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Empirical evaluation of decision support systems: Needs, definitions, potential methods, and an example pertaining to waterfowl management

Environmental Modelling and Software

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DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2005.07.023

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Abstract

Decision support systems are often not empirically evaluated, especially the underlying modelling components. This can be attributed to such systems necessarily being designed to handle complex and poorly structured problems and decision making. Nonetheless, evaluation is critical and should be focused on empirical testing whenever possible. Verification and validation, in combination, comprise such evaluation. Verification is ensuring that the system is internally complete, coherent, and logical from a modelling and programming perspective. Validation is examining whether the system is realistic and useful to the user or decision maker, and should answer the question: “Was the system successful at addressing its intended purpose?” A rich literature exists on verification and validation of expert systems and other artificial intelligence methods; however, no single evaluation methodology has emerged as preeminent. At least five approaches to validation are feasible. First, under some conditions, decision support system performance can be tested against a preselected gold standard. Second, real-time and historic data sets can be used for comparison with simulated output. Third, panels of experts can be judiciously used, but often are not an option in some ecological domains. Fourth, sensitivity analysis of system outputs in relation to inputs can be informative. Fifth, when validation of a complete system is impossible, examining major components can be substituted, recognizing the potential pitfalls. I provide an example of evaluation of a decision support system for trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) management that I developed using interacting intelligent agents, expert systems, and a queuing system. Predicted swan distributions over a 13-year period were assessed against observed numbers. Population survey numbers and banding (ringing) studies may provide long term data useful in empirical evaluation of decision support.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Empirical evaluation of decision support systems: Needs, definitions, potential methods, and an example pertaining to waterfowl management
Series title:
Environmental Modelling and Software
DOI:
10.1016/j.envsoft.2005.07.023
Volume:
22
Issue:
2
Year Published:
2007
Language:
English
Publisher:
Elsevier
Contributing office(s):
Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description:
9 p.
First page:
269
Last page:
277
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N