Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New York
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Robinson, K. F., and A. K. Fuller. 2017. Participatory modeling and structured decision making. Pages 83-101 in Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders: Theory, Methods, and Applications. Springer.


Structured decision making (SDM) provides a framework for making sound decisions even when faced with uncertainty, and is a transparent, defensible, and replicable method used to understand complex problems. A hallmark of SDM is that it is a values-based system of decision-making and often includes participation from multiple stakeholders, helping to garner trust and ultimately result in a decision that is more likely to be implemented. The core steps of SDM are used to structure thinking about natural resource management choices, and include: 1) properly defining the problem and the decision context, 2) determining the objectives that help describe the aspirations of the decision maker, 3) devising management actions or alternatives that can achieve those objectives, 4) evaluating the outcomes or consequences of each alternative on each of the objectives, 5) modeling the system and evaluating trade-offs, and 6) implementing the decision. Participatory modeling for SDM includes creating qualitative and quantitative models of how the system works, providing data for these models, and eliciting expert opinion when data are unavailable. In these ways, SDM provides a framework for decision making in natural resources management that includes participation from stakeholder groups throughout the process, including the modeling phase.