Towards an online information quality model for major incidents: a naturalistic decision-making study

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Planella Conrado, Silvia
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University College Cork
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Decision-making is a critical skill in major incidents. During emergencies and related incidents, it is paramount to make timely sound decisions to reduce human and material losses (Kowalski-Trakofler, Vaught, & Scharf, 2003). Emergencies are dynamic, urgent, complex and uncertain environments (Aldunate, Pena-Mora, & Robinson, 2005; Comfort, 1999; Danielsson & Ohlsson, 1999; Kapucu & Garayev, 2011; Moynihan, 2008) where a large number of decisions must be taken (Helsloot & Ruitenberg, 2004). While experts may rely on their previous experience and take actions based on internal prototypes or mental models; other stakeholders involved in major incidents may not be familiar with the situation and therefore, require additional information and support from emergency experts. One of the newest online risk communication channels and information sources is Twitter. It is a 280 characters micro-blogging platform that enables users to develop inter-personal relationships. In major incidents such as emergencies, Twitter usage presents several Information Quality (IQ) challenges to overcome, including the difficulty of finding relevant information, information shift, completeness of the information, and users’ intention while creating or sharing inaccurate information. All of these complicate the decision-making process by increasing information uncertainty. IQ is defined based on information’s ‘fitness for use’ which relies on the concept of meeting end-users’ requirements and expectations (R. Y. Wang & Strong, 1996). The importance of IQ in emergencies is paramount to decide the best course of action. The analysis of information requirements in emergencies against existing IQ models showcased a misalignment between these. The researcher identified a gap while trying to use these solutions to implement a decision-making process using online information sources such as Twitter in naturalistic environments. What is more, little is known about the IQ dimensions available on Twitter for decision-making in emergencies. In order to address this gap, the researcher used a three-stage process to gather evidence of decision-making using Twitter (RQ1), identify relevant IQ dimensions (RQ2) and record the decision-making steps followed by experts (RQ3) in the analysed context. The methodology selected is aligned with the naturalistic decision-making school, which places high importance on prescriptive knowledge and the use of real-life scenarios. Hence, the researcher selected three case studies (a terrorist attack, a solar eclipse and a hurricane) combined with expert input. Through ten Critical Decision Method (CDM) interviews, a qualitative method based in real-situations, a total of 75 decision-making processes were documented from journalists, Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Virtual Operation Support Team (VOST) members. The findings highlight that Information Quality (IQ) is context-specific. Twitter IQ for decision-making in major incidents and emergencies can be improved from a production and consumption perspective. From these findings, the researcher proposes the Evaluation of Twitter Information Quality in Incidents (ETIQI) model based on four main IQ dimensions -utility, time, reputation and comparability- which are enhanced by eleven interconnected dimensions -value-added, applicability, relevance, accessibility, accuracy, reliability, objectivity, believability, representational consistency, an appropriate amount of information and completeness – which can positively impact in the use of Twitter for decision-making in emergencies. The proposed ETIQI model is a mechanism that aids the evaluation of IQ in different steps of the decision-making process. Hence, this research presents multiple practical and theoretical contributions in the area of information quality, Twitter, user-generated content, emergencies and naturalistic decision-making. The proposed model and associated strategies can be utilised to develop more robust systems, train emergency stakeholders, and overall improve decision-making using online information when it is most needed: in major incidents such as emergencies.
Decision-making , Naturalistic decision making , Information quality , Naturalistic decision making school (NDMS) , Twitter , Social media , Social networks , Major incident , Online social networks (OSN) , Emergency management (EM) , Critical decision method (CDM) , Crisis
Planella Conrado, S. 2020. Towards an online information quality model for major incidents: a naturalistic decision-making study. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.