Comparison of techniques for eliciting views and judgements in decision‐making

Mukherjee, Nibedita; Zabala, Aiora; Huge, Jean; Nyumba, Tobias Ochieng; Adem Esmail, Blal; Sutherland, William J. and Everard, Mark (2018). Comparison of techniques for eliciting views and judgements in decision‐making. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(1) pp. 54–63.



1. Decision-making is a complex process that typically includes a series of stages: identifying the issue, considering possible options, making judgements and then making a decision by combining information and values. The current status quo relies heavily on the informational aspect of decision-making with little or no emphasis on the value positions that affect decisions.

2. There is increasing realization of the importance of adopting rigorous methods for each stage such that the information, views and judgements of stakeholders and experts are used in a systematic and repeatable manner. Though there are several methodological textbooks which discuss a plethora of social science techniques, it is hard to judge the suitability of any given technique for a given decision problem.

3. In decision-making, the three critical aspects are “what” decision is to be made, “who” makes the decisions and “how” the decisions are made. The methods covered in this paper focus on “how” decisions can be made. We compare six techniques: Focus Group Discussion (FGD), Interviews, Q methodology, Multi-criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), Nominal Group Technique and the Delphi technique specifically in the context of biodiversity conservation. All of these techniques (with the exception of MCDA) help in understanding human values and the underlying perspectives which shape decisions.

4. Based on structured reviews of 423 papers covering all six methods, we compare the conceptual and logistical characteristics of the methods, and map their suitability for the different stages of the decision-making process. While interviews and FGD are well-known, techniques such the Nominal Group technique and Q methodology are relatively under-used. In situations where conflict is high, we recommend using the Q methodology and Delphi technique to elicit judgements. Where conflict is low, and a consensus is needed urgently, the Nominal Group technique may be more suitable.

5. We present a nuanced synthesis of methods aimed at users. The comparison of the different techniques might be useful for project managers, academics or practitioners in the planning phases of their projects and help in making better informed methodological choices.

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