Stakeholder-assisted modeling and policy design for engineering systems
Author(s)Mostashari, Ali, 1974-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology, Management, and Policy Program.
Lawrence E. Susskind.
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There is a growing realization that stakeholder involvement in decision-making for large- scale engineering systems is necessary and crucial, both from an ethical perspective, as well as for improving the chances of success for an engineering systems project. Traditionally however, stakeholders have only been involved after decision-makers and experts have completed the initial decision-making process with little or no input from stakeholders. This has resulted in conflict and delays for engineering systems with brilliant technical designs that do not address the larger context of the broader social goals. One of the fears of experts is that the involvement of stakeholders will result in technical solutions that are of poor quality. The hypothesis of this research is that an effective involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making process for engineering systems from the problem definition stage through the system representation can produce a system representation that is superior to representations produced in an expert-centered process. This dissertation proposes a Stakeholder-Assisted Modeling and Policy Design (SAM-PD) process for effectively involving stakeholders in engineering systems with wide-ranging social and environmental impact. The SAM-PD process is designed based on insights from existing engineering systems methodologies and alternative dispute resolution literature. Starting with a comprehensive analysis of engineering systems methodologies, the role of experts in engineering systems decision-making and existing stakeholder involvement mechanisms, this research explores the role of cognitive biases of engineering systems representation through actual experiments,(cont.) and concludes that the process of defining a system through its boundaries, components and linkages is quite subjective, and prone to implicit value judgments of those participating in the system representation process. Therefore to account for stakeholder interests, concerns and knowledge in engineering systems decision-making, it is important to have a collaborative process that enables stakeholders to jointly shape the problem definition and model outputs necessary for decision-making. Based on insights from the literature, this research developed a collaborative process for engineering systems decision-making, and explored its merits and drawbacks in applying it to the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project involving actual stakeholders in the system representation process. It further explored the potential application of such a process to the Mexico City transportation/air pollution system and the Cape and Islands Renewable Energy Planning project. The Cape Wind case study showed that a stakeholder-assisted system representation was superior to the equivalent expert-centered system representation used by the permitting agency as a basis for decision-making, in that it served as a thought expander for stakeholders, captured some effects that the expert-centered representation could not capture, better took into account social, economic and political feasibility and was more useful in suggesting better alternative strategies for the system. The case studies also highlighted the importance of the convening organization, institutional readiness for collaborative processes, the importance of stakeholder selection and process facilitation, the potentials of system representation as a basis for stakeholder dialogue and the importance of quantification versus evaluation of system representations.(cont.) The basic implication of this research is that it would be myopic of engineering systems professionals to shift the burden of stakeholder involvement to decision-makers, and keep the analysis a merely expert-centered process. Due to the many subjective choices that have to be made with regards to system boundaries, choice of components, inclusion of linkages, nature of outputs and performance metrics and assumptions about data and relationships, system analysts are in fact not producing the analysis that will help the decision-making process. The best airport designs done with multi-tradeoff analysis and intricate options analysis may lead to nowhere if stakeholders affected by the project do not see their interests reflected in the analysis. The notion is that a good systems analysis is not one that impresses other engineering systems professionals with its complexity, but one that can actually address the problems at hand.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Engineering Systems Division, Technology, Management, and Policy Program, 2005.Page 462 blank.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Technology, Management, and Policy Program.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Technology, Management, and Policy Program.