Why aren’t we making better use of uncertainty information in decision-making?

Kim Lowell
Centre de recherche en géomatique
Pavillon Casault, Université Laval
Québec, Québec  G1K 7P4  Canada
(418) 656-2131 ext. 7998  Fax : (418) 656-7411

In their day-to-day lives, human beings are quite comfortable making decisions based on uncertain information. However, in using decision-support tools, natural resource management is conducted based upon the most likely or “average” outcome of a given event.  While this is appropriate over a long time period and/or large area, it is not appropriate for individual events.  This paper argues that management of natural resources should be conducted using the same paradigm that human beings use in every day life: the risk of a given event should be known, the potential consequences of that event occurring should be estimated, and a decision should made based on the risk of this event relative to the potential consequences.  It is quite possible that this could lead to protecting against events that have a low likelihood of occurring, but that would cause catastrophic effects should they occur.  A formal analytical structure for doing this is presented, as is a discussion of how adopting such a management paradigm will change decision-support tools.  Finally, a description is provided of the new visualisation and analytical tools that would be required to employ such a paradigm.

Keywords: Model uncertainty, data uncertainty, spatial uncertainty, decision-support, probability, likelihood

In: McRoberts, R. et al. (eds).  Proceedings of the joint meeting of The 6th International Symposium On Spatial Accuracy Assessment In Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and The 15th Annual Conference of The International Environmetrics Society, June 28 – July 1 2004, Portland, Maine, USA.

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