The role of expert opinion in environmental modelling

Tobias Krueger, Trevor Page, Klaus Hubacek, Laurence Smith, Kevin Hiscock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

323 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The inevitable though frequently informal use of expert opinion in modelling, the increasing number of models that incorporate formally expert opinion from a diverse range of experience and stakeholders, arguments for participatory modelling and analytic-deliberative-adaptive approaches to managing complex environmental problems, and an expanding but uneven literature prompt this critical review and analysis. Aims are to propose common definitions, identify and categorise existing concepts and practice, and provide a frame of reference and guidance for future environmental modelling. The extensive literature review and classification conducted demonstrate that a broad and inclusive definition of experts and expert opinion is both required and part of current practice. Thus an expert can be anyone with relevant and extensive or in-depth experience in relation to a topic of interest. The literature review also exposes informal model assumptions and modeller subjectivity, examines in detail the formal uses of expert opinion and expert systems, and critically analyses the main concepts of, and issues arising in, expert elicitation and the modelling of associated uncertainty. It is noted that model scrutiny and use of expert opinion in modelling will benefit from formal, systematic and transparent procedures that include as wide a range of stakeholders as possible. Enhanced awareness and utilisation of expert opinion is required for modelling that meets the informational needs of deliberative fora. These conclusions in no way diminish the importance of conventional science and scientific opinion but recognise the need for a paradigmatic shift from traditional ideals of unbiased and impartial experts towards unbiased processes of expert contestation and a plurality of expertise and eventually models. Priority must be given to the quality of the enquiry for those responsible for environmental management and policy formulation, and this review emphasises the role for science to maintain and enhance the rigour and formality of the information that informs decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-18
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Modelling & Software
Volume36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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