Joint Fact Finding

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and its reliability are frequently under discussion, primarily when interests and perceptions differ widely. Knowledge conflicts cause delays and increase costs. However, in many cases, Joint Fact Finding can prevent such conflicts.

Joint Fact Finding (JFF) brings the world of systems and the living world closer together, creating opportunities for EIA. However, as it has become too much of a part of the systems world, EIA is much less in line with the everyday reality of residents, entrepreneurs and authorities.

Available time and financial budgets can stand in the way of applying JFF in EIA. However, it may suffice to focus on the most crucial knowledge issues only. For instance, knowledge issues about public health effects of airports and intensive livestock farms. These conflicts often have to do with the lack of scientific evidence. Or with the used calculation models, the reliability of which is disputed.

JFF is a form of public participation. It is applied to carry out analyses in area development jointly. In EIA, this approach can describe the reference situation. This is often a matter of desk exercise. Involving area actors in this analysis enhances insight into the reference situation and may prevent knowledge conflicts.

Mandatory accountability for knowledge gaps usually occurs at the end of the EIA assessment process. Then, specific data may appear unavailable, while the models may need more accuracy. A JFF mission may bring to light existent knowledge gaps and lead to their closure.

Initiators and administrators may resist JFF in EIA because of ignorance or out of a fear of losing control. It is then of vital importance to highlight the benefits of JFF. Involving the public is becoming increasingly important. Nowadays, citizens are better educated and informed than in the past. Therefore, JFF promises to lead to superior and feasible solutions.

Peter van de Laak