User's Guide to Predictions

What is the policy goal(s) (i.e. outcome) that prediction is intended to achieve?
  • Specify the purpose(s) [policy goal(s)] of the prediction.
How does the process of developing predictions influence the policy process (and vice versa)?
  • Consider alternatives to prediction for achieving the purpose. Maintain flexibility of the system as work on predictions proceeds.
  • Recognize that a choice to focus on prediction (as well as the choice of specific predictive technique) will constrain future policy alternatives
What are the direct societal impacts of the prediction?
  • Consider alternative societal impacts that might result from the prediction (including the different roles played by prediction).
  • Evaluate past predictions in terms of a) impacts on society.
  • Recognize that the prediction itself can be a significant event.
  • If possible, [Subtract the costs/Assess the impacts] of inadequate predictions [from the benefits/relative to the impacts] of successful ones.
What are the scientific limitations and uncertainties of the prediction?
  • Evaluate past predictions in terms of b) scientific validity.
  • Recognize that different approaches can yield equally valid predictions.
  • Recognize that prediction is not a substitute for data collection, analysis, experience, or reality.
  • Recognize that predictions are always uncertain; assess the level of uncertainty acceptable in the particular context.
  • Beware of precision without accuracy.
  • Recognize that quantification and prediction are not a) accuracy; b) certainty; c) relevance; d) reality.
  • Computers hide assumptions. Computers don't kill predictions, assumptions do.
  • Recognize that the science base may be inadequate for a given type of prediction.
What factors can influence how a prediction is used by society?
  • Recognize that prediction may be more effective at bringing problems to attention than forcing them to effective solution.
  • Recognize that perceptions of predictions may differ from what predictors intend and may lead to unexpected responses.
  • Recognize that the societal benefits of a prediction are not necessarily a function of its accuracy.
  • Recognize that there are many types of prediction, and their potential uses in society are diverse.
What political and ethical considerations are raised by the generation and dissemination of a prediction?
  • Pay attention to conflicts of interest [among those making predictions].
  • Understand who becomes empowered when the prediction is made. Who are the winners and losers?
  • Pay attention to the ethical issues raised by the release of predictions.
How should predictions be communicated in society?
  • Make the prediction methodology as transparent as possible.
  • Predictions should be communicated a) in terms of their implications for societal response and b) in terms of their uncertainties.
Question Predictions

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