Comparing mental models of prospective users of the sustainable nanotechnology decision support system


Mental modelling analysis can be a valuable tool in understanding and bridging cognitive values in multi-stakeholders’ communities. It is especially true in situation of emerging risks where significant uncertainty and competing objectives could result in significant difference in stakeholder perspective on the use of new materials and technologies. This paper presents a mental modelling study performed among prospective users of an innovative decision support system for safe and sustainable development of nano-enabled products. These users included representatives of industry and regulators, as well as several insurance specialists and researchers. We present methodology and tools for comparing stakeholder views and objectives in the context of developing a decision support system.

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    The third prescribed metric, specificity cannot be assessed, as we only asked respondents to rank the different modules, and did not ask them more in depth questions about their understanding of each criterion.


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We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the participants during the stakeholder engagement activities reported here, and the constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007–2013] under EC-GA No. 604305 ‘SUN’. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use, which may be made of the information contained therein.

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Correspondence to Ineke Malsch.

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Human and animals rights

We have not performed any experiments on humans and/or animals for which prior approval of an ethics board or similar body is required.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All respondents have been offered the option to respond anonymously. All published results are presented in anonymised form.

Annex 1: The questionnaire

Annex 1: The questionnaire


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Malsch, I., Subramanian, V., Semenzin, E. et al. Comparing mental models of prospective users of the sustainable nanotechnology decision support system. Environ Syst Decis 37, 465–483 (2017).

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  • Nanomaterials
  • Decision support
  • Mental model
  • Industry
  • Regulators