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Record number 540944
Title Nine lives of uncertainty in decision-making: strategies for dealing with uncertainty in environmental governance
Author(s) Dewulf, A.R.P.J.; Biesbroek, G.R.
Source Policy and Society 37 (2018). - ISSN 1449-4035 - p. 441 - 458.
Department(s) WASS
Public Administration and Policy
Publication type Refereed Article in a scientific journal
Publication year 2018
Keyword(s) Uncertainty - ambiguity - wicked problems - decisionmaking - environmental governance
Abstract Governing complex environmental issues involves intensive interaction between public and private actors. These governance processes are fraught with uncertainties about, for example, the current state of environmental affairs, the relevant set of decision alternatives, the reactions of other actors to proposed solutions or the future developments likely to affect an issue. Uncertainty comes in different shapes and sizes and different strands in the literature, which has placed emphasis either on the substance of the issue (e.g. in environmental sciences) or on the decision-making process (e.g. policy sciences). In this paper, we bring together these different strands of literature on uncertainty to present a novel analytical framework. We build on the argument that the nature of uncertainty consists of three types: epistemic uncertainty (involving the lack of knowledge about a particular system), ontological uncertainty (irreducible unpredictability due to inherently complex system behavior) and ambiguity (conflicts between fundamentally different frames about the issue at hand). Scholars have also argued the importance of differentiating between three different objects of uncertainty: substantive uncertainty (uncertainty about the content of decisions or policy issues), strategic uncertainty (uncertainty about the actions of other actors in the strategic game of decision-making) and institutional uncertainty (uncertainty about the rules of the game in decision-making). The framework is useful for analyzing and addressing the nine lives of uncertainty in decisionmaking. Better understanding of the range of uncertainties is crucial to design more robust policies and governance arrangements and to deal with wicked environmental problems.
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