2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 4:10 PM


KNOPMAN, Debra S., Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment Division, RAND Corporation, 1200 South Hayes Street, Arlington, VA 22202, knopman@rand.org

For at least the last two millennia, leaders have struggled to provide reliable and clean supplies of water for growing populations. The struggle continues in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world in the 21st century, only now we have a considerable body of scientific knowledge on which to base decisions. This presentation will address two questions: How do scientific and other uncertainties influence decisionmaking, and how can scientists present what they know in ways that actually help decisionmakers? One source of the difficulty in bridging the gap between scientists and decisionmakers comes from the application of still-emerging principles from hydrology and other geophysical and biological sciences to multiple and coupled complex systems. Essential observational data are often sparse or uneven in coverage and quality. Another source of difficulty is that forging lasting and scientifically sound solutions requires an understanding of a complex sociology and psychology of decisionmaking bodies, stakeholder groups, and interested publics who receive and process the scientific information intended to inform their choices. These entities often have divergent interests in the status quo and conflicting views about uncertainty and ambiguity of scientific information. Thus, the framing and presentation of information can strongly influence the policy debate and ultimately policy choices. Under a National Science Foundation grant, colleagues and I are applying research from the interdisciplinary field of “judgement and decisionmaking” to modeling tools for robust decisionmaking as applied to long-term water resources planning in California. We are working directly with decisionmakers to understand how they perceive uncertainty, how they may pursue hedging strategies to deal with uncertainties, how they may value new information, and how much they may be willing to pay to improve confidence in their decisions.