Review. Supporting problem structuring with computer-based tools in participatory forest planning

T. Hujala, C. Khadka, B. Wolfslehner, H. Vacik


Aim of study: This review presents the state-of-art of using computerized techniques for problem structuring (PS) in participatory forest planning. Frequency and modes of using different computerized tool types and their contribution for planning processes as well as critical observations are described, followed by recommendations on how to better integrate PS with the use of forest decision support systems.

Area of study: The reviewed research cases are from Asia, Europe, North-America, Africa and Australia.

Materials and methods: Via Scopus search and screening of abstracts, 32 research articles from years 2002–2011 were selected for review. Explicit and implicit evidence of using computerized tools for PS was recorded and assessed with content-driven qualitative analysis.

Main results: GIS and forest-specific simulation tools were the most prevalent software types whereas cognitive modelling software and spreadsheet and calculation tools were less frequently used, followed by multi-criteria and interactive tools. The typical use type was to provide outputs of simulation–optimization or spatial analysis to negotiation situations or to compile summaries or illustrations afterwards; using software during group negotiation to foster interaction was observed only in a few cases.

Research highlights: Expertise in both decision support systems and group learning is needed to better integrate PS and computerized decision analysis. From the knowledge management perspective, it is recommended to consider how the results of PS – e.g. conceptual models – could be stored into a problem perception database, and how PS and decision making could be streamlined by retrievals from such systems.

Keywords: facilitated modeling; group negotiation; knowledge management; natural resource management; PSM; soft OR; stakeholders.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2013222-03006