Asim Zia, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont
208E Morrill Hall, Burlington, VT 05405 | 802.656.4695 | Email:

Asim Zia's current CV (PDF)
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Adaptive Decision Making and Adaptive Management:
   arrowComplexity and Meta-Decision Models

This project came out of my dissertation research and has gone through many phases. Essentially, this research has a central hypothesis that environmental design problems are “wicked” because they involve a host of meta-decision choices, such as: (i) Which values should be used by decision makers to measure the outcomes of their actions? (ii) What is the logic of establishing space-time boundaries by which an alternative is included in the set of policy and planning alternatives? (iii) Given the multiplicity of decision rules, how should decision makers choose which descriptive or normative decision rule to apply in a given context? (iv) How shall the weights be assigned to the pluralistic values and actions on the basis of which decision makers judge their decisions? While these meta-decision choices are assumed in every decision faced by the planners and the planned, there is no single “best” or “optimal” way to take a meta-decision. Each of the four meta-decision choices, described above, are investigated in this research in the context of three inter-connected environmental design problems: (a) controlling vehicular emissions; (b) choosing energy source mixes; and (c) regulating greenhouse gas emissions. A theoretical formal concept of meta-decision models is developed that explicitly incorporates the meta-decision choices in evaluating the environmental policy and planning designs. The proposed meta-decision model is applied in the three case studies to demonstrate that no expert decision algorithms -- be they descriptive or normative – can provide final solutions to wicked environmental design problems. The provision of information about meta-decision choices to all the affected stakeholders in the planning process, as proposed in the meta-decision models, promises to illuminate to all stakeholders the wicked decisions faced in designing our environments.

Relevant papers and presentations:


  • Zia, A. (In Preparation): Wicked Environmental Design Problems and Meta-Decision Models


  • Zia, A. (2005) Wicked Environmental Design Problems and Meta-Decision Models: The Cases of Vehicular Emissions, Energy Source Mixes and Green-House Gas Emissions. Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Annual Conference, Kansas City MO, October 2005
  • Zia, A. and B. G. Norton (2003) Using Multiple Decision Rules to Evaluate Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Program in the Atlanta Airshed: Towards Meta-decision Models in Environmental Management. Third Joint Congress of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), Leuven, Belgium, July 2003