The unprecedented uncertainty associated with engineered nanomaterials greatly expands the need for research regarding their potential environmental consequences. However, decision-makers such as regulatory agencies, product developers, or other nanotechnology stakeholders may not find the results of such research directly informative of decisions intended to mitigate environmental risks. To help interpret research findings and prioritize new research needs, there is an acute need for structured decision-analytic aids that are operable in a context of extraordinary uncertainty. Whereas existing stochastic decision-analytic techniques explore uncertainty only in decision-maker preference information, this paper extends model uncertainty to technology performance. As an illustrative example, the framework is applied to the case of single-wall carbon nanotubes. Four different synthesis processes (arc, high pressure carbon monoxide, chemical vapor deposition, and laser) are compared based on five salient performance criteria. A probabilistic rank ordering of preferred processes is determined using outranking normalization and a linear-weighted sum for different weighting scenarios including completely unknown weights and four fixed-weight sets representing hypothetical stakeholder views. No single process pathway dominates under all weight scenarios, but it is likely that some inferior process technologies could be identified as low priorities for further research.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry