The Role of Scientific Information in Environmental Decisions
PbAf 595 / ENVIR 500
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30-10:50
Balmer Hall Room 201
Tuesdays & Thursdays: 11-12 (Parrington 207)
and by appointment.
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This course examines how science contributes to decisions that involve the natural environment: how science and scientists help frame debates and decisions; how scientific findings are incorporated into decision-making processes; how scientists and nonscientists deal with uncertainty about scientific questions. Illustrates the need for accurate representation and critical evaluation of scientific information.
- Use decision analytic and precautionary frameworks to analyze complex environmental decisions - develop an appreciation of both the "role" and the "limits" of analysis
- Identify and address issues of temporal scale and spatial scale in decisions
- Identify and characterize tradeoffs in decisions
- Assess the relevant and driving characteristics of risk in decisions under uncertainty
- Build and solve decision tree structures manually and using Treeplan software
- Identify and address issues of variability and uncertainty in information
- Develop probabilistic descriptions of uncertainty and variability in information based on empirical measurement, models and expert judgement
Readings will be assigned from the course text indicated below (Clemen), as well as handouts and journal articles (in the form of web links).
Note: The UW has a subscription to all of the journals and clearinghouses that are directly linked from the course website; downloads should be free from any on-campus computer (although in some cases you will need to register for access). Click here for information about connecting from off-campus. Other reading materials are made available via UW Electronic Reserves; access to these materials will require logging in with your UWnetID.
Textbook and Software
Making Hard Decisions: An Introduction to Decision Analysis (second edition) by R. T. Clemen, 1996, Pacific Grove, California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company. ISBN: 0-534-26034-9 (called Clemen below).
The textbook is on reserve (for 4-hour loan) in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library (OUGL).
Treeplan decision tree software. Save this Microsoft Excel decision tree add-in by right-clicking on this link: TREEPLAN and selecting "Save target as..." to save it where you want. (Note: these instructions may vary slightly depending on the internet browser or operating system you are using.) After saving the add-in, use Tutorial 1 to learn how to open it in Excel and create a basic decision tree. Tutorial 2 goes through a more detailed demonstration of how to input values into decision trees.
Assignments & Expectations
- Preparation & participation: Students are expected to be active, and prepared participants every day of class. The assigned readings are to be completed prior to each class meeting, as they provide the basis for in-class discussions and activities. Because the topics build on each other, regular attendance is essential for informed participation.
- Homework assignments: Five homework assignments will be handed out in the first five weeks of class. These will help you (1) practice the quantitative and decision analysis material that will be tested in the exam and (2) develop your group project. You are welcome to discuss the assignments with your classmates, but we expect you to turn in your own work.
- Exam: At the end of week 7, there will be an in-class, open-book exam.
- Group project: Students will work in teams to analyze a decision. More information on the group project can be found elsewhere.
(10% presentation, 20% paper)