Suitability of Delphi to Address Oil & Gas Development Questions in a Co-Management System
Principal Investigator: Hayden, Shannon M (1)
Licence Number: 15286
Organization: University of Ulster
Licensed Year(s): 2013
Issued: Jul 11, 2013
Project Team: Shannon Hayden (Researcher/Facilitator, University of Ulster)

Objective(s): To assess the implementation, outcome and suitability of the Delphi method to facilitate communication and decision-making in a northern co-management system; and, to outline how this approach might be used to solicit and reach consensus among community members, managers and scientific experts on potential impacts and best management practices (BMP's) for future development in the Beaufort Region.

Project Description: The over-arching goal of this study is to assess the implementation, outcome and suitability of the Delphi method to facilitate communication and decision-making in a northern co-management system. A parallel objective is to outline how this approach might be used to solicit and reach consensus among community members, managers and scientific experts on potential impacts and best management practices for future development in the Beaufort Region.

Through the process of this project, another overarching goal will be to approach a consensus on an emerging issue in the balanced management of environmental effects and resources development in the Beaufort Region. The specific question which participants in this study will address has been identified in chapter six of the Beaufort Sea Areawide Final Best Interest Finding (2009) as a current gap in understanding for best management practices (BMPs) for oil and gas development in a rural, northern environment:

"What is the best method for oil and gas transportation from offshore leases?
a) Pipelines: i) Offshore Pipelines; ii) Sub-sea Pipelines; iii) Elevated Pipelines; iv) Gravel Causeway; v) Elevated Causeway; and, vi) Other
b) Tankers
c) Other: Please consider such things as economics, potential environmental impacts, feasibility, aesthetics, and how construction of the chosen method might impact (beneficially or disadvantageously) spill response abilities in this rural, northern setting."

The Delphi method is a process that informs a structured and systematic flow and sharing of information among a group of experts. This approach can be used to address a specific question or series of questions in an effort to develop consensus on a management issue. It's designed to facilitate regular feedback through an iterative process between participants while maintaining anonymity in an effort to eliminate bias.

The concept is based on the premise that:
1. The informed opinions of experts are important, valid and reasonable in the development of management decisions where absolute answers are unknown or impossible at this time; and
2. A consensus among experts, without the influence of strong personalities or external politics, can provide a more accurate response to a question or issue than that of an individual.

In general, a Delphi would work following these regular steps:
1. Identify a group of experts in the specific topic of question who are willing to participate;
2. The participants are provided, typically through questionnaire and in a way that provides for anonymity, with the question or series of questions under review;
3. The participants provide their expert opinions or recommendations on the questions/issues presented to them including a rationale;
4. An investigator/facilitator (researcher) summarizes the responses, often including an analysis which provides a range and median value of the answers provided;
5. The summary and analysis is given back to each of the participants and they are asked to re-evaluate or re-answer the question(s) in light of the new information provided in the combined response. Any outlying responses require brief explanations to support the perspective;
6. Another summary and analysis of the responses is given back to the participants, including any explanations for re-consideration;
7. This iterative process continues until a (relative) consensus is reached, usually by the fourth or fifth round.

Participants will be identified through consultation with various stakeholders in the Beaufort region. Ideally, the final list of participants will include about equal representation of both community-based and traditional knowledge experts and scientific and technical experts. It is expected that representation will include federal and territorial public servants, industry delegates, co-management directors, and traditional knowledge holders. The best number of participants has not been determined for initiating the Delphi approach but it is indicated that at least eight panelists are needed. Identifying two representatives from the above-mentioned sectors will give this project the minimum number of participants required, and should provide a representative pool of opinions from different stakeholders in the region.

Looking to involve local 'experts,' especially those involved or who may become involved in co-management decision-making processes regarding oil & gas development projects and/or associated environmental management programs. This will ideally include a range of 'traditional' and 'scientific/technical' expertise.

The principal researcher can provide a final report and/or summary reports including results and recommendations to various co-management bodies and community organizations in the Inuvialuit Region (or throughout the NWT).

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 4, 2013 to December 31, 2013.