Group decision making is becoming increasingly important in natural resource management and associated scientific applications, because multiple values are treated coincidentally in time and space, multiple resource specialists are needed, and multiple stakeholders must be included in the decision process. Decades of social science research on decision making in groups have provided insights into the impediments to effective group processes and on techniques that can be applied in a group context. Nevertheless, little integration and few applications of these results have occurred in resource management decision processes, where formal groups are integral, either directly or indirectly. A group decision-making methodology is introduced as an effective approach for temporary, formal groups (e.g., workshops). It combines the following three components: (1) brainstorming to generate ideas; (2) the analytic hierarchy process to produce judgments, manage conflict, enable consensus, and plan for implementation; and (3) a discussion template (straw document). Resulting numerical assessments of alternative decision priorities can be analyzed statistically to indicate where group member agreement occurs and where priority values are significantly different. An application of this group process to fire research program development in a workshop setting indicates that the process helps focus group deliberations; mitigates groupthink, nondecision, and social loafing pitfalls; encourages individual interaction; identifies irrational judgments; and provides a large amount of useful quantitative information about group preferences. This approach can help facilitate scientific assessments and other decision-making processes in resource management.
Additional publication details
Analytical group decision making in natural resources: Methodology and application