Putting the Spotlight on Attribute Definition: Divergence Between Experts and the Public

One of the key stages of designing a choice experiment is to define the attributes of interest. The attributes chosen essentially influence all subsequent activities carried out in a choice study. Surprisingly, the process of attribute definition is not the subject of critical and ongoing inquiry. In the context of informing policy, the choice modelling literature suggests that a given set of attributes should (1) reflect public interests, (2) have a sound scientific basis, and (3) provide useful information to end-users. Fulfilling all criteria presents a challenging task to researchers. Conflicts between criteria are possible, and there are currently no guidelines to assist researchers in negotiating their way through potentially competing sets of information and viewpoints. We investigated the potential for divergence between members of the public and scientific experts. The investigation was carried out across three environmental systems which differed according to their scale and institutional setting. The results showed that attribute definitions do indeed diverge. Critical points of divergence observed across all case studies included: the way in which the public and experts defined attributes that represented the biodiversity of the system; the public’s inclusion of attributes that represented the terrestrial/marine interface; and the public’s inclination to aggregate attributes when asked to choose their top picks. A number of additional points of divergence were observed, but these were case specific.

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ISSN 1835-9728 (Other)
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Environmental Economics Research Hub Research Reports

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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