a coherent organization of decision-making problems that is compelling and relevant to critical environmental and related socioeconomic problems.

Book review: Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making.
Source: Journal of Environmental Quality 2010 39:1116-1116

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