Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Decision aid, model and good practice recommendations

The Good Practice Recommendations (GPRs) are a structured set of recommendations on good practice in decision-making. In total there are 44 GPRs. They are designed to improve the knowledge available to decision-makers and all stakeholders in the decision-making process. The GPRs are intended to be of practical assistance to those engaged in the process of decision-making, and also represent formal conclusions about the decision-making process derived from the evidence of the case studies, City in Time, and international and national context papers. The GPRs relate to procedural rather than substantive issues.

Their construction is based on the analytical framework of the Watertime studies, which presents data from the 29 cities in terms of actors, factors and events influencing decision-making episodes, in a historical context, with varying degrees of participation and transparency. The GPRs are based on a model of the decision-making process, in which actors and factors are autonomous elements, constrained by the path dependency of history and the possible futures, with the decision-making process as the formal core, functioning within a public sphere through which the activities of actors, assessment of factors, and understanding of past and future is mediated. Although the formal structure relates to a single decision, in practice there will be a constant flow of decisions being made, in parallel and serially.

The structure recognizes that actors will operate in pursuit of their objectives whether or not the public decisions follow a formal pattern of diagnosis, identification of options etc, and whether or not there is a significant public sphere. Actors may seek to influence events without having to be restricted to the public sphere (though others may prefer to operate in the public sphere). They may seek to exert their influence through non-public mechanisms, for example through confidential agreements or contracts, or by bribery. They may operate to create future risks which then have to be faced by the public authority regardless of public preferences, for example through a threat of strike action, or a threat of withdrawal of investment. The same is true in a more general sense of factors: their impact and relevance is partly objective for example changes in the quality or availability of water sources, changes in industrial structure and demand for water but may also be mediated through the public sphere, most obviously in the case of political changes, social conditions.

The GPRs are structured using a number of parameters: by the stages of the decision-making process, by their relationship to information about the past or possibilities and risks for the future, and by category of issue addressed. The GPRs are made available as a standalone set of recommendations, and via the decision support tool.

The decision support tool, the WaterTime Participatory Decision Support System, is designed to support processes of public decision-making on issues related to public water supply. The key objective of the Watertime model is to combine public participation, procedural transparency, and comparative multi-criteria evaluation of options. It makes available the possibility of creating a project online: project administrators can create and efine a project, set up options to be considered and criteria to be used, and upload background documents. It also provides a number of tools to enable public discussion of the project. These include:

- A multi-criteria decision aid (MCDA), implemented within the Watertime system using the pairwise comparison method via an established MCDA engine, Macbeth. This preference elicitation method involves the user completing a matrix of pairwise judgements: is X preferred compared to Y, and if so how strongly (from very weakly via very strongly, with positive indicating an indeterminate positive preference). users are presented with visual feedback on their preferences, and these results can be aggregated by adminsitrators.

- A thread-based tool, an electronic forum. The thread-based mode is designed essentially for easy and quick communication over a short period of time, for communications involving relatively small quantities of relatively simple information.

- A document-based system, through Wiki technology. The data structure of a wiki is entirely freeform documents can be renamed, deleted, merged or split up. Perhaps the most well-known and successful is the user-editable encyclopaedia,

- A form for structured responses to questionnaires. This uses a combination of specific yes/no (and multiple choice) questions and open-ended questions (with textual responses) to gain feedback.

Both the GPRs and the decision-support tool are available in 20 European languages on the project website at

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Business School, University of Greenwich, Park Row
SE10 9LS London
United Kingdom
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