Eliciting improved quantitative judgements using the IDEA protocol: A case study in natural resource management

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Abstract

Introduction Natural resource management uses expert judgement to estimate facts that inform important decisions. Unfortunately, expert judgement is often derived by informal and largely untested protocols, despite evidence that the quality of judgements can be improved with structured approaches. We attribute the lack of uptake of structured protocols to the dearth of illustrative examples that demonstrate how they can be applied within pressing time and resource constraints, while also improving judgements. Aims and methods In this paper, we demonstrate how the IDEA protocol for structured expert elicitation may be deployed to overcome operational challenges while improving the quality of judgements. The protocol was applied to the estimation of 14 future abiotic and biotic events on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Seventy-six participants with varying levels of expertise related to the Great Barrier Reef were recruited and allocated randomly to eight groups. Each participant provided their judgements using the four-step question format of the IDEA protocol (‘Investigate’, ‘Discuss’, ‘Estimate’, ‘Aggregate’) through remote elicitation. When the events were realised, the participant judgements were scored in terms of accuracy, calibration and informativeness. Results and conclusions The results demonstrate that the IDEA protocol provides a practical, cost-effective, and repeatable approach to the elicitation of quantitative estimates and uncertainty via remote elicitation. We emphasise that i) the aggregation of diverse individual judgements into pooled group judgments almost always outperformed individuals, and ii) use of a modified Delphi approach helped to remove linguistic ambiguity, and further improved individual and group judgements. Importantly, the protocol encourages review, critical appraisal and replication, each of which is required if judgements are to be used in place of data in a scientific context. The results add to the growing body of literature that demonstrates the merit of using structured elicitation protocols. We urge decision-makers and analysts to use insights and examples to improve the evidence base of expert judgement in natural resource management.

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Hemming, V., Walshe, T. V., Hanea, A. M., Fidler, F., & Burgman, M. A. (2018). Eliciting improved quantitative judgements using the IDEA protocol: A case study in natural resource management. PLoS ONE, 13(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198468

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