. "Appendix E: Using Decision Analysis in the Management of Contaminated Sediments." Contaminated Sediments in Ports and Waterways: Cleanup Strategies and Technologies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1997.
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guidelines for using these techniques to resolve contract disputes but has not formalized their use in situations involving contaminated sediments. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) frequently uses formal dispute resolution techniques, both for developing regulations and for resolving disputes in specific Superfund projects.
Decision analysis is unique among the available techniques in terms of how it can improve the understanding and quality of decisions and choices. It is explicit and rigorous, and the analytical pathways are reproducible. Decision analysis has the particular virtue of integrating data and expertise from divergent sources into a single analysis, accommodating more variables and offering different perspectives than techniques such as cost-benefit analysis that evaluate single outcomes. Because of its strengths in handling multivariate problems and its capability to model various outcomes (so that the consequences of differing values or assumptions can be tested), decision analysis can be a powerful tool for conflict or dispute resolution in both public policy and project-specific settings. However, because the procedure is elaborate, stakeholders may need some time, as well as demonstrations, to gain confidence in the approach.
Uncertainties and disagreements concerning risks, costs, and benefits are impediments to effective decision making. Uncertainty can foster risk aversion and polarize already-divergent opinions. If the uncertainties are not explicit and available to the decision maker for analysis, then balanced decisions can be very difficult to make—and, perhaps, even more difficult to explain to the satisfaction of stakeholders. Decision analysis is a systematic approach that rigorously accounts for uncertainties and disagreements. If done well, decision analysis instills discipline in the overall problem-solving process, forces stakeholders to be explicit about their value assumptions, and provides disciplined consideration and interpretation of information about risks, costs, and benefits.
The merits of reliable risk balancing through decision analysis are fourfold. First, decision models can systematically work through calculations (arithmetic or logical) that are far too complex to perform manually in a timely and orderly way. Second, decision models can be used as records of how problems are formulated. The record can be communicated, examined, and critiqued so that the final model for a specific problem contains the collective insight of a variety of individuals, each of whom may have specialized knowledge and a different perspective. Third, the collective modeling effort and availability of a record may increase confidence and trust in decisions among those whose knowledge or concerns should be addressed in the decision-making process. The model can clarify the implications of uncertainties about factual information and disagreements about subjective aspects of the problem. The ultimate result can be a cooperative problem-solving environment, consensus building, and the expeditious