John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Decision aid for the selection of priority substances in Environmental Health : Combining expert opinion and a participatory multicriteria analysis Volume 13, issue 2, Mars-Avril 2014


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Parc Technologique Alata
60 550 Verneuil en Halatte
* Tirés à part
  • Key words: participatory multi-criteria analysis, ranking, substances
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2014.0686
  • Page(s) : 135-43
  • Published in: 2014

Identifying and ranking substances of concern is a complex task, because the meaning of ’substance of concern’ differs according to the specific regulation, public policy, ranking exercise, and individual opinion. In terms of public actions, the choice of priority substances is generally supported by rankings of substances constructed by experts. In this article we suggest a process that adds to this ranking others based on views identified among others involved in the decision process, including but not limited to groups of decision makers, stakeholders, and members of civil society. Participatory multicriteria methods may be used for this purpose. These methods structure the participatory approach and make explicit the underlying logic of each ranking generated; they can be adapted to the available data. These methods have been implemented with stakeholders in other ranking exercises, dealing with various environmental issues, but not yet, to our knowledge, for ranking substances of concern. Using this ranking process for choosing priority substances in light of a specific objective, decision-makers can illuminate and nourish their analyses with several different rankings, characterized by their underlying logic, rather than by a single ranking that presupposes a consensus that does not necessarily exist. These different rankings will enable them, to some extent, to understand and take into account the diversity of the viewpoints that can be selected to meet the objective. This process can be adapted to any type of context and objective. An application conducted in 2012, to support the choice of the priority substances of the future French Environmental Health National Action Plan (PNSE3), illustrates each step of the process.