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.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Contradictory Experts

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In many cases, an ability to analyze complex technical issues is essential. Without this ability, the parties are likely to be unable to determine which options are most likely to advance their interests. Without technical advice, they may decide to pursue options which hurt them, rather than help them. Thus, effective problem solving requires an ability to take advantage of the skills of experts.

Unfortunately, experts don't always agree. In fact, experts can usually be found who are willing to take seemingly opposite positions on any controversial policy question. The result is what we call the "contradictory expert problem."   Not surprisingly, the public often concludes that the experts don't know anything useful and thus that their own uninformed, nontechnical opinions are as good as those of the experts. The result is often a complete loss of the potential contributions of expert analysis and the frequent adoption of unworkable options.  

The solution generally involves some type of joint fact-finding process in which the experts work together to analyze the options and report to all sides their points of agreement and disagreement, as well as the reasoning behind their conclusions. While such an approach cannot be expected to resolve all issues, it can provide the parties with the information that does exist. It can also clearly identify areas of unavoidable uncertainty.

Links to Examples of this Approach

Gerald Cormick and Alana Knaster--Oil and Fishing Industries Negotiate: Mediation and Scientific Issues
One aspect of this dispute involved a scientific disagreement over the impact of underwater geologic acoustic testing on fish.  Initially, the oil companies which were doing the testing insisted that their experts found no impact, while the fishermen said they did.  This was resolved with the formation of a joint fact-finding committee.
Heidi Burgess--Environmental Mediation (The Foothills Case)
In this case study, each of the parties collected their own data which led to the contradictory expert problem.

Links to Possible Treatments

Joint Fact Finding

Data Mediation

Dealing with Uncertainty


Links to Related Problems

Conflicts of Interest / Lack of Credibility
Inability to Deal with Uncertainty

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu