Date of this Version
2015 by the authors
Traditional conservation curricula and training typically emphasizes only one part of systematic decision making (i.e., the science), at the expense of preparing conservation practitioners with critical skills in values-setting, working with decision makers and stakeholders, and effective problem framing. In this article we describe how the application of decision science is relevant to conservation problems and suggest how current and future conservation practitioners can be trained to be better decision makers. Though decision-analytic approaches vary considerably, they all involve: (1) properly formulating the decision problem; (2) specifying feasible alternative actions; and (3) selecting criteria for evaluating potential outcomes. Two approaches are available for providing training in decision science, with each serving different needs. Formal education is useful for providing simple, well-defined problems that allow demonstrations of the structure, axioms and general characteristics of a decision-analytic approach. In contrast, practical training can offer complex, realistic decision problems requiring more careful structuring and analysis than those used for formal training purposes. Ultimately, the kinds and degree of training necessary depend on the role conservation practitioners play in a decision-making process. Those attempting to facilitate decision-making processes will need advanced training in both technical aspects of decision science and in facilitation techniques, as well as opportunities to apprentice under decision analysts/consultants. Our primary goal should be an attempt to ingrain a discipline for applying clarity of thought to all decisions.