OTPIC Officially Retired
As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.
The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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Often experts analyzing the probable consequences of resolving disputes in different ways reach very different and apparently contradictory conclusions . These contradictions often lead the public to conclude that scientific and technical analysis is really no better than the "common sense" assessments of lay people (i.e. non-experts). In most cases this conclusion is not warranted. Expert application of the scientific method can yield important information, provided that the experts understand the role of technical facts in the larger dispute resolution process.
Here joint fact-finding and data mediation can make an important contribution. These techniques use consensus building and mediation to help the experts resolve their disagreements over the technical facts. In joint fact-finding, the experts and the constituency groups which they represent develop and implement a joint strategy for answering the key policy questions, based upon generally agreed-upon scientific methods. It is commonly understood that the experts do not have to reach agreement on every issue. Their primary goal is to clearly separate the issues upon which they can agree from those which are still subject to debate and then report their findings to the parties. Here it is important for the experts to explain their findings in ways which non-experts can understand. Points of agreement can then provide the parties with a more informed basis for resolving the dispute. Points a continuing debate, however, will require the parties to employ strategies for dealing with uncertainty. The goal is to use areas of technical consensus to eliminate options which clearly do not advance the parties interest, and then use strategies for dealing with uncertainty to approach the remaining technical issues.
Data mediation may also identify longer term and more expensive strategies for resolving outstanding uncertainties. While this can often be very useful, there are limitations on how much research is appropriate. In many cases, the benefits of better information are outweighed by costs and delays associated with further fact-finding. There are also cases in which further fact finding is unlikely to be helpful, no matter how much time and money is spent. This is because the technical problem may be so difficult that experts cannot hope to find the answer.
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