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CADDIS Volume 1: Stressor Identification

Step 5: Identify Probable Causes

Communicating the Results

The best strategy for communicating results depends on your audience and how costly or contentious the recommended action is. Results may be presented as a report that describes:

  • The reason for the causal analysis,
  • A list of the candidate causes and the information supporting their selection,
  • The source of the data used in the analysis,
  • Tables of the evidence derived from the data,
  • Conceptual models of the causal pathways,
  • The key evidence that strengthen the probable cause and weakens the other candidate causes,
  • Determination of the probable cause or causes,
  • Qualitative assessment of the overall confidence of the entire case, and
  • Next steps or other recommendations.

Costly or controversial actions and skeptical decision-makers will require more complete documentation. The bottom line is a statement of reasoning for identifying the probable cause compared to the other causes. Some people find that summarizing the evidence in tables and narrative form is helpful. Others like to annotate conceptual models with evidence. Above all, use what works for you and your audience. The overall level of confidence in a causal identification is based in part on the reliability of each piece of evidence. However, because most causal conclusions are based on multiple pieces of evidence, no single source of uncertainty characterizes overall confidence in the conclusion. Assessment of the overall confidence of the entire case is qualitative, because so many different types of information are used to determine a probable cause. When writing the causal assessment, include a list of the major sources of uncertainty and their possible influence on your determination of the cause of the specific effects.

What Happens Next?

  • Confidence Low? Iterate Process

    If the cause is not sufficiently certain for the decision maker, there may be other sources of data, other ways to evaluate existing data, or options for iteration can be explored.

  • Confidence High? Identify Sources, Take Action, Monitor Results

    If the cause is confidently identified, then the next steps may include allocating the contributions of different sources of the cause, developing and implementing management options, and monitoring the effectiveness of actions. These important activities are outside the scope of this website. However, accurate and defensible identification of the cause is the key that directs management efforts toward finding solutions that have the best chance for improving biological condition.

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