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Discussion is a method to organise information about a topic into a form of hierarchical thread of arguments trying to resolve whether a statement is true or not. In discussion, anyone can raise any relevant points about the topic. Discussion is organised using the pragma-dialectical argumentation theory[1]. A discussion usually consists of three parts: 1) the statement(s); 2) the actual discussion organised as hierarchical threads of arguments; and 3) the resolution of discussion. Once a discussion reaches a (temporary) resolution, the resolution should be accordingly portrayed within texts that refer to the discussion.

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Your contribution in the form of remarks or argumentative criticism on the content of the wikipages is most welcome. It can change the outcome of an assessment; it will improve it and make the assessment better understandable for decision makers and other stakeholders. The discussions will show the reasoning behind the work done in an assessment; it will indicate the objective and normative aspects in the assessment. In this way, decision makers and stakeholders can judge themselves whether they agree on our normative weighting. In order to obtain an orderly discussion, it is appreciated if you follow the discussion rules and apply the discussion format.


How should discussions be organised in such a way that

  • they can capture all kinds of written and spoken information, facts and valuations related to a specific topic,
  • there are straightforward rules about how the information should be handled,
  • the approach facilitates the convergence to the truth by easily eliminating false information,
  • the appraoch can be applied both a priori (to structure a discussion to be held) and a posteriori (to restructure a discussion already held),


Discussion structure

How to read discussions

Fact discussion: . (Disc1)
Opening statement: Statements about a topic.

Closing statement: Outcome of the discussion.

(Resolved, i.e., a closing statement has been found and updated to the main page.)


⇤--1: . This argument attacks the statement. Arguments always point to one level up in the hierarchy. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)

←--2: . This argument defends argument #1. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
←--3: . This is an invalid defense of #1 because it is successfully attacked by argument #4. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
⇤--4: . This is a valid attack against argument #3, because it is itself not successfully attacked. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 17:48, 8 January 2010 (UTC)
--→5: . This is a branch. The argument one level higher (#4 in this case) defends this argument, but this argument points to a new statement, not the original one of this discussion. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 10:10, 10 January 2010 (UTC)
----6: . This is a comment. It clarifies the discussion but does not invalidate arguments. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni (talk) 17:38, 6 December 2014 (UTC)
Discussion rules
  1. A discussion is organised around an explicit statement or statements. The purpose of the discussion is to resolve whether the statement is acceptable or not, or which of the statements, if any, are acceptable.
  2. The statement is defended or attacked using arguments, which also can be defended and attacked. This forms a hierarchical thread structure.
  3. An argument is valid unless it is attacked by a valid argument. Defending arguments are used to protect arguments against attacks, but if an attack is successful, it is stronger than a defense.
  4. Attacks must be based on one of the three kinds of arguments:
    • The attacked argument is irrelevant in its context.
    • The attacked argument is illogical.
    • The attacked argument is not consistent with observations.
  5. Other attacks such as those based on evaluation of the speaker (argumentum ad hominem) are weak and are treated as comments rather than attacks.
  6. Discussions are continuous. This means that anyone can write down a resolution based on the current situation at any point. Discussion can still continue, and the resolution is updated if it changes based on new arguments.


The structure of the discussion follows the principles of the pragma-dialectics.[1]R↻

A discussion is typically an important detail of a larger whole, such as a variable in an assessment. Often the answer of a variable is a probability distribution with the set of all possible answers as the domain. A discussion does not attempt to cover a full range of possible answers, because its statement is not a question but a single statement or a group of explicated statements. The purpose of a discussion is to identify which, if any, of these statements are acceptable (often truth is used as the criterion for acceptability).

The only difference between a statement and an argument is that a statement has an explicated use outside the discussion (such as in the rationale of a variable), while the purpose of an argument is to evaluate the statement within the discussion. However, this does not prevent someone from using an argument for a particular purpose, such as in variables or other discussions.

How to discuss

Open collaboration embraces participation, in particular deliberative participation. Therefore all contributions in the form of remarks or argumentative criticism on the content of the assessments, variables, methods as well as other content are most welcome. The contributions can change the outcome of the assessments by improving their information content and making it better understandable for decision makers, stakeholders and public. Documented discussions also show the reasoning behind the work done in assessments making it possible for decision makers, stakeholders and public to judge for themselves whether they agree with the reasoning behind the outcomes. In order to obtain an orderly discussion, rules and format for discussion in open collaboration have been created building on pragma-dialectics, a systematic theory of argumentation.

Discussion has a central role in the collaborative process of formulating questions, developing hypotheses as answers to these questions, and improving these hypotheses through challenges and corresponding corrections. When a diverse group of contributors participate in an assessment, it is obvious that disputes may arise. Formal argumentation offers a solution also to deal with the disputes. In collaborative assessments every information object, and every part of these objects, is subject to open criticism according to the following rules (modified from pragma-dialectics[1]):

  1. Freedom of opinion. Everyone has the right to criticize or comment on the content of a discussion.
  2. Critique with supporting arguments or comment or remarks is stated in connection to what is being criticized
  3. State your critique with supporting arguments or your comment or remarks in connection to what is being criticized (when possible, use discussion and argument templates in Opasnet).
  4. Comments, remarks, statements and argumentation must be relevant to the issue that they relate to.
  5. Only statements made and arguments given can be attacked.
  6. Comments, remarks, statements and argumentation can NOT be redundant. If they are repeated, they should be merged into one.
  7. You are supposed to be committed to your statements, that is:
    • if someone doubts your statement or argument (----': . (type: truth, paradigm: science view) ), you must explain it (edit or defend ←--': . (type: truth, paradigm: science view) ).
    • if someone attacks your statement or argument (⇤--': . (type: truth, paradigm: science view) ), you must defend it (←--': . (type: truth, paradigm: science view) ).

When a discussion goes on, there is often a need to improve a statement to make it better reflect the truth and discussants' opinions. Within a small group of actively involved discussant, the statement can be changed with a mutual agreement. However, usually some of the original discussants are not following the discussion any more, and therefore changing the statement afterwards would change the original meaning of some arguments of the discussants.

Instead of changing an existing statement, a new statement should be created to better reflect the current thinking. If the discussion develops in such a way that the focus turns to the validity of the new statement, it can be raised to be the primary statement, which determines the colours of the first-level arguments (ie. whether they are "red" attacks or "green" defends).

Discussion structure

A discussion has three parts: statements, argumentation, and resolution, and often references to back up arguments. These are briefly described below using a discussion template. Argumentation consists of defending and attacking arguments and comments.

How to read discussions

Fact discussion: Statments accepted except if toldya. (Disc2)
Opening statement: Statements contain one statement or several alternative, conflicting statements. This explicates the dispute at hand. In Opasnet is must be relevant for the page where the discussion is located.

Closing statement: Resolution contains the current resolution of the discussion, based on the valid arguments pointing directly to the statements. The current arguments indicate that the statement is accepted, except if you apply paradigm toldya then it is not. The contents of a resolution are transferred to the texts that refer to this discussion (in Opasnet, from a talk page to the respective content page); after this, the discussion is called resolved. It should be noted that resolutions are always temporary, as discussions can be opened again with new arguments.

(Resolved, i.e., a closing statement has been found and updated to the main page.)

----1: Argument structure explained The argumentation contains the actual discussion, organised as hierarchical threads of arguments. Each argument is either an attack against or a defense for a argument (called target). The original statement can also be used as the target argument. As arguments always point to another argument, they form a hierarchical thread structure. It is also possible to use coordinative arguments where two or more arguments together act like one argument. Each argument is valid unless it has no proponents (a discussant promoting the argument) or it is attacked by a valid argument. However, also other validity rules than the default one can be used (see #validity and relevance below). In addition to attacks and defenses, also comments can be used for asking or offering clarification; comments do not affect the validity of the target argument. For example, this paragraph is a comment. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 23:57, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
←--2: Defense explained If you agree with the argument one level higher (the original statement in this case), you should use this defending argument template. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 23:57, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
⇤--3: Attack explained If you disagree with the argument one level higher (the original statement in this case), you should use this attacking argument template. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 23:57, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
⇤--9:33: Paradigm-specific argument This attack claims that the target argument #3 is untrue. This claim is disputed, and with scientific paradigm this argument is untrue. However, with paradigm toldya this argument is true. With both paradigms, the attack against #3 is relevant. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni (talk) 06:43, 14 July 2018 (UTC)⇤--toldya view
←--4: Invalid argument explained This argument is invalid because it is attacked by a valid argument (#5). If you want to make it valid again, you should successfully invalidate all the attacking arguments. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 23:57, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
⇤--5: Truthlikeness attack This is the argument that attacks the truthlikeness of argument #4. The numbering does not have any specific order or meaning, they are just used for specifying arguments. It is easiest to use the first free whole number for a new argument, and use that as a reference when needed. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni 23:57, 2 January 2010 (UTC)
←--11:24: True but irrelevant argument. This argument supports the truthlikeness of the statement but is irrelevant although it is true. (type: truth, paradigm: science view) --Jouni (talk) 08:31, 12 July 2018 (UTC)
⇤--11:25: Irrelevance attack This argument attacks the relevance of argument #11:24 and says that it is irrelevant in defending the statement. (type: relevance, paradigm: science view) --Jouni (talk) 08:31, 12 July 2018 (UTC)

Validity and relevance

Main article: Paradigm.

Each argument may be valid or invalid meaning that it does or does not affect its target statement or argument, respectively. Validity depends on two attributes of an argument: it is valid if and only if it is true and relevant. Arguments that are untrue or irrelevant are invalid. It should be noted that with arguments, truth and relevance are thought in a narrow, technical sense: if an argument fulfills certain straightforward truth criteria, it is considered true, and the same applies to relevance. This is not to mean that they are true or relevant in an objective sense; rather, these are grassroot-level practical rules that ideally makes the system as a whole to converge towards what we consider truth and relevance. The current default criteria (called the "scientific paradigm") are the following.

An argument is true iff

  • it is backed up by a reference, and
  • it is not attacked by a valid argument about its truthlikeness (a truth-type argument).

An argument is relevant iff

  • it is not attacked by a valid argument about its relevance (a relevance-type argument).

Truth is a property of an argument itself, so if it is true in one discussion, it is true always. Of course, this does not mean that a sentence used in an argument is true in all contexts, but rather that the idea presented in a particular context is true in all discussions. Therefore, people should be very clear about the context when they borrow arguments from other discussions.

In contrast, relevance is a property of the relation between an argument and its target argument (or target statement). Again, this is a context-sensitive property, and in practice, it is possible to borrow relevance from another discussion only if both the argument and its target appear in that exact form and context in both discussions.

Each argument is an attack (red), a defense (green), or a comment (blue) towards its target. The nature of the argument is shown with its colour. The same argument may also attack or defend another argument, with possibly a different colour. This is because the colour is actually not the colour of the argument itself, but it is the colour of its relation with the target. There are a few possibilities to avoid confusion with these differing colours.

  • An argument is written once in one place, and then a copy of it (with only the arrow and the identifier) is made to all other relevant places, with proper colours for those relations.
  • With several statements, the colour should always reflect the relationship to the first (i.e., primary) statement. If the primary statement changes, the colours should be changed respectively.

The legacy templates (Attack, Defend invalid etc.) do not differentiate between truth and relevance, but only validity. Therefore they are depreciated, and a new generic template Argument should be used instead. It is capable of showing relevance (irrelevant arguments have gray arrows) and truth (untrue arguments have gray content). With the legacy templates, an invalid argument is assumed to be both irrelevant and untrue. It is also assumed to apply the scientific paradigm. If other paradigms are used, this must be stated clearly. In Opasnet, the new Argument template is capable of describing five different paradigms and the relevance and truth values of each (see #Practices in Opasnet).

Paradigms in argumentation

Paradigms are collections of rules to determine when an argument is true or relevant. The scientific paradigm is the default in Opasnet, but any paradigms can be developed as long as the rules can be explicitly described and implemented. For example, previously Opasnet implicitly applied a paradigm called unattackedstand (although the name was coined only in summer 2018 and the mere concept of paradigms was developed in early 2018). Unattackedstand has the same rules as the scientific paradigm except that there is no need for a reference, a user backing up an argument with their signature is enough.

Paradigms may also have other rules than direct validity rules. For example, the scientific paradigm considers an argument based on observations stronger than an argument based on (expert) opinions without observations, and an argument ad hominem is even weaker.

However, the rules in a paradigm can be anything, e.g. that the strongest arguments are those by a particular user or an authoritative source, such as a holy book. These rules will clearly lead to different validity estimates and interpretations of a discussion. But the methods of discussions and open policy practice have been developed having this in mind. The outcome of such explicitly described differences in interpretations are called shared understanding, and that is considered the main product of these methods.

Practices in Opasnet

For discussing, the #discussion structure should be used. In Opasnet, click the blue capital D in the toolbar on top of the edit window to apply the discussion template. This is how the discussion format appears:

|id = unique identifier of discussion on this page
|Statements = 
|Resolution = 
|Resolved = Yes, if respective texts updated; empty otherwise.
|Argumentation = Threaded hierarchical list of arguments. Each argument is on its own line. Hierarchy is created by using indents (colon character : in the beginning of a line). For example:

{{argument|relat1=relevant comment|id=1|content=The blue horizontal line represents the comment button. It yields this blue layout, which is used for comments and remarks.}} 
:{{argument|relat1=relevant attack|id=3|content=This red arrow represents an attacking argument. }} 
::{{argument|relat1=relevant defend|id=2|content=This green arrow represents a defending argument.}} 

Arguments can have such parameters (each parameter is shown on a separate line for clarity). Note that the parameters may be in any order, and it might be a good idea to show relat1 first (and also truth1 if it is not the default true). For details, see Template:Argument.

| id = identifier of the argument, unique on this page, default: current time in HH:MM
| content = content of the argument
| sign = signature of the speaker, default: --~~~~
| type = type of the relation to the target argument, i.e. what is attacked or defended. Either truth or relevance.
| parad1 = main paradigm used to derive the relation between this argument and its target. This is used to format the argument.
| relat1 = relation type between the argument and its target according to the first paradigm: it has two words separated by a single space. The first is either relevant or irrelevant and the second either attack, defend, or comment.
| true1 = truthlikeness of the argument according to the first paragism: either true or untrue.
| parad2 = the second paradigm used.
| relat2 = the second relation type according to paradigm2. Default: relat1
| true2 = the second truthlikeness according to paradigm2. Default: true1
| parad3 etc. up to parad5 in this wiki


  • If you agree with an argument made by others, you can place your signature (click the signature button in the toolbar) after that argument.
  • Arguments may be edited or restructured. However, if there are signatures of other people, only minor edits are allowed without their explicit acceptance.

In order to contribute to a discussion you need to have a user account and be logged in.

Referring to a discussion in Opasnet

On a text that refers to a particular discussion (often on the content page of the respective talk page), you should make links at the relevant points to the respective discussions. There are two possibilities:

  • D↷ Link to a discussion that is not yet resolved.
  • R↻ Link to a resolved discussion.

Because all discussions can be re-activated, the difference between the two is not whether people are likely to participate in the discussion in the future or not. Instead, R↻ means that the current outcome of the discussion, whether a resolution or a continuing dispute, has been transferred to the main page, i.e. the contents of the main page reflect the current status of the discussion. In contrast, D↷ means that in the discussion itself, there is some information that is not yet reflected on the main page; therefore, the reader should read the discussion as well to be fully aware of the status of the page. This way, there is not a need to constantly update the main page during an active discussion. The updating can be done when the outcome of the discussion has stabilised.

Organising discussions afterwards (a posteriori)

How to make a fast edit for long discussion chain:

  1. Create the page with same topic as discussion to Opasnet
  2. Copy and paste discussion from the original page and save it to Opasnet
  3. Attach link of original discussion source/page, save the page and make a permanent link of this Opasnet page.
  4. Attach permanent link to a new version of page.
  5. Remove all text that is irrelevant of page topic (names, times, extra attachments etc.).
  6. Classify statements with suitable categories (e.g. statements can be listed with stars).
  7. Remove all overlapped statements.
  8. Move classified statements to the Opasnet page with the same topic (e.g assessment or variable page with same topic). Substitute removed statements with the link of the new place of statements.

Nuggets are mainly used in a posteriori discussions. Nuggets are freely structured text containing the original discussion, from which the actual argumentation is then restructured. A nugget cannot be changed afterwards, and in this respect it is a different kind of contribution than all other parts in open assessment.

See example of the edited discussion in Discussion of health effects of PM2.5 in Finland(in Finnish)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Eemeren, F.H. van, & Grootendorst, R. (2004). A systematic theory of argumentation: The pragma-dialectical approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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