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Uses and Misuses of Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) in Environmental Decision Making

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We focus on a class of multicriteria methods that are commonly used in environmental decision making—those that employ the weighted linear average algorithm (and this includes the popular analytic hierarchy process (AHP)). While we do not doubt the potential benefits of using formal decision methods of this type, we draw attention to the consequences of not using them well. In particular, we highlight a property of these methods that should not be overlooked when they are applied in environmental and wider decision-making contexts: the final decision or ranking of options is dependent on the choice of performance scoring scales for the criteria when the criteria weights are held constant. We compare this “sensitivity” to a well-known criticism of the AHP, and we go on to describe the more general lesson when it comes to using weighted linear average methods—a lesson concerning the relationship between criteria weights and performance scoring scales.

Keywords: Analytical hierarchy process (AHP); environmental decisions; multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA); weighted average

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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