1. clarity of purpose,

  2. a commitment to use the process to inform their actions,

  3. adequate funding and staff,

  4. appropriate timing in relation to decisions,

  5. a focus on implementation, and

  6. a commitment to self-assessment and learning from experience.

Recommendation 3: Agencies undertaking a public participation process should, considering the purposes of the process, design it to address the challenges that arise from particular contexts. Process design should be guided by four principles:

  1. inclusiveness of participation,

  2. collaborative problem formulation and process design,

  3. transparency of the process, and

  4. good-faith communication.

In environmental assessment and decision making, special attention must be paid to scientific analysis and the uncertainty in that analysis.

Recommendation 4: Environmental assessments and decisions with substantial scientific content should be supported with collaborative, broadly based, integrated, and iterative analytic-deliberative processes, such as those described in Understanding Risk and subsequent National Research Council reports. In designing such processes, the responsible agencies can benefit from following five key principles for effectively melding scientific analysis and public participation:

  1. ensuring transparency of decision-relevant information and analysis,

  2. paying explicit attention to both facts and values,

  3. promoting explicitness about assumptions and uncertainties,

  4. including independent review of official analysis and/or engaging in a process of collaborative inquiry with interested and affected parties, and

  5. allowing for iteration to reconsider past conclusions on the basis of new information.


There is no specific set of tools or techniques that constitute “best practices” for all contexts, or even for meeting particular difficulties. Rather,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement