Issue framing tool
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Issue framing tool is for scoping objects and drawing diagrams.
Structure of the process
Issue framing tool is for scoping objects and drawing diagrams. The following functionalities could be provided.
- Scoping is basically about describing the purpose, scope, boundaries, participants, and other general information about a risk assessment or variable. The tool should have functionalities for issue framing: defining a) the purpose, b) expected users, c) main questions, and d) boundaries of the assessment. Technically this is rather straightforward task: the endpoint is basically text. Methodological and practical help texts guide the user through the process, helping him in filling in the attributes.
- Templates for variables are either existing variables or general properties, called classes. There should be some practical hierarchy for these objects so that the user can quickly browse through the existing objects and identify potentially useful ones for his assessment. The suggested hierarchy is based on the full chain approach following the causal chain of pollution from release to health impact and valuation.
- Drawing causal diagrams is about making graphs with nodes (variables) and arrows (causal links) with some explanatory text. These diagrams form the basis for the modelling of the risk assessment. The diagram should consist of linked variables (one variable visualized in the form of a box) that visualize the causal chain and not just a flow chart. D↷ The diagram tool is a graphical tool. The tool helps the user to clarify the aims, the key components and the structure of the assessment. Secondly, it provides guidance to identify all necessary parts needed so that the user does not forget an important part of the assessment. Therefore the basic idea behind the diagram tool is to help structure the important parts of the assessment according to their causal relations. One box (or variable) in the diagram should be linked to one web page that describes that specific variable and how it is connected in the causal chain. There should not only be one linked page but the whole assessment and all the belonging functionalities will be implemented - and held together by the diagram. Standard boxes/variables for typical elements in an assessment should be provided.
- The diagram tool helps the user to define his assessment and shows the key elements and main links by providing generic templates or examples of an assessment. The most generic template is a generic version of the causal chain. Following a hierarchical structure the tool helps the user to define each part of the causal chain in more detail (e.g. the part emissions can be broken down to NOx-emissions of passenger cars . The part of the causal chain are represented using generic variables. These are represented by boxes and linked by arrows representing the relationship between the generic variables.
- Deriving causal diagrams. When a causal network has been described with definition attributes, causal diagrams can be created automatically from this information, if the list of variables is given. This list is an essential part of each risk assessment. Thus, a diagram can be automatically created for each well-defined assessment.
Suggested techniques to get started
The main challenge with issue framing is that the user is guided through the whole assessment. He must not forget importants steps and variables. If he wants to start with e.g. "traffic" he should be advised that he needs to take into account "air pollution", "noise" and maybe other impacts. Or another example: If the user wants to look at the health effects of secondary particles he is advised which health effects (and maybe default exposure-response-relationships) he should take into account. Or if he looks at a certain kind of cancer then he needs to be advised which stressors/pollutants cause this cancer.
Technically, we plan to provide a questions-and-answer-guidance to realise this part of the issue framing.
- Scoping the objects:
- Mediawiki: Guidance documents are written as wiki pages. Each risk assessment and variable is one wiki page. Templates for risk assessments and variables can be inserted on a page with a single click on a button.
- Other techniques:
- Templates for variables:
- Mediawiki: Existing variables are pages in the Variable namespace. They are categorized according to the full chain approach, and possibly with other hierarchies. Classes are pages in the Category namespace. The page contains a description of the general property they possess, and also a list of all variables that have this property. If a variable belongs to a class, it may directly inherit information from the class.
- Other techniques:
- Drawing causal diagrams:
- Analytica: Diagrams for a risk assessment can be created with Analytica as model files and uploaded to Mediawiki. Screen captures can be made and uploaded as well. Both kinds of files may be linked to the risk assessment page. The Analytica model files can later be used for developing the model further.
- Other drawing software: The same procedure as with Analytica applies to any drawing software, except that further modelling work is not possible.
- It would be possible to develop an add-on on top of Mediawiki that creates Analytica files with diagram information (not actual computing code). Analytica files are basically XML files with information about the objects of a graph, and their sizes, colours, and locations. Technically this would be a piece of php that enables drag and drop of certain types of objects. These graph files could be created in Mediawiki using the add-on, and the files could be later used for model development. This idea should be suggested to Lumina, the company developing Analytica. They might (hopefully) see this as an opportunity to widen their market share.
- Deriving causal diagrams: This functionality would be nice, but probably it is not important with the first assessments and can be developed later.
- Possible techniques: Not thought through. Ready-made solutions don't exist.