Post provided by Barbara Anderson

Today is International Women’s Day to mark the occasion I have the privilege of recommending, ‘A practical guide to structured expert elicitation using the IDEA protocol by Victoria Hemming et al. The IDEA behind the IDEA protocol – ‘Investigate’, ‘Discuss’, ‘Estimate’ and ‘Aggregate’ – is to provide a framework for Structured Expert Elicitation.

As a quantitative ecologist, I sometimes attempt to model species’ abundance and distribution changes in response to environmental change. Often these are species that, for one reason or another, we know a lot about. They may be high profile species of conservation concern, or have some economic or cultural importance. Some are simply model species that many people have studied because they’re easy to study because many people have studied them. Just as often though, we’re missing crucial data on one or more parameters. Frustratingly we don’t always have the time or resources to collect the new ecological or biological data required.

Sometimes in these cases, there are experts who probably have a reasonable idea of what the missing data might be. As scientists, we (rightly) tend to uneasy about the idea of substituting opinion, expert or otherwise, for solid data. On the other hand, as modellers, we’re used to the idea of alternative universes, simulations and uncertainty. Increasingly we have the have the ability to incorporate a good estimate and a measure of uncertainty into models.

Hemming et al. clearly outline a method that allows for improved estimates and increased transparency in how these estimates and the uncertainty around them are elicited. ‘A practical guide to structured expert elicitation using the IDEA protocol‘ does what it says on the tin: it provides a simple, clear, step-by-step guide to using the IDEA protocol. Read this paper. You won’t regret it. Expert Elicitation is a growing field and any ecologist working in conservation, natural resource management or applied modelling needs this method in their toolbox.

At Methods in Ecology and Evolution we’ve published a number of excellent papers on the subject of expert elicitation including ‘The Delphi technique in ecology and biological conservation: applications and guidelines‘ by Nibedita Mukherjee et al and Marissa McBride et al.’s ‘Structured elicitation of expert judgements for threatened species assessment: a case study on a continental scale using email‘ (both of which are now freely available to everyone).

To find out more, read the Methods in Ecology and Evolution article ‘A practical guide to structured expert elicitation using the IDEA protocol’ by Hemming et al.