New web application helps users to collaborate on complex decisions

A new web-based application that helps to analyse complex issues and make decisions is launched today. The Multicriteria Mapping (MCM) tool has been developed by Prof Andy Stirling, an academic with the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, in collaboration with the Sussex Innovation Centre, and DabApps – a Brighton-based digital applications developer.

This new, web-based version of MCM, whilst aimed primarily at strategic debates involving government, commercial and voluntary sectors, can be used in any setting, anywhere in the world, where there is an interest in better understanding the views of others.

MCM is an interactive, multicriteria appraisal method for exploring contrasting perspectives on complex strategic and policy issues. Like other decision analysis tools, MCM can be used to explore average values and an overall best picture.

Yet, MCM is also different to other decision analysis tools as it links qualitative and quantitative information to help explore how options change depending on how they are viewed. This enables users and collaborators to gain a clear picture of how and why different perspectives vary on key issues and options - as well as the practical implications for decisions. It thereby helps to 'open up' the strategy or policy process by systematically mapping the practical implications of alternative options, understandings and values.

"It’s great to get the chance to make this unique new tool available to anyone who wants to ‘open up’ a complex decision making process and see how the answers depend on the questions," said Prof Stirling.

Prof Stirling originally developed MCM in the late 1990s, and it has been used in a wide variety of contexts including the appraisal of options for energy strategy; food production; environmental policy consultation; radioactive waste management; obesity policy; and public health responses to the shortage of kidney donors.

MCM has been shown to help ease suspicion and develop confidence in consultative processes on issues where there are conflicting interests and deep disagreement, highlighting alternative ways forward, so as to help enhance the accountability and robustness of final decisions.

"We are very excited about the launch of MCM as a web application, which will empower people the world over to perform complex decision analysis," said Mike Herd, Executive Director of the Sussex Innovation Centre. "This tool has proved extremely popular among the academic community, helping to account for the views of many different stakeholders when proposing new policies.

"We believe that MCM could have wide-ranging uses in government, industry and public services, as well as helping businesses to think holistically about issues like market research, or recruitment strategy."

"There’s a big divide between quantitative and qualitative approaches – and between techniques that treat problems as objective or subjective,” said Prof Stirling. “MCM offers a way to span these divides – in a way that should help in everyday decisions, as well as forming a basis for ambitious interdisciplinary projects."

The application aims to support better understanding of alternative options, uncertainties and different perspectives where complex decisions must be made. Ultimately, it is hoped that MCM will facilitate an increasingly rigorous and inclusive decision-making process, resulting in better decisions.

To try MCM for yourself, visit multicriteriamapping.com to sign up for a free 60-day trial.