Decision-Making: Preventing Miscommunication and Creating Shared Meaning Between Stakeholders

Part of the Advances in Volcanology book series (VOLCAN)


The effective management and response to either volcanic eruptions or (often prolonged) periods of heightened unrest, is fundamentally dependent upon effective relationships and communication between science advisors, emergency managers and key decision makers. To optimise the effectiveness of the scientific contribution to effective prediction and management decision making, it is important for science advisors or scientific advisory bodies to be cognisant of the many different perspectives, needs and goals of the diverse organisations involved in the response. Challenges arise for scientists as they may need to be embedded members of the wider response multi-agency team, rather than independent contributors of essential information. Thus they must add to their competencies an understanding of the different roles, responsibilities, and needs of each member organisation, such that they can start to provide information implicitly rather than in response to explicit requests. To build this shared understanding, the team situational awareness (understanding of the situation in time and space), and the wider team mental model (a representation of the team functions and responsibilities), requires participating in a response environment together. Facilitating the availability of this capability has training and organizational development implications for scientific agencies and introduces a need for developing new inter-agency relationships and liaison mechanisms well before a volcanic crisis occurs. In this chapter, we review individual and team decision making, and the role of situational awareness and mental models in creating “shared meaning” between agencies. The aim is to improve communication and information sharing, as well as furthering the understanding of the impact that uncertainty has upon communication and ways to manage this. We then review personal and organisational factors that can impact response and conclude with a brief review of methods available to improve future response capability, and the importance of protocols and guidelines to assist this in a national or international context.



EEHD was supported by a Foundation for Research Science and Technology NZ S&T Postdoctoral Fellowship MAUX0910 2010–2014, and funding from EQC and GNSScience 2014–2016.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Joint Centre for Disaster ResearchMassey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Faculty of Engineering, Health, Science and the Environment, School of Psychological and Clinical SciencesCharles Darwin UniversityDarwinAustralia

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