Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-506
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-506

  06 Oct 2021

06 Oct 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Can MCDA guide transdisciplinary endeavors? A framework applied to co-developing a flood forecasting system in West Africa

Judit Lienert1, Jafet Andersson2, Daniel Hofmann1, Francisco Silva Pinto1, and Martijn Kuller1 Judit Lienert et al.
  • 1Eawag: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology, Environmental Social Sciences (ESS) Department, Ueberlandstrasse 133, 8600 Duebendorf, Switzerland
  • 2Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), Hydrology Research, 601 76 Norrköping, Sweden

Abstract. Climate change is projected to increase flood risks in West Africa. The EU Horizon 2020 project FANFAR co-designed a pre-operational flood forecasting and alert system for West Africa in four workshops with 50–60 stakeholders from 17 countries, adopting a Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) process. Firstly, we aimed to find a robust configuration of the FANFAR system. We document empirical evidence of MCDA, including stakeholder analysis, jointly creating 10 objectives, and 11 FANFAR system configurations. Stakeholders found it most important that the system produces accurate, clear, and accessible flood risk information, well before floods. Monte Carlo simulation and sensitivity analyses helped identifying three configurations that were robust despite uncertainty of expert predictions and different stakeholder preferences, elicited in group sessions. Secondly, we investigated if problem structuring helps focus early technical system development. Although partly achieved, full MCDA was necessary to provide convincingly robust configurations. Thirdly, we critically analyzed MCDA based on literature from sustainability science and transdisciplinary research. Our proposed framework consists of three steps: co-design (joint problem framing), co-production (doing research), and co-dissemination and evaluation of integrated knowledge. MCDA met many requirements, but not all. In step 1, participatory MCDA with problem structuring provides a consistent methodology, and can identify stakeholders and shared objectives to foster joint understanding. MCDA successfully contributes to step 2 by combining interdisciplinary expert knowledge, integrating conflicting stakeholder preferences, handling uncertainty, and providing unambiguous, shared results. Many elements of step 3 are not met by MCDA. We discuss this framework and using MCDA for transdisciplinary hydrology research that engages with stakeholders and society.

Judit Lienert et al.

Status: open (until 01 Dec 2021)

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Judit Lienert et al.

Judit Lienert et al.

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Short summary
Millions of West African people encounter serious floods every year. The FANFAR project co-designed a flood forecasting and alert system with 50–60 key West African stakeholders. Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis helped prioritize a system configuration that meets their needs: it should provide accurate, clear flood risk information and work reliably under difficult West African conditions. As theoretical contribution, we propose an assessment framework for transdisciplinary hydrology research.