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CRC10162: Communicating Uncertainties in Biosecurity Adaption (CUBA)

This project has assisted participating industries prioritise management strategies in response to invasive species incursions. It is expressly designed to be as adaptable to the circumstances of biosecurity risk management decisions as possible (i.e. in terms of the time frame of the decision, available scientific information and data, and diversity of the decision-making groups).

It built on the success of the Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity (CRCNPB) project CRC10010 “Enhanced Risk Analysis Tools” (ERAT) by developing more effective communication software devices for use in decision-facilitation forums. It utilised the technologies produced by ERAT and other CRC projects, as well as recently-developed techniques of connecting dispersal models with spatial grids (e.g. Rafoss, 2002; Harwood et al., 2010).

Research outcomes:

Our research has demonstrated the usefulness of two broad analytical tools: maps-based incursion response tools, and; statistically-based economic impact models.

We have successfully demonstrated the potential for maps-based incursion models to be used to communicate complex suites of information to industry and government stakeholders. These models can be used in conjunction with decision-trees and multi-criteria analysis to form a structured decision making (SDM) approach to refining invasion response plans. This process can be facilitated by using the maps-based models to simulate different invasion scenarios which a decision-making group must then manage in a ‘war-gaming’ experiment. In this way, response tactics, logistics and flexibility can be tested before an invasion event. When a real event does take place, the lessons learned in the war game experience can be put into practice.

We have also demonstrated the explanatory power of more traditional, statistics-based economic impact assessments in communicating the potential significance of EPPs over long periods of time (e.g. 20-30 years). These assessments can be of great strategic significance in setting broad research agendas and funding priorities when site-specific details of possible future incursions are not relevant.

Research implications:

The research carried out by the CUBA project team implies that important steps could be taken to refine incursion response strategies, and that the techniques currently exist to facilitate this. Moreover, with careful planning, a range of complex information about invasive species impacts, uncertain information and expert testimony can be utilised in a structured and sequential way to facilitate management decisions that are mutually acceptable to all stakeholders within a decision-making group.

Technologies such as keypad devices and interactive decision-making software continue to be developed that make capturing and processing decision-maker thoughts and preferences quick and easy. With appropriate application and training for prospective users, these technologies could greatly enhance decision-support processes for biosecurity risk managers in the future. In this project, we have demonstrated that group-based decision facilitation techniques that provide a structural framework for making invasive species management decisions can be very effective. They can facilitate negotiation and sharing of knowledge between stakeholders, and add an important element of transparency.

This is particularly true when decision-support frameworks can be built around maps-based incursion projection technologies. When a decision-making group is placed psychologically ‘near’ to an event, pictorial representations of it are more effective decision aids than words and statistics. Spatial, maps-based models can be used to simulate incursion events before they actually occur so that risk managers can practice and refine response protocols. Being maps-based, the outputs of these simulation models are relatively easy to interpret and contextualise, particularly when the decision-making group is familiar with the map onto which incursion information is projected.

Spatial models may one day form the basis of ‘live’ control centre operations where a real incursion is tracked as it occurs. Technologies such as hand-held diagnostic tools and smart traps may one day be integrated with these spatial models to update them as information becomes available. This could potentially form a platform around which management decisions could be quickly formulated and tested by projecting EPP abundance and distribution before they are put into practice.


The Communicating Uncertainty in Biosecurity Adaption project team would like to acknowledge the fantastic support we have received from Apple and Pear Australia Ltd. and the Australian Banana Grower’s Council. We are very grateful for the valuable role participants in our Expert Reference Group workshops played in shaping the project and the spatial incursion management model. Thank you also to all who participated in the final project workshop held in Melbourne on the 19-20 April 2012, including Annie Farrow, Jesse Reader and Sarah Kulman (Apple and Pear Australia Ltd.), Michael Crisera (Fruit Growers Victoria), Lucy Gregg (Fruit Growers Tasmania), Susan Finger (Victorian Farmer’s Federation), Simon Mills (SPC Ardmona Ltd.), Steven Field, Olivia Montecillo, Brendan Rodoni, Bill Washington, Martin Mebalds, Chin Gouk and David Williams (DPI Victoria), Anne Mooney (DPI New South Wales), Kim James, Brad Wells and Brad Mills (Horticulture Australia Ltd.), Timothy Coutts and Rose Hockham (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry), Stephen Dibley (Plant Health Australia), Jim Cullen (CRCNPB), Andre Drenth (University of Queensland), Peter Merriman (Peter Merriman Consulting), Fiona Macbeth (Blackwood and Kemp Pty. Ltd.).

We would also like to thank Paul De Barro, Andy Sheppard, Robyn Noel, Dean Paini, David Adams, Stephanie von Gavel and Rieks van Klinken (CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences), Simon McKirdy, David Eagling, Scott Baxter, John Austen, Max Knobel and Andrew Crichton (CRCNPB), Richard Maxwell (DPI Victoria), David Peasley (David Peasley Horticultural Services), John Thomas (University of Queensland), Jim Pekin (Australian Banana Grower’s Council), Rob Fraser (University of Kent), Roman Carrasco (National University of Singapore), Jeff Waage (London International Development Centre), Matt Thomas (Penn. State University), Richard Baker and Alan MacLeod (Food and Environment Research Agency), John Mumford and John Knight (Imperial College London), Rachel Meldrum (CRCNPB and Northern Territory Department of Resources), Andrew Tomkins (Northern Territory Department of Resources) and Victoria El Zein (Park Royal Hotel) for their valuable help at different times during the project and in preparing publications.


Dr David Cook
Project Leader CRC10162: Communicating Uncertainties in Biosecurity Adaption (CUBA)
Phone: 02 6246 4093
Fax: 02 6246 4000

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CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
April 2010 – June 2012