SDM out of the box

This issue is about models and frameworks for making robust decisions. Sounds a bit dry? Well, not the way we tell it. The stories gathered here make a compelling case for the appropriate use of models and frameworks like structured decision making (SDM), and it’s not hard to see the passion that lies between our arguments.

Prue Addison sets the scene by discussing why people don’t use models (see ‘A model solution for good conservation’). She then suggests five ways modellers can improve the effectiveness and relevance of their work in conservation decision making; and a big part of that is by including stakeholders in the decision making process. But it’s more than just about models. “Simply using a model alone to solve a conservation management decision is not enough,” says Prue. “A framework is needed to guide good modelling practice, and we believe structured decision making and adaptive management frameworks are well suited to do this.”

What is structured decision making? Kelly Hunt de Bie and Libby Rumpff explain it’s a decision framework driven by decision makers (see ‘A decision framework driven by the decision makers’). They set out how it’s done and then demonstrate how it works in three case studies of collaborations between EDG researchers and Parks Victoria in this issue of Decision Point. Tony Varcoe from Parks Victoria then reflects on the value of this framework to decision making in his organisation (see ‘Case study 4: The manager’s perspective’).

The closely related framework of adaptive management (AM) is discussed by Martin Westgate (see ‘The evidence on adaptive management’). Martin reviewed the literature on AM and discovered that while everyone is talking about it, not many are actually doing it. Which just goes to show that AM (and SDM) can be challenging to implement.

Hugh Possingham then wades into the debate and takes on the nay sayers. He does this by exploring the most common objections to the use of decision science (and explains why they are wrong). “I’d describe them [the objections] as myths that the nation can no longer afford,” he says (See the article titled “Five objections to using decision science in conservation”).

So, if you think decision frameworks are a bit dry. Read on and discover why this topic elicits such passion within the EDG. Without them we simply fall short of what we could be achieving. As Hugh says in the article ‘Five objections to using decision science in conservation’: “Since 1990, the Australian Federal Government has announced seven major natural resource programs collectively worth $6.51 billion. In almost every case the allocation decisions continue to be ad hoc and opaque.”


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