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Parsha is a research project applied from the Academy of Finland in September 2016. Its main objective is to test and implement the method of shared understanding on pressing environmental and health issues and other policy relevant problems. The method of shared undestanding is closely related to open assessment (a scientific method to evaluate impacts of policy decisions) and open policy practice (guidance to evaluate and manage a decision support process that involves an open assessment). However, the method of shared understanding (link goes to a Finnish description), is especially focussing on developing a description of issues, statements, and values presented by participants of a complex political decision situation. This goes beyond the description of scientific knowledge (which is the aim of open assessment) and incorporating that into an "official" decision making process (which is the aim of open policy practice). The method of shared understanding aims to understand and describe also aspects and values that researchers say are wrong or decision makers say are irrelevant or unfavourable. The purpose of such an exercise is to understand, discuss, and mediate societal opinions that may lead to controversies, political opposition, or even conflicts.
- 1 Abstract
- 2 Public summary
- 3 Keywords
- 4 See also
- 5 Research plan: Participation in shared understanding of climate and other policies (Parsha)
- 5.1 1. Project information
- 5.2 2. Rationale
- 5.3 3. Objectives and expected results
- 5.4 4. Research methods and material, support from research environment
- 5.5 5. Ethical issues
- 5.6 6. Implementation: schedule, budget, distribution of work
- 5.7 7. Research team and collaborative partners
- 5.8 8. Research careers, fulfilment of the mobility requirement and researcher training
- 5.9 9. Mobility plan for the funding period
- 5.10 10. Bibliography
Open data and practices are becoming common in the society. This trend has also brought problems: new internet tools enable to distribute also false and even malevolent information and to distort policy making. Scientific policy support practices are not well equipped to tackle this challenge. An example is prevalent quasi-scientific climate scepticism.
Shared understanding is a situation, where participants know, what the important issues are and where there are agreements and disagreements and why. In Parsha project it is considered a prerequisite for rational thinking and societal policy making. The main objective of Parsha is to test and implement methods and tools for producing shared understanding on pressing environmental and health issues and other policy-relevant problems.
Shared understanding will be produced in several policy-relevant, controversial situations, starting with climate change policies in Helsinki and disease burden disputes about air pollution. New topics will be chosen for the latter part of the project based on future needs. The methods to be used are based on open assessment and open policy practice, which have been developed and successfully used by our team and which evaluate impacts of future policy decisions using scientific information. In Parsha, the focus will additionally be on systematically describing and analysing values and statements not necessarily based on science.
Parsha is based on i) a social innovation of hearing every viewpoint systematically without aiming at consensus; ii) an information science innovation of a structured synthesis from which viewpoints can be reproduced and discrepancies analysed; and iii) a technological innovation of an interface to facilitate participation, knowledge retrieval, learning, and policy support. Our hypothesis is that scientific knowledge prevails in this process.
Parsha will extensively use participation and co-creation in its studies and actively share its results. It will use experiments to test performance of the innovations: whether they actually can collect, synthesise and describe information from participants to their satisfaction; whether the synthesis is informative and correctly interpreted by others; whether the disputes can be identified and their impact described; and whether such analyses actually help policy makers avoid emotional, fast thinking. If they do, many complex environmental and health problems may come closer to a solution.
The trend of open data and practices has also problems: internet tools help distribute false information and distort policy making. Scientific policy support needs better practices.
We test and implement methods for producing shared understanding on policy-relevant problems. Experimental case studies include science-based open assessments about climate change policies in Helsinki and disease burden disputes about air pollution. They will be augmented by systematically describing and analysing values and statements by stakeholders.
Methods are based on i) hearing every viewpoint systematically without aiming at consensus; ii) a structured synthesis, from which viewpoints can be reproduced and discrepancies analysed; and iii) an interface to facilitate participation, learning, and policy support. Hypothesis: scientific knowledge prevails in this process, helping policy makers avoid emotional, fast thinking. If it does, many environmental and health problems come closer to a solution.
Avoimuustrendissä on myös ongelmia: internetin työkalut auttavat levittämään virheellistä tietoa ja vääristämään yhteiskunnan päätöksentekoa.
Me testaamme ja sovellamme menetelmiä jaetun ymmärryksen tuottamiseen poliittisista kysymyksistä. Kokeelliset tapaustutkimukset liittyvät mm. tutkimuspohjaisiin avoimiin arviointeihin ilmastopolitiikoista Helsingissä ja kiistoihin ilmansaasteiden tautitaakasta. Näitä täydennetään kuvaamalla ja analysoimalla systemaattisesti sidosryhmien väitteitä ja arvostuksia.
Menetelmät perustuvat i) kaikkien näkökulmien kuuntelemiseen ilman vaatimusta yhteisymmärryksestä; ii) jäsennettyyn synteesiin, josta näkökulmat voidaan toisintaa ja epäjohdonmukaisuuksia tutkia; ja iii) käyttäjärajapintaan, joka tukee osallistumista, oppimista ja päätöstukea. Hypoteesi: tieteellinen tieto hallitsee tätä prosessia auttaen päättäjiä välttämään tunnepohjaista "nopeaa" ajattelua ja huonoja ratkaisuja. Jos niin käy, monet ympäristö- ja terveysongelmat lähestyvät ratkaisua.
ilmastonmuutos, ilmansaasteet, ympäristöterveys, päätöstuki, jaettu ymmärrys, avoin tiede, argumentaatio, osallistuminen, avoin arviointi, päätöksenteko, tieteen menetelmä
climate change, air pollution, environmental health, policy support, shared understanding, open science, argumentation, participation, open assessment, decision making, scientific method
Fields of research
- Public health research
- Environmental health research
- Environmental social science research
- Software engineering, operating systems, man-computer interaction
Some important pages related to the project:
- Drive folder for the application (DL 28.9.2016)
- Project description in Harava (password-protected)
- Relevant methods in Opasnet:
- Academy instructions:
- Pekka Neittaanmäki, Timo Huttula, Juha Karvanen, Tom Frisk, Jouni Tuomisto, Antti Simola, Tero Tuovinen, Janne Ropponen. Unicorn – Open science for assessing environmental state, human health and regional economy. Research Ideas and Outcomes 2: e9232 (16 May 2016) doi:10.3897/rio.2.e9232  
- Jouni Tuomisto; John Evans; Arja Asikainen; Pauli Ordén. 2016. Discussion rules as a method to resolve scientific disputes. In: Abstracts of the 2016 Epidemiology (ISEE). Abstract P2-377, ID: 3552. Research Triangle Park, NC:Environmental Health Perspectives; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.isee2016.
- Eucrowd (European Citizens Crowdsourcing): Co-building policy with citizens to improve democracy in Europe 
- Wikipedia articles about artificial intelligence relevant to scientific information in policy making:
- en:Artificial intelligence
- en:Artificial intelligence in healthcare
- en:Version space learning
- en:Dendral (a pioneer AI project for mass spectrometry)
- en:Expert system (for collecting information from experts)
- en:Knowledge acquisition (how to define rules and ontologies)
- en:Knowledge representation and reasoning
- en:Commonsense knowledge with en:Cyc project and en:Lisp language
- en:Commmonsense reasoning
- en:Rule-based machine learning
- en:Prolog logic programming language, based on en:constraint programming
- en:WordNet dictionary and thesaurus
- en:Wikidata (semantic database) and en:DBPedia (database created from Wikipedia content)
- en:Semantic MediaWiki
- 4Facts for scaling up fact checking 
- Korp database for Suomi24 content in CSC. 
- MyData2017 conference in Tallinn and Helsinki 
- Final version of application to the Academy funding call in 2016. 
1. Project information
- Principal investigator (PI): Jouni Tuomisto, Department of Health Protection, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)
- Project title: Participation in shared understanding of climate and other policies (Parsha)
- Site of research: National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL): , Kuopio, Finland.
- Date of research: 1 Sept 2017 - 31 August 2021.
- Date of research plan: 28 Sept 2016
- Funding: Academy of Finland: 420173 €, THL: 180075 €, total: 600248 €
- Academy committee: Biosciences and the environment.
- Collaborators: The research and case studies will be performed in close collaboration with scientific, policy, and participation experts in Kuopio (National Institute for Health and Welfare), Helsinki (City of Helsinki, Open Knowledge Finland, Future Earth Finland, Prime Minister\’s Office, Oxford Research), Utrecht (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM), and New York City (The Governance Lab, NYU). See chapter 7 Collaborators for details.
- Context: Societal decision making related to climate change mitigation, air pollution, environmental health, and other contemporary issues.
- Topic: Testing and developing methods, practices and tools for effective and coherent information flow between researchers, policy makers, and stakeholders.
Basic idea and merit of the project
Parsha project will take several important environmental and health policy issues under scrutiny and study available scientific knowledge but also political values and options, and stakeholder concerns and beliefs. We will start from climate policies in Helsinki and disease burden of air pollution in Finland. We will use existing and novel open methods for information synthesis and modelling. Open participation and mutual learning is ensured by large collaboration networks of researchers, policy-makers, and non-governmental organisations. The project will develop a new and effective way of resolving disputes and sharing information about these resolutions. This may improve the way we perform science and policy.
Climate change policy actions need synthesis
The city of Helsinki is strongly committed to climate policy by both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a changing climate. Recently, we performed a review of important strategy papers (Tuomisto et al. 2014) and found more than 600 planned climate actions. A major challenge is to make sense out of this diverse pool, select the most effective actions, evaluate their other impacts and desirability among different groups, and implement them coherently. Making a full impact assessment of all actions would be ideal but is not feasible. There is a clear need to develop practices to organise information about extensive topics with large written materials, difficult scientific questions, high political stakes, and widely differing opinions and values.
An example of a critical scientific dispute is the actual climate impact of biofuels. If biofuels are found as bad in Finland as a fresh US study demonstrates (DeCicco et al. 2016), this conclusion seriously alters the preference order of several policy actions. A useful information system would identify this as a critical issue and tell, how the action priorities would change if one or another conclusion is made. The same need applies as well to non-scientific disputes about values. Air pollution disease burden is a methodological and policy challenge Many environmental issues are also health issues. During the recent years, several assessments have been performed about health impacts of airborne particulate matter, the major pollutant in Finland as well as globally (Hänninen & Knol 2011, Asikainen et al. 2013, Lelieveld et al. 2015, Brauer et al. 2016). However, at the same time, the whole method used to calculate premature deaths caused by air pollution has been challenged, and the discussion is still ongoing (Morfeld 2016, Héroux 2016). The discussion is very much about the detailed methods, mathematics, and interpretations of concepts, being far too lengthy and complex for any policy maker to follow.
Again, there is a need for an information system that can be used to organise the knowledge and produce an understandable, policy-relevant synthesis that is consistent with the methodological discussion and conclusions. Also, the conclusions should be reflected in the actual mathematical tools assessors are using in their health impact assessments. Parsha project is based on an existing system, Opasnet web-workspace, that partly offers these functionalities but that requires several steps of development and research to fulfil this need.
Persistent disputes about climate friendliness of biofuels and methods of calculating and interpreting attributable risks show that there is a need for a) systematic and detailed discussion between disagreeing parties and b) an open, neutral repository for reasonings, resolutions and summaries of these discussions.
RDF, DAG and BBN is a novel combination for organising information
Information systems have developed and are developing rapidly, offering functionalities that were just a dream ten years ago. However, these are typically developed for needs within disciplines, while here we are talking about systems and practices that should be shared by two completely different disciplines: science and policy. A premise of Parsha is that this difference is a major reason for inefficient use of science in policy, and shared information systems and practices would be a major breakthrough. Therefore, we now present a few powerful systems and discuss their potential in this interdisciplinary task.
Resource description framework (RDF) is a system developed by W3C, an organisation for standardising the Internet. RDF can describe rich spaces of information, e.g. contents of an encyclopedia, in a systematic way by defining items and relations that describe properties of the items (W3C 2016). RDF is extensively used in e.g. defining the contents of Wikipedia using the Wikidata RDF database. The database enables rich queries of the content. Such properties are needed also for describing complex policy issues.
Directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) are an effective graphical way to describe items and their relations. They are extensively used in many disciplines, but they are especially useful in e.g. describing causal relations (Pearl 2009). If these relations are estimated using conditional subjective probabilities, the information in the system can be updated using Bayes\’ rule, and the system is called a Bayesian belief network (BBN).
RDF and BBN are becoming more commonly used, but they have not been used together to describe complex policy situations in such a way that scientific issues, valuations and disputes would have all been described in a single, coherent system. In addition, pragma-dialectic argumentation theory gives rules for resolving disputes (van Eemeren & Grootendorst 2004). Our innovation in Parsha project is that the essence of these resolutions can be described using RDF and thus take argumentation as an integral part of the system. This combination of novel techniques is unique and gives promises of important breakthroughs. Whether this combination works as expected, will be studied during the project.
Although we describe causal systems and people\’s reasonings and valuations in the same information system, our aim is not to solve policy problems automatically. Rather, the objective is to build a system where all relevant information - including political discussion - can be organised, criticised, synthesised and made readily available in useful format for policy making.
Open practices are needed in science.
The society has changed, and the legitimacy of science requires openness and discussion with citizens, not just one-directional informing of scientific wonders. (Väliverronen 2016a & 2016b). There is a lot of current activity related to open publishing of articles; open data; policy relevance of scientific information (Jussila 2012, Klemola ym. 2014, Raivio 2014, Vihriälä 2016, VNK 2011); research funding focussed on rapid societal utility (Strategic Research Council of the Academy; Prime Minister\’s Office\’s research program VN-TEAS); citizen science; public participation and co-creation in policy development; and experimentation of different policies ([www.tietokayttoon.fi-http://www.tietokayttoon.fi/]).
Between and connected to all of these, there exists an ecologic niche for the Parsha project: there is an urgent need to study how information should and could flow in the society and produce a consistent, comprehensive approach that is able to capture important ideas, values, and causal understanding related to different activities in the society. It must also be able to distinguish which relevant claims can and which cannot be defended based on science, bearing in mind that there are also other than scientific worldviews in the society.
Open assessment takes two steps toward policy relevance
In our previous work, we have already shown that the information structures of open assessment are effective and applicable in impact assessments and policy analyses. (Pohjola et al. 2012, Tuomisto et al. 2015, Pohjola & Tuomisto 2011) A central idea is knowledge crystal (Tuomisto 2015), a distinct web page that has a clear research question and that aims to answer it by co-creating a synthesis of scientific data. Importantly, knowledge crystals are re-usable objects and they develop in time when they are used in new assessments. Knowledge crystals are also effective means to communicate, as they have a layman summary and detailed data and code for experts. In this structure, all information relevant to a particular research question can be located in one place; the prevalent scientific publishing system only publishes distinct, static articles with limited error correction functionalities (Allison et al 2016).
Synthesising scientific information into an assessment, or quantitative causal description of policy-relevant issues, takes a lot of time and work and may come too late for decision making. Openly available, ready-made, reusable information objects help in this problem. Our experiences so far are promising about using such objects and a web-workspaces, and they will be further used in this project.
Assessments are not equipped to deal with many important political aspects such as values, disputes, non-rational reasoning and hidden agendas. A hypothesis in Parsha is that these can also be described in a systematic and useful way by using particular information objects and relations with other aspects. What kinds of objects and relations are needed and what attributes should be described is a major research question in this project.
Shared understanding connects science and policy.
Shared understanding is a situation where participants know what issues, agreements and disagreements there are and why, related to e.g. a policy question. Ideally, it is a written description of all participants\’ claims, values, and scientific issues that are relevant. Issues are described and connected to each other with logical, causal and other relations. From this description it is possible to reproduce anyone\’s viewpoint in detail to their satisfaction. It is also possible to analyse discrepancies between any two participants\’ viewpoints or within one participants thinking. Importantly, the scientific viewpoint, based on data and refutation of implausible hypotheses, can also be described as a \’participant\’ and used in analyses.
If successful, shared understanding offers a single rich source of reliable, policy-relevant information and thus reduces the power of malevolent distribution of false claims. It also helps to focus on the actual substance rather than power politics, because people are heard based on the merit of their contributions rather than their position. Parsha is based on the hypothesis that such shared understanding would improve decision support by facilitating decisions that are according to the values of the people and based on rational, slow thinking (system 2 thinking as defined by Kahneman 2011). Several research questions arise from this hypothesis.
3. Objectives and expected results
3 A Objectives of the research
Parsha project will study several policy cases relevant for environment and health, review scientific knowledge and synthesise political discussion. All this information is described as shared understanding of the cases. The bold aim is to produce such a comprehensive and well-structured description that most political and scientific aspects raised can be reproduced from there. Such description would enable understanding and learning what and why participants would decide based on their values. If this aim is achieved, shared understanding may become a key method to produce and disseminate policy-relevant information. This may result in positive feedback loop of improved understanding, when citizens learn to use the method to demand clarity in policy, and experts and policy-makers learn to use it to offer clarity and rationale for decisions.
Parsha is based on i) a social innovation of hearing every viewpoint systematically without aiming at consensus; ii) an information science innovation of a structured synthesis from which viewpoints can be reproduced and discrepancies analysed; and iii) a technological innovation of an interface to facilitate participation, knowledge retrieval, learning, and policy support. Our hypothesis is that scientific knowledge prevails in this process because of its internal consistency, while vague and flawed reasoning is identified as such and turned down.
Objectives and related research questions:
Substantive: To produce shared understanding and policy guidance for the city of Helsinki climate mitigation policies and strategies; air pollution disease burden and related policies in Finland; and other case studies to be decided during the project.
- What climate actions seem effective in Helsinki?
- What air pollution actions seem effective in Finland?
- What are major disputes and their impacts on conclusions?
- Do case studies offer added value to actual decision-making?
- Can the guidance or parts of it be generalised or re-used outside the case?
Participatory: To develop practices that are tempting and rewarding to policy-makers, experts, and stakeholders so that participation in the production of shared understanding is seen useful.
- What factors increase or hinder meaningful participation of different groups?
- How much of a non-participating key group\’s opinions can and should be reconstructed?
- Can researchers co-create a common perspective based on the scientific method?
- Which parts of the work can be outsourced to non-experts without loss of quality?
- Can guidance from shared understanding be followed in practical policy situations?
Methodological: To test, implement, and further develop the method of shared understanding.
- What information structures are needed to describe participants\’ views to their satisfaction?
- How well do the contents of the information system convey the original message?
- How can conflicting opinions be systematically described to everyone\’s satisfaction?
- What guidance is needed for producing shared understanding?
- Can shared understanding be produced without compromising scientific integrity?
Technological: To produce web-based interfaces and tools for creating and managing descriptions of shared understanding.
- What interfaces and tools guide the users to contribute and use information meaningfully?
- What tools are needed to combine slow modelling and rapid political discussion?
- What problems do the current typical interfaces have, and how can they be improved?
- Are the developed technologies scalable to much wider use?
3 B Effects and impact beyond academia
Shared understanding would offer methods to improve the knowledge base of policies. Methods are likely to find support from the society, as Parsha goes along several societal megatrends (openness, participation, co-creation, evidence-based policy). It is likely to alleviate confrontation, because everyone is better heard than before and political benefits of shouting louder decrease. In some cases, popular political opinions and options would not hold against systematic criticism, reducing the risk that the actual decisions turn out bad to the society.
This is actually nothing more than the scientific method applied to policy questions. There is strong evidence that the scientific method is a very powerful and effective tool to produce solid information. This is no news. However, the scientific and societal merit of the Parsha project is that it has identified important areas in the society where this method is not satisfactorily applied, and has produced innovations that can be rigorously studied in policy-relevant situations. It should be noted that the scientific method is not ideally used in the field of science either. Therefore, we also study how to produce and publish scientific information in a more criticisable and applicable way.
If successful, we can learn new things about how science and policy can be performed together in a more effective and robust way by using shared information systems and practices. The societal impacts of Parsha may extend far from the substantive topics studied in the cases. This is facilitated by maximising openness and the potential for re-use of its information content. It may even change the way we think about scientific publishing: continuous participatory improving of the description of our understanding, rather than producing distinct, static objects called articles.
3 C Publication plan
Openness is a core principle in Parsha. All work is done online, and all scientific data and information is produced into standardised information objects, enabling their effective re-use. This is called passive openness (enabling but not promoting the flow of information). We anticipate also traditional research articles: one for each case study and several articles about participation, methodology and the overall progress. We always publish in open access journals. To illustrate: this very research plan was written on a public website, and we will publish it in the open access journal [Research Ideas and Outcomes-http://rio.pensoft.net/] after it has been submitted to the Academy of Finland.
In Parsha, we will also do active openness by promoting the information produced and case studies planned or performed. We will also actively seek to learn from other information providers, as exemplified by the research visits to the GovLab and RIVM, and by inviting contributions to the web-workspace. This will be done through the large networks of the collaborators and participants, and by actively utilising workshops and social media, e.g. blogs, Facebook groups, and Twitter.
4. Research methods and material, support from research environment
The most important method to develop shared understanding is to apply it to several case studies, the first ones being climate policies in Helsinki, and disease burden of air pollution in Finland. Others will be decided during the project to ensure that they are scientifically important and politically relevant. This simple approach offers a strong test bench, because we can describe the information by applying the method and then testing in real situations whether participants find and understand the information as intended. We can also study if and how this information is used in actual decision-making processes, as there is political activity related to these issues.
A core of a shared understanding description is typically a quantitative model of the central issues with scientific information, implemented as BBN, Monte Carlo simulation or other causal model. These are augmented with claims, values, action suggestions and comments raised by participants. Online discussions on important details will be available constantly and facilitated as needed. Emphasis is put on describing both the structure of the augmented model and its main results in a visual and understandable way. Models are produced online in such a way that participants can run and experiment the model with different input parameters.
Experimenting different options will be done actively. We will study e.g. user participation in web-workspaces by using randomised controlled trials, also called A/B testing. The content or instructions are shown differently to different groups to see if the interpretation or participatory actions differ between the groups. This brings important knowledge about feasibility of the method.
For information collection about the cases, we will use several different kinds of methods, including workshops, literature reviews, online participation, and surveys. Information is collected in several iterations so that preliminary results and conclusions are published online and comments and further contributions are asked for. We will actively contact relevant policy makers, experts and stakeholder groups to ensure wide coverage of aspects. We will also approach individuals to explain and defend their views against criticism and for clarification. Similar views are merged into a few archetypes that are chosen so that they represent a large proportion of the whole population\’s views.
Scientific literature and policy strategies about the cases (first cases are climate policies and air pollution) will form the material to start with. There is an abundance of research and impact assessments (e.g. Hänninen and Knol 2011, Asikainen et al 2013, Lelieveld et al 2015, IPCC 2014, Tuomisto et al. 2014). Rather than attempting a comprehensive review, we will focus on issues that are the most relevant for the policy questions of the cases. These will be augmented by information obtained using methods described above. We have excellent modelling and data management tools, based on R software, MongoDB database and Opasnet web-workspace.
We will also collect information about the workload of the information work. This is important because the management of a large and complex information base may need too much administration to be useful for its purpose. This may be a major obstacle in promoting the method, and such problems should be identified and solved quickly if possible.
THL and its environmental health units in Kuopio is a highly skilled research environment. We have previously performed research and assessments on related topics (Asikainen et al, 2013; Hänninen and Knol, 2011; Tuomisto et al, 2014, Pohjola, 2014, Neittaanmäki, 2016). The technical infrastructure is up-to-date, and we have many statisticians and modellers to consult within the institute if needed. The project as a whole with all its collaborators consists of a wide variety of expertise from government to non-governmental organisations to experts of participation to researchers of environmental health and social sciences.
Critical points and risk management
In theory, Parsha is simply applying established principles in new kind of information and policy support work. In practice, we will run into problems related to complexity, vagueness, power, and compliance. Risks are reduced by wide collaboration, openness, testing ("if you fail, do it early and learn from it"), and reliance on robust open source technology and tested methods. There are several alternative techniques available, so dead-ends are unlikely. Even if the methodology as a whole fails to mature and become out-of-shelf solution during the Parsha project, it will undoubtedly teach us a lot about how information flows between science and policy and what factors hinder the flow. This is already a valuable result. From substantive point of view, there is a lot of scientific information available about climate policies, air pollution, disease burden methods, and other relevant topics. This is not a limiting factor, but rather the methodological capability to organise and synthesise it. Fortunately our team has expertise and skills to handle exactly this kind of topics.
The risk of failure can be managed by limiting the scope of work. We aim at generic methods and results with wide applicability, but the width or complexity of material may prevent progress. Then we will focus on one particular aspect or policy issue at a time, and when methods produce tangible results, step back and analyse problems seen in the generic case.
5. Ethical issues
Parsha project does not study patients or collect private data. Ethical permissions are not needed. Participation is voluntary and based on informed consent. THL guidance on good research practice will be followed.
6. Implementation: schedule, budget, distribution of work
Schedule for the research
The project will start 1 Sept 2017 and last for four years. Method development starts immediately. The first mobility visit is expected in 2017 and the second 2018. The case studies start in 2017 but are most active in 2018; other case studies will be started in 2019 and 2020. Technical interface development is done mostly in 2018-2019. Participatory activities, training, and dissemination will occur during the whole project.
The total Parsha budget will be 600248 € (420173 € from Academy + 180075 € from THL) for four years. It will mostly go to salaries of THL researchers for performing case studies and developing the method of shared understanding. Researcher Arja Asikainen will work 24 pm during the project, while Päivi Meriläinen will work 4 pm, Otto Hänninen 7 pm, and PI Jouni Tuomisto 4 pm on administration and coordination. All researchers are experienced modellers and have coordinated several research projects. Four pm is reserved for an IT person for developing the technological functionalities.
The second largest cost item is services: 28 000 € during the project and up to 9000 €/year. This is planned for organising stakeholder meetings (2-3 meetings per year) and facilitating the participation and moderating information of the case studies on websites. Part of this work is anticipated to be performed by the collaborators, some of which are especially skilled in this respect. Travel costs include 2000 €/year for frequent travels between Kuopio and Helsinki to project and case meetings, and 6000 € for each mobility visit.
Distribution of work
Workpackage 1: Case studies
WP Leader: Otto Hänninen Case: Climate policy in Helsinki. The city of Helsinki has more than 600 action points in various climate strategies and other policy papers. For only a few of them, a systematic evaluation with cost estimates and climate impacts have been done. There is a clear need to organise the information, disputes, roles and actions into a coherent description. In other words: Shared understanding is needed. This will be produced using consultation of target groups within the Helsinki administration and also NGOs and other stakeholders who have opinions about the actions. The city of Helsinki Environment Center is a key collaborator.
Case: Air pollution disease burden. There are several recent disease burden estimates of air pollution for both Finland and globally. However, there are scientific disputes about the best epidemiological methods (Morfeld 2016) and policy disputes about implications. These issues will be clarified by producing shared understanding on both the method (already a conference abstract: Tuomisto et al 2016) and the situation in Finland. This will be based on work and results of currently on-going Akatemia funded project BATMAN, where estimates of disease burden caused by particulate matter in Finland are updated with spatial and source specific exposure data. Furthermore, in BATMAN the effect of several emission mitigation policies are evaluated and ranked. Based on the results of BATMAN and earlier national projects Seturi and ISTE, a shared understanding on disease burden methodologies and emission mitigation policies is produced in Parsha. We study how the selected methodologies and assessment boundaries affect estimates and conclusions in the Finnish situation. Furthermore, current Finnish policies targeted on particulate matter are reviewed and described openly using literature review and discussions with politicians, ministries and local authorities. Guidance is produced for national and community level policies. RIVM as an expert institute is a key collaborator.
Other case studies will be decided later in the project, because it would be impossible to predict, which topics will have policy relevance after three years.
Workpackage 2: Participation and mobility
WP Leader: Arja Asikainen. Open knowledge tools and practices are being developed rapidly in many different fields. Therefore, Parsha will collaborate with top institutes and organisations in the world and in Finland (see 7 Collaborators). This collaboration brings expertise of methods, large networks, co-creation capacity, policy contacts and relevance. Parsha is very much about hand-on work on policy-relevant questions with scientific aspects. With the skills mentioned above, the project is able to organise the participation needed in the case studies. The collaborators also help to screen development elsewhere and evaluate potential methods. The personnel and roles of participants is described in more detail below and in the application.
During the first years of Parsha, we will visit two key institutes and collaborate with them to learn more and try out new practices developed in the project. Both visits will last approximately three months each, and they are designed to bring some important insight to be used later in the project. They are also long enough to teach some of the Parsha knowledge in those institutes. This is described in more detail in Mobility plan below.
Workpackage 3: Information structures
WP Leader: Jouni Tuomisto. Many information structures already exist for open assessments and open policy practice (Tuomisto and Pohjola 2007, Pohjola 2013). They give instructions on how to divide information into objects with clear purpose, what attributes should be used to describe the contents, and how objects relate to each other. This is to help information use by making data management, searches and inferences somewhat automatic.
Based on our experience, those structures work well in impact assessments, which are systematic, science-based quantitative modelling exercises performed by experts and describing causal relations. However, they are not flexible enough for describing non-causal inferences, heuristics and values, which are important in policy issues. There is a need for more flexible information structures, and promising approaches were described in 2 Rationale: resource description framework RDF, Bayesian belief networks BBN, and pragma-dialectic argumentation.
A coherent combination of these methods will be first defined theoretically and then tested in the cases. We first aim at a fairly simple and straightforward structure that can describe most of the information found important by participants, rather than trying to describe everything with more complex structures at the cost of usability.
Important topic for investigation is a method to incorporate differing views into a single description. We anticipate that most of the time it will be possible to describe different views with the same statements but using different qualities or truth values. For example, greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels is a concept that people probably can agree on, but they have differing views on which estimates can be called true in a defined situation. Subjective probability is one method used to document personal opinions. The GovLab is a key collaborator.
Workpackage 4: Technical development
WP Leader: Päivi Meriläinen. We already have an open web-workspace Opasnet, where assessors can perform impact assessments. However, technical development is needed to include an RDF database and other functionalities for handling e.g. non-causal reasoning and valuations.
Another task is to enhance the user experience. It should be able to easily document own viewpoints and link them to other relevant information in the system. Also, search functionalities, linkages of related items, and at least some automatic or semi-automatic reasoning based on given premises and statements should be possible. It is also important to visualise an issue using a particular group\’s viewpoints or the differences of conclusions between two different groups.
7. Research team and collaborative partners
All THL researchers are experts in environmental health, impact assessment, disease burden, and quantitative modelling. Jouni Tuomisto: chief researcher, adjunct professor, MD: has 25 years of expertise in environmental health issues, risk assessment, decision analysis, modelling, and decision support. He has developed the method of open policy practice and the web-workspace Opasnet. He has been a researcher in KTL and later THL since 1992, a post-doc fellow in Harvard School of Public Health 2000-2001, academy researcher 2005-2010, senior researcher and chief researcher since 2010 and head of the Assessment and Modelling Unit 2010-2014. Otto Hänninen: senior researcher, PhD, Adj.prof.: is a leading national expert in environmental burden of disease assessments. He has a long experience in exposure modelling and risk assessment with current specific focus in analysis of environmental mitigation policies. He has a large international network and has coordinated numerous international working groups and acted as an invited expert, speaker, scientific secretary, technical officer and author of collaborative documents for several leading organizations including World Health Organization (WHO), International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS), International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and Task Force on Health of Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLTRAP). He has coordinated national and international working groups, and scientific projects. Arja Asikainen: researcher, PhD: has a long research experience on field of environmental sciences, in particular in developing and applying various health impact assessment methodologies, including exposure, GIS, and environmental burden of disease modelling. She has contributed on several open assessments done in the Opasnet environment, participated on development of shared understanding and science-policy interface. Päivi Meriläinen: researcher, PhD: has several years of expertise environmental health, especially waterborne microbial and chemical risk. She has produced quantitative risk models for water and published Vesiopas model in Opasnet. She has coordinated several research projects.
Collaborators and their special interests (for more details, see application)
- City of Helsinki (Environment Center): Key partner in climate case and the end-user of the results. Jari Viinanen: M.Sc in energy and environment. Environmental inspector in City of Helsinki Environment Centre. He is a specialist of urban climate change mitigation.
- The Governance Lab (New York University, USA): The GovLab is a key collaborator in WP3 and WP4 and hosts one of the mobility visits. Beth Noveck: PhD, JD. She directs The Governance Lab. United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and director of the Open Government Initiative (2009-2011). Senior advisor for Open Government for UK.
- National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM (The Netherlands): science-based policy support. Air pollution case. Erik Lebret, MSc, PhD. Chief Science Officer "integrated risk assessment" at RIVM. Expert in environmental epidemiology, exposure assessment, and integrated environmental health impact assessment.
- Open Knowledge Finland ry: open science; participation in open society, WP2. Heidi K. Laine: leader of the [Open Science Working Group-http://fi.okfn.org/wg/openscience/], which supports open sharing of research data and citizen science. Master\’s degree in social sciences and is currently a University of Helsinki Doctoral Candidate in the Humanities and Social and Behavioural Sciences.
- Oxford Research: expert advice in policy support, WP2: Arttu Vainio: CEO of Oxford Research Oy to offer services in the fields of research, evaluation and consulting with the Finnish Oxford Research team and together with the Oxford Research offices in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Latvia. LSc; currently writing a doctoral thesis on the use of evaluation.
- Future Earth Finland: co-creation of policy-relevant science, WP2. Tanja Suni: PhD in atmospheric physics. Worked for international global change programmes. The new global change research programme Future Earth as Executive Director of the European network of national Future Earth platforms.
- Prime Minister\’s Office: The primus motor of evidence-based policy in Finland. Kaisa Lähteenmäki-Smith: specialist in science policy in Policy analysis unit. PhD in political science. Worked on R&D projects in national, Nordic and European context. Worked at the Finnish Ministry of the Interior, and in Nordic Centre for Spatial Development) in Stockholm.
8. Research careers, fulfilment of the mobility requirement and researcher training
The PI does not belong to early-career group. Instead, he has almost 25 years of expertise in environmental health, air pollution, impact assessment, and lately decision support. He has been active during the whole career and sought new emerging areas for research topics. He was a researcher in a centre of excellence in 2002-2007 and academy researcher in 2005-2010.
The Parsha researchers in THL all already have their postgraduate degrees. Although formal researcher training does not take place, the project has a strong emphasis on training of researchers as well as policy makers and stakeholders to the methods of effective information work. We do not expect that the novel methods and tools can be implemented out-of-shelf. Rather, it requires training, which we will give, and, more importantly, cultural change towards openness and sharing. Parsha is committed to equality, which is also promoted by the open methods used.
9. Mobility plan for the funding period
Project leader or another researcher from THL will visit The Governance Lab in The New York University and RIVM (The Environment and Health Institute in the Netherlands).The visits will last approximately three months and the main purpose is to jointly apply methods of Parsha and of the collaborator. After mutual learning, these methods will be further applied in Parsha work in Finland. The GovLab has expertise in experimentation of policies and technologies in policy support, while RIVM has extensive expertise in policy support especially in environmental health issues. For further information, see Workpackage 2 and the Project partners section in the application.
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