Inderscience Publishers

Developing principles of good practice in integrated environmental assessment

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In integrated environmental assessment, unlike many other fields of quantitative social and environmental science, there is a keen awareness of the need for quality and assurance, and principles of good practice. This paper explores what is involved in developing and maintaining good practice. The problems of quality assurance in such a field, apparently scientific but in practice something else, must be confronted. The existing approaches to effective practice are scrutinized the pitfalls of the quantitative path, the perils of GIGO with computers, and the hazards of modelling. The struggles of modellers with uncertainty are chronicled, first by recalling the IIASA energy study, and then reviewing J. van der Sluijs's research. The spectre haunting all these mathematical socio-environmental sciences is "immaturity"; this is explored, and analogies are drawn with the design disciplines and history. Finally, the insights of "Post-Normal Science" are applied, with the distinction between research and professional practice, the qualitative analysis of quantitative information, and the usefulness of the pedigree category in characterising nformation quality. The Post-Normal approach is discussed as a possible way forward from the insoluble problems of achieving good practice, and maintaining quality, in the field when it is conceived in purely quantitative terms.

Keywords: good practice quality assurance, integrated environmental assessment, pedigree, post-normal science, uncertainty

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