From data to decisions: Processing information, biases, and beliefs for improved management of natural resources and environments

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Earth's Future, 2017, 5 (4), pp. 356 - 378
Issue Date:
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© 2017 The Authors. Our different kinds of minds and types of thinking affect the ways we decide, take action, and cooperate (or not). Derived from these types of minds, innate biases, beliefs, heuristics, and values (BBHV) influence behaviors, often beneficially, when individuals or small groups face immediate, local, acute situations that they and their ancestors faced repeatedly in the past. BBHV, though, need to be recognized and possibly countered or used when facing new, complex issues or situations especially if they need to be managed for the benefit of a wider community, for the longer-term and the larger-scale. Taking BBHV into account, we explain and provide a cyclic science-infused adaptive framework for (1) gaining knowledge of complex systems and (2) improving their management. We explore how this process and framework could improve the governance of science and policy for different types of systems and issues, providing examples in the area of natural resources, hazards, and the environment. Lastly, we suggest that an “Open Traceable Accountable Policy” initiative that followed our suggested adaptive framework could beneficially complement recent Open Data/Model science initiatives. Plain Language Summary: Our review paper suggests that society can improve the management of natural resources and environments by (1) recognizing the sources of human decisions and thinking and understanding their role in the scientific progression to knowledge; (2) considering innate human needs and biases, beliefs, heuristics, and values that may need to be countered or embraced; and (3) creating science and policy governance that is inclusive, integrated, considerate of diversity, explicit, and accountable. The paper presents a science-infused adaptive framework for such governance, and discusses the types of issues and systems that it would be best suited to address.
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