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A meta-decision-analysis approach to structure operational and legitimate environmental policies – With an application to wetland prioritization
- Choulak, Mourad, Marage, Damien, Gisbert, Manon, Paris, Mélanie, Meinard, Yves
- The Science of the total environment 2019 v.655 pp. 384-394
- environmental policy, experts, funding, managers, multi-criteria decision making, prioritization, researchers, socioeconomics, stakeholders, wetlands
- Environmental policies are implemented in complex socio-economic settings, where numerous stakeholders hold different and potentially conflicting values. In addition to being scientifically well-founded, the experts' recommendations on which these policies are based therefore also need to be operational and legitimate.Multi-criteria decision-analysis (MCDA) is often used to solve management problems, but studies in the literature rarely place importance on the way stakeholders perceive researchers' interventions (which implies a lack of legitimacy), and most managers lack the skills to reproduce routinely the operations involved (which implies a lack of operationality). We use MCDA methodology in a different approach: “meta-decision-analysis” (Meta-DA). As researchers, instead of striving to identify the best way for us to solve managers' problems, we identify the actors (the decision-aid providers, DAPs) who are best placed to help managers, and we provide DAPs with the necessary tools.Implementing this approach involves three tasks: T1—identifying a legitimate DAP who will provide decision-aid to managers in routine policy implementations; T2— identifying, among the decisions involved in solving managers' problems, those for which managers and the stakeholders concerned consider that some actors have particular legitimacy; T3—designing tools that are compatible with both the DAP's skills and legitimacy constraints.We applied this approach, structured around T1–3, to wetland prioritization in a French administrative region (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté). This application illustrates the feasibility and usefulness of our approach.Our approach entails recommendations for various kinds of actors involved in environmental policies: For researchers, it provides a research agenda to develop new applications of MCDA. For managers and potential DAPs, it suggests that, for some of the problems they face collectively, they should seek the help of researchers to implement a Meta-DA approach. For policy-makers, it suggests that, by encouraging Meta-DA, for example through dedicated funding schemes, they could improve the effectiveness of environmental policies.