Selected Academic Portfolio

Peer-Reviewed Publications are available through SSRN, the Social Science Research Network.

1. Reflections on the Informal User Testing of a Computer-Based Simulation Tool as a Potential Aid to Policy Analysis download working paper

QUEST is a computer-based deliberation support tool that is designed to facilitate discussion and deliberation about regional sustainability among a variety of participants. The “QUEST experiences” that are described in this paper have all originated from a concern that users might grant authority to the tool’s pronouncements because of its ease of use, the attractiveness of its interface and their understanding that the results were based on underlying computational models. Drawing on Petty and Cacioppo’s (1986) “Elaboration Likelihood Model”, a related concern was whether there were particular characteristics of the tool – the interface and the existence of an underlying model – that would act as “peripheral” elements in the persuasiveness of QUEST, rather than follow a “central route” based on the user’s carefully considered evaluation of the results and arguments.

While the events described here have differed in their setting and the framing of the workshop objectives, each session was similar in its attempt to ask participants to critically evaluate the usefulness of QUEST as an aid to policy-making and decision-making within a simulated governance environment. While the participants for the sessions (senior graduate students enrolled in a capstone public policy course at the University of Victoria) provided the context and rationale for this approach, my motivation has consistently been to informally test whether the fears and perceptions I had – with respect to whether QUEST users were granting authority to QUEST because of its computer-based nature – were justified.

This paper was originally prepared for a workshop on the use of modelling and decision support tools in governance, University of Victoria, August 28 & 29 2002; revised October 11 2002 following comments received at that workshop and a review by Prof. Rod Dobell. This paper was subsequently revised in its current form as a Working Paper for the Georgia Basin Futures Project. It was last presented at the WTMC Summer School in the Netherlands, September 2003.

2. Comprehensive exams – Defended September 2003

3.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – Summaries for Policymakers and Synthesis Report: A Special Case of the “Science-into-Policy” Problem download draft version 1.0 in Adobe.pdf format (80 kb, 36 pages)

Since being established in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued, at five-year intervals, assessment reports that evaluate and synthesise the current understanding of global climate change. The IPCC is currently developing its Third Assessment Report, which will be finalised this year.

Part of the assessment report process involves the development of a “Summary for Policymakers” (SPM), which is a short synopsis of the full scientific report, and a “Synthesis Report” that addresses a range of key policy-relevant questions. The SPMs and Synthesis Report, which serve as the primary (and in many cases, only) means by which non-experts assimilate the IPCC assessments, are important sources of climate science information for policy communities and news media.

This early draft paper presents the preliminary results of an exploration into the challenges inherent in efforts to communicate uncertainty from scientific risk analysis into the policy realm, using the evolving SPM/Synthesis Report processes as a case example. Science-into-policy concepts and the specifics of the IPCC case are illustrated with reference to the literature and IPCC documentation.

4. Democracy, Shared Decision Making and Implementation September 30, 1997. Submitted as part of the course requirements for ADMN 590, University of Victoria. Course supervisor Prof. Stephen Owen, Q.C.

The objective of this paper is to survey the history of public participation processes in British Columbia (and Canada, more generally), in order to get a sense of some of the important advances made over the past quarter century. Along the way, this paper reviews some of the academic literature which has dealt with the historical antecedents of democracy through to the development of our current democratic institutions with the ultimate focus being on those modern efforts which have attempted to institute enhanced democracy through greater opportunity for public participation in decision-making. We wrap up that discussion with a look at the evolution of the policy formulation process in B.C. and Canada over the past quarter century.

Following that is a discussion of the implementation function and its fundamental complexity, and a look at the factors that can mean the difference between implementation success or failure. Before concluding with a look at specific examples or instances of implementation problems and some tentative successes, we look at some of the strategies that can be used in the policy formation process to avoid, or at least anticipate and potentially correct, implementation problems. Throughout this paper, our frame of reference is the policy process in British Columbia dealing with natural resource use, land use planning and environmental protection, specifically when those policies are derived through public consultation processes or shared decision making.

5. Ecosystem Based Management in Three Contexts December 20, 1997. Submitted as part of the course requirements for ADMN 590, University of Victoria. Course supervisor Dr. A. R. Dobell.

Ecosystem-based management means different things to different people, often being defined by users to suit their purpose and intention. Used by some people in some disciplines to argue for a fundamental change in the relationship between humans and the environment, others use the term as window dressing to deflect criticism from traditional approaches to land use planning and environmental management. The first half of this paper is a survey of the important academic literature on ecosystem-based management, the objective of which is to develop an understanding of what ecosystem-based management means or might mean, how it achieved its current popularity, why its proponents argue in favour of its adoption, and what its adoption might mean on the ground.

In the second half of this paper, we turn our attention to three regions in British Columbia in which some of the theories and principles of ecosystem-based management have been put into practice, to varying degrees, in order to address ecosystem pressures and to respond to calls for sustainable resource development. These initiatives have not always been undertaken using the term ecosystem-based management explicitly, nor has there always been a conscious attempt to draft the underlying principles into the cause. However, each context provides an example of how the principles that underlie the theory can be used to address problems of ecosystem degradation and point toward sustainability. The three geographic contexts that are looked at are Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia’s Central Coast region, and the shared bioregion of Georgia Basin / Puget Sound. These three regions were selected because they offer differing spatial contexts, levels of complexity, decision-making structures and implementation features

6. Communities and Sustainability January 30, 1998. Submitted as part of the course requirements for ADMN 590, University of Victoria. Course supervisor Dr. R. A. (Tony) Hodge.

This paper is an exploration of some of the themes, motives and approaches that underlie the community sustainability movement. It starts with a discussion of the first part of the phrase, by assessing the meaning of the term community. Instead of assuming a meaning for the term, it is instead highlighted in order to expose the often unacknowledged assumptions inherent in it. Following that, the major section of the paper looks at various perspectives on community sustainability. The objective there is to develop an understanding of what motives and assumptions define the community sustainability movement, and how one definition can differ markedly from another. The penultimate section briefly explores some of the issues and concepts that must be addressed when designing measures of community sustainability, to highlight some important groundrules when designing mechanisms for assessing and reporting on community sustainability. The concluding section draws these perspectives together to argue that community sustainability can only be achieved through an attempt to engage and involve the members of the community.

7. Submission to Cabinet: An ELRMP (Ecosystem, Land and Resource Management Plan) for the North Coast and Morice Areas August 18, 1997. Submitted as part of the course requirements for ADMN 520, University of Victoria. Seminar Leader Dr. A. R. (Rod) Dobell.

Rod Dobell’s Policy Analysis Seminar concludes with each seminar participant writing a cabinet submission. Given the intersection of forestry, fisheries, land claims and international borders in the North Coast / Morice region, I decided to be mischievous and propose an ecosystem-based LRMP complete with an interest-based election of the stakeholder negotiating group and an Ecosystem Cooperation Agreement with our good friends in Alaska.

The pdf file is quite big as it contains a map of the region, a LRMP status report, an annotated copy of the “Washington Declaration on Protecting the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities”, a statement of principles and process for conducting the proposed ELRMP, and a draft “British Columbia – Alaska Agreement on Cross-Border Ecosystem Impacts.”

8. Draft Discussion Document — A Framework for Developing a Wellbeing Information System for the Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative: Measuring Performance and Assessing Progress in a Community of Communities September 1, 1998.

This document represents an initial draft of a conceptual framework to guide the measuring of performance and the assessing of progress towards sustainability, within the context of the Georgia Basin Ecosystem Initiative (GBEI). This work is the result of a research project carried out by the Centre for Public Sector Studies, which has been made possible by a contribution from the GBEI Co-ordinating Office of Environment Canada.

9. SMEs in the Global Economy: Potential Effects on the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises Sector in British Columbia Under Expanding International Trade and Investment Liberalisation Regimes February 28, 1999. An Analysis Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Employment and Investment

The international trade and investment liberalisation agenda contends that a more open and liberalised global trade and investment system will lead to higher levels of economic activity, more efficient use of resources, and greater levels of wealth and welfare. Given British Columbia’s economic profile and its place in the global economy, the province’s attractiveness to foreign trade and investment is crucial for its long-term economic wellbeing. The consequences and impacts of such a system, however, are not necessarily synonymous with the public interest and the broadly defined wellbeing of the province’s citizenry. Such a system of international rules would necessitate a reduction in government intervention in the market which could contribute to disastrous effects on overall human wellbeing. This present study is concerned with the economic effects of increased international trade and investment liberalisation on a specific sector of the British Columbia economy: the small and medium sized enterprises (SME) sector. For the economy and the citizenry generally, increased international trade and investment liberalisation has a list of potential benefits and negative implications attached to it. The possible benefits to the province and its economic actors from increased liberalisation include: an international orientation and openness to trade; protection for the foreign investments of domestic firms and individuals; greater access to foreign capital and investment; and a heightened level of economic activity resulting from a lessening of government regulation and intervention in the market.

The possible negative impacts, which are related to this lessening of government intervention, include: a withdrawal of government sponsored equity capital programs and a narrowing in access to private capital sources; restrictions on government subsidies and other forms of development assistance; prohibitions on policies designed to leverage local economic benefits; and a curtailment of market diversification efforts. From the small business perspective, some of these potential benefits and impacts are more important than others. A specific ranking of these benefits and costs for each firm will depend on factors such as the nature of the firm’s business, its general orientation and philosophy, and its perception of future growth prospects. The overarching theme in this analysis, however, is that the economy-wide perception of these costs and benefits hinges on the division of the economy by firm size. In general, this study contends, the benefits of greater trade and investment liberalisation will accrue more to large firms than to smaller ones, and the impacts will potentially weigh more heavily on smaller firms.

10. “What Exactly Do You Mean, ‘Social Capital’?”: Multiple Meanings and a Myriad of Terms in the Space Between the Market and the State. A Social Capital Literature Review and Conceptual Framework Draft Version 1.1, March 1999. Prepared for the Non-Profit Sector Research Initiative Project on Social Capital and the Non-Profit Sector in Threatened Coastal and Rural Economies

In the context of the recent academic and political enthusiasm for social capital and all of its related concepts and terms, many assumptions have been made and little agreement has been reached. The objective here is twofold: to define what social capital means in this specific context; and to develop a taxonomy of the range of terms and meanings that swirl about in the space between the market and the state so that a non-specialist audience can begin to understand the concepts that spread out from the term social capital based on a common framework of language and meaning.

While the term social capital is currently very popular in academic and political circles, it has a long history stretching back to the origins of political economy through to its refinement paralleling the evolution of sociology. Later conceptualisations are explored, focussed on Coleman, Putnam and Portes. An adopted definition for this research project is proposed and several qualifying criteria to that definition are offered for further clarity. A proposed taxonomy is presented, and those elements are discussed in the context of social capital. Several policy relevant lessons that emerge from this literature review are presented in the concluding section.

  • My annotated bibliography for this project was published by the Sustainable Development Research Institute in its Workshop Proceedings: Social Capital Formation and Institutions for Sustainability. Available here.
  • See also my review of Civil Society in British Columbia

11. From Commitment to Compliance: Dealing with Atmospheric Risks in Canada and the United States
Rod Dobell  and Justin Longo         Draft for Discussion – Please Do Not Cite or Quote
Prepared for the Conference on Environment Policy Implementation: A Comparison of Canada and the United States. Convened by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. San Diego, California, July 9th, 1999.

We describe the history of international efforts to design and implement multi-party agreements to address the global atmospheric problems of acid deposition, stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change, and compare U.S. and Canadian policies oriented towards these risks over the past quarter century. An adaptation of Putnamís (1988) two-level games metaphor is presented, focusing on the complex chain of events from international agreement formulation, through domestic ratification and policy implementation to the actions of private and public actors which ultimately determine compliance and implementation success. With increasingly converging policy approaches in the two countries, efforts to address global climate change have come to focus on the search for technological solutions and the prospects for voluntary compliance. While voluntary approaches tend to rely on self interest as a motivating force, social capital may have a role in promoting altruistic behavior.

12. On a Habermasian QUEST: Informing Decision Making in the Georgia Basin Presented as part of the degree requirements in the UVic School of Public Administration. Supervisor: A. R. Dobell. August 31, 1999

Abstract: The key to sustainability lies in the perceived validity of law (i.e., legitimacy) and science (i.e., relevance). Where the instrumental rationality which underlies scientific assessment and policy analysis fails to account for social concerns, the public will not see the proposed solutions to complex social problems that emerge from those inquiries as valid. Where the strategic rationality that drives political decision making misinterprets social preferences, the law which emerges from the political process will not be seen as valid. Using the critical theory developed by Jürgen Habermas, the potential for communicative rationality to develop an alternative source of knowledge to inform scientific inquiry and political decision making is explored. A number of design principles are proposed for establishing discursive forums for developing social preferences maps. These proposed forums would also seek to change individualís preferences to move people closer to sustainable behavioural decision making. The potential for using the QUEST simulation tool is explored within the context of these proposed forums leading to the conclusion that they can play an indispensable role in the process of deliberation, preference mapping and preference modification.

13. Saturday Morning Soccer-Field Conversations: Imagining the British Columbia Commission on Resource and Environment (CORE) Under Habermasian Discourse Theory Submitted August 15, 1999, as part of the course requirements for ADMN 590, to Dr. Kenneth L. Avio (Professor, Department of Economics, University of Victoria).

The politics of the natural landscape in British Columbia has been marked in recent decades by a conflict between those who have sought to develop the potential of the provinceís natural resource base and those who would endeavour to protect its environmental quality and wilderness characteristics. During the 1980s, this conflict heightened into what has become referred to as “the war in the woods.” The evolution of forest policy throughout the 20th century that led to this “war” and its denouement into the present day “cold war” is briefly sketched in the second section.

As a response to this escalating conflict, the B.C. government established the independent Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE) in 1992 to develop a land use and environmental management strategy for the province based on dispute resolution and interest based negotiation processes. An “urban myth” that has spread in recent years among B.C. policy watchers holds that the design principles for CORE catalysed during the Saturday morning conversations of the province’s then premier Mike Harcourt and CORE’s first Commissioner Stephen Owen (at that time the province’s Ombudsman) along the sidelines at their sons’ soccer games.  While both men admit that these conversations had a role leading up to the establishment of CORE, there is a much richer theoretical and applied background that informed the operating principles for the Commission. This literature, and the design principles it gave rise to as manifest in CORE, is briefly surveyed in section three. Some observations on the conduct and consequences of the CORE process are also presented there.

Building on this foundation, this paper poses a hypothetical question set in the context of the mythologised Saturday morning soccer-field context. What if, in addition to Harcourt the politician and Owen the Ombudsman, the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas had been present at those conversations? Key elements of Habermas’ discourse theory, as they would apply in this context, are discussed in section four. In the concluding section, the relationship between these theoretical principles and the actual design and conduct of CORE is highlighted with some observations on whether discourse ethics would have shaped the design and implementation of the Commission’s mandate.

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