While science provides reliable information to describe and understand the earth and its natural processes, it can contribute more. There are many important societal issues in which scientific information can play a critical role. Science can add greatly to policy and management decisions to minimize loss of life and property from natural and man-made disasters, to manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources, and in general, to enhance and protect our quality of life. However, the link between science and decision-making is often complicated and imperfect. Technical language and methods surround scientific research and the dissemination of its results. Scientific investigations often are conducted under different conditions, with different spatial boundaries, and in different timeframes than those needed to support specific policy and societal decisions. Uncertainty is not uniformly reported in scientific investigations. If society does not know that data exist, what the data mean, where to use the data, or how to include uncertainty when a decision has to be made, then science gets left out -or misused- in a decision making process. This paper is about using Geospatial Decision Support Systems (GDSS) for quantitative policy analysis. Integrated natural -social science methods and tools in a Geographic Information System that respond to decision-making needs can be used to close the gap between science and society. The GDSS has been developed so that nonscientists can pose "what if" scenarios to evaluate hypothetical outcomes of policy and management choices. In this approach decision makers can evaluate the financial and geographic distribution of potential policy options and their societal implications. Actions, based on scientific information, can be taken to mitigate hazards, protect our air and water quality, preserve the planet's biodiversity, promote balanced land use planning, and judiciously exploit natural resources. Applications using the GDSS have demonstrated the benefits of utilizing science for policy decisions. Investment in science reduces decision-making uncertainty and reducing that uncertainty has economic value.
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Geospatial decision support systems for societal decision making