Decision-Support in Waste Management: The DeCyDe-4-Sustainability Case

A paper by Xenia I. Loizidou and Michael I. Loizides, presented at the 4th International Conference on Sustainable Waste Management, CYPRUS 2016.


The factors that influence public policy decision making are becoming increasingly numerous and complicated and there is a recognized need to move away from a purely conceptual and theoretical approach to a more pragmatic one based on empirical evidence. More accountability is now required in governmental and societal decision-making (Harris, 2002). It is therefore not surprising that decision support systems are becoming ever more important in public policy-making.
Waste management is the responsibility of local authorities with community council members taking the ultimate decisions on how to spend public funds to address it. However, one of the greatest shortcomings of many decision support tools is that, ignoring the fact that not all public policy decision makers have high academic competencies, they are designed in a very sophisticated way. Consequently, decision makers find them difficult to use and often prefer to rely on their intuition, judgment and sometimes even interests. This is not unreasonable, since decision makers, at any level, do not only depend on hard facts to make a choice but also on other factors such as ‘cognitive limitation, behavioural biases, ambiguity and variability of preferences and norms’ (Kørnøv and Thissen, 2000).

Nonetheless, that is not to say that decision-makers would oppose to having a tool that would help them make informed and documented decisions. In fact, research finds that decision-makers, who in general prefer to maintain autonomy and accuracy in their decision-making, would like to receive information about the available alternatives on which to base their decisions (Dalal and Bonaccio, 2010). This information should be adapted to meet the capabilities, interests and also timetables of decision makers (Kørnøv and Thissen, 2000). This suggests that there is room for a decision support system that is quick and easy to use, would give the decision makers the factual information they need and would be flexible to accommodate a wide range of policy decisions and academic backgrounds.

These challenges led the authors to develop the ‘DeCyDe-4’ decision support method, which integrates logical processes and established scientific knowledge and local data, together with local knowledge and experience, in a highly participatory way to give a numerical value to a problem or issue that has up to date been considered subjective or difficult to quantify. DeCyDe-4 is a clear and user-friendly method, flexible to accommodate different kinds of decision problems when multiple decision alternatives exist. It offers a framework that supports the decision makers and the stakeholders to understand and justify the main issues that are involved in the process of decision-making and the trade-offs between different decision alternatives. At the same time it gives them the chance to a real participation, i.e. to incorporate their views, evaluations and perspectives in the process. DeCyDe-4 is structured in four preparatory, self-contained and interrelated steps and in a final stage where the actual decision support work is done. The preparatory steps are self-contained because they can be used per se, each step giving specific results. They are interrelated since when put together they lead to the final stage, where the decision is supported, based on facts and data not to perception and intuition.

This paper will present the DeCyDe-4 method and its implementation through the dedicatedly developed DeCyDe-4-Sustainability tool. A decision-support tool that aims to support decision makers in the prioritization of public spending, including on waste management infrastructure, techniques and methods, in order to make local authorities more sustainable. By removing the bias from decision-making, allowing for constructive participation from all the involved parties, incorporating local data and expertise, and giving numerical results, DeCyDe-4 becomes a valuable tool for waste management decision-making.

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