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Clayton, W.S.
Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation 37(4):23-33(2017)

Decision methods applied in the remediation industry were evaluated using a survey of industry practitioners to assess the relative roles of quantitative decision analysis and gut intuition. The survey was completed by 118 respondents representing academia, consultants, clients, and others. Principles from the disciplines of behavioral economics and decision theory were used as a framework to evaluate remediation decision behaviors revealed by the survey. Survey questions focused on perceptions and experiences related to inputs to decisions and decision processes, as well as remediation goal-setting and outcomes. The most common remediation objective cited was short-term interim measures and the least common was no further action (NFA) with clean closure. NFA was also sparingly achieved: 33% of respondents reported zero NFA closures in their career, and an overall 15-20% NFA closure rate was reported among more experienced respondents. Data inputs were ranked most important to decisions, while the decision process itself was ranked lowest. Intuition-based decision methods such as asking for a trusted opinion, rules of thumb, and meetings were all used at last twice as often as decision analysis, such as discounted cash flow or probabilistic analysis. Analysis of survey responses showed that cognitive biases (e.g., overconfidence effect and intuition bias) are present to some extent in remediation decision-making. This paper is Open Access at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gwmr.12243/full.

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