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

Understanding the Meaning of Facts

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The complexity of many conflicts means that scientific and technical analysis is often essential to adequately understand the costs, benefits, and risks of the many options available.

While experts can identify available options and analyze the likely results of adopting each option, they cannot and should not be responsible for deciding which options is the best or which should be pursued. That decision should be left to the larger society, since it requires the making of value judgements about what kind of society is most desirable.

The making of wise decisions does, however, require that decision makers and the public understand the meaning of the experts' technical analysis. While they don't need to know exactly how the studies were conducted, or how the conclusions were reached, (though that is helpful), they do need to understand in practical terms, the meaning of the conclusions, how reliable, and how credible they are.  This usually requires some type of mechanism for explaining technical studies to non-technical audiences.

Possible mechanisms to do this include:

Technical Primers - short, well-written documents (or videotapes) in which credible experts explain what everyone needs to know to sensibly interpret technical studies.

Public Meetings with the Experts -- public meetings in which technical experts with a high degree credibility present the practical implications of their findings and answer questions.

Expert Consultants' Oversight - technical experts who are actually hired to work with the parties to help them better interpret and assess technical studies.

Links to Examples:

Peter M. Sandman--Explaining Environmental Risk
This article explains that the public assesses risk and uncertainty very differently from experts.  It then suggests ways in which risk can be explained to the public so that they can make informed decisions.
Barbara Gray -- Three Mile Island Citizen Radiation Monitoring Program
This is a description of the aftermath of the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania (U.S.) Residents' fears about potential risks of cleanup activities were high due to distrust of the plant operators and regulators.  The described Citizen Radiation Monitoring Program solved the credibility problem and allowed the clean up to go ahead as planned.

Links to Related Treatments

Impact-Study Requirement

Technical Primers

Expert Consultants' Oversight


Links to Related Problems

Complexity Muddle

Inability to Deal with Uncertainty

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