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  1. Abstract

    Understanding and communicating uncertainty is a key skill needed in the practice of science. However, there has been little research on the instruction of uncertainty in undergraduate science education. Our team designed a module within an online geoscience field course which focused on explicit instruction around uncertainty and provided students with an uncertainty rating scale to record and communicate their uncertainty with a common language. Students then explored a complex, real-world geological problem about which expert scientists had previously made competing claims through geologic maps. Provided with data, expert uncertainty ratings, and the previous claims, students made new geologic maps of their own and presented arguments about their claims in written form. We analyzed these reports along with assessments of uncertainty. Most students explicitly requested geologists’ uncertainty judgments in a post-course assessment when asked why scientists might differ in their conclusions and/or utilized the rating scale unprompted in their written arguments. Through the examination of both pre- and post-course assessments of uncertainty and students’ course-based assessments, we argue that explicit instruction around uncertainty can be introduced during undergraduate coursework and could facilitate geoscience novices developing into practicing geoscientists.

  2. Abstract How do scientists generate and weight candidate queries for hypothesis testing, and how does learning from observations or experimental data impact query selection? Field sciences offer a compelling context to ask these questions because query selection and adaptation involves consideration of the spatiotemporal arrangement of data, and therefore closely parallels classic search and foraging behavior. Here we conduct a novel simulated data foraging study—and a complementary real-world case study—to determine how spatiotemporal data collection decisions are made in field sciences, and how search is adapted in response to in-situ data. Expert geoscientists evaluated a hypothesis by collecting environmental data using a mobile robot. At any point, participants were able to stop the robot and change their search strategy or make a conclusion about the hypothesis. We identified spatiotemporal reasoning heuristics, to which scientists strongly anchored, displaying limited adaptation to new data. We analyzed two key decision factors: variable-space coverage, and fitting error to the hypothesis. We found that, despite varied search strategies, the majority of scientists made a conclusion as the fitting error converged. Scientists who made premature conclusions, due to insufficient variable-space coverage or before the fitting error stabilized, were more prone to incorrect conclusions. We found thatmore »novice undergraduates used the same heuristics as expert geoscientists in a simplified version of the scenario. We believe the findings from this study could be used to improve field science training in data foraging, and aid in the development of technologies to support data collection decisions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2022
  3. Abstract. In the geosciences, recent attention has been paid to the influence of uncertainty on expert decision making. When making decisions under conditions of uncertainty, people tend to employ heuristics (rules of thumb) based on experience, relying on their prior knowledge and beliefs to intuitively guide choice. Over 50 years of decision making research in cognitive psychology demonstrates that heuristics can lead to less-than-optimal decisions, collectively referred to as biases. For example, a geologist who confidently interprets ambiguous data as representative of a familiar category form their research (e.g., strike slip faults for expert in extensional domains) is exhibiting the availability bias, which occurs when people make judgments based on what is most dominant or accessible in memory. Given the important social and commercial implications of many geoscience decisions, there is a need to develop effective interventions for removing or mitigating decision bias. In this paper, we summarize the key insights from decision making research about how to reduce bias and review the literature on debiasing strategies. First, we define an optimal decision, since improving decision making requires having a standard to work towards. Next, we discuss the cognitive mechanisms underlying decision biases and describe three biases that have beenmore »shown to influence geoscientists decision making (availability bias, framing bias, anchoring bias). Finally, we review existing debiasing strategies that have applicability in the geosciences, with special attention given to those strategies that make use of information technology and artificial intelligence (AI). We present two case studies illustrating different applications of intelligent systems for the debiasing of geoscientific decision making, where debiased decision making is an emergent property of the coordinated and integrated processing of human-AI collaborative teams.

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  4. Abstract. In the geosciences, recent attention has been paid to the influence of uncertainty on expert decision-making. When making decisions under conditions of uncertainty, people tend to employ heuristics (rules of thumb) based on experience, relying on their prior knowledge and beliefs to intuitively guide choice. Over 50 years of decision-making research in cognitive psychology demonstrates that heuristics can lead to less-than-optimal decisions, collectively referred to as biases. For example, the availability bias occurs when people make judgments based on what is most dominant or accessible in memory; geoscientists who have spent the past several months studying strike-slip faults will have this terrain most readily available in their mind when interpreting new seismic data. Given the important social and commercial implications of many geoscience decisions, there is a need to develop effective interventions for removing or mitigating decision bias. In this paper, we outline the key insights from decision-making research about how to reduce bias and review the literature on debiasing strategies. First, we define an optimal decision, since improving decision-making requires having a standard to work towards. Next, we discuss the cognitive mechanisms underlying decision biases and describe three biases that have been shown to influence geoscientists' decision-making (availability bias,more »framing bias, anchoring bias). Finally, we review existing debiasing strategies that have applicability in the geosciences, with special attention given to strategies that make use of information technology and artificial intelligence (AI). We present two case studies illustrating different applications of intelligent systems for the debiasing of geoscientific decision-making, wherein debiased decision-making is an emergent property of the coordinated and integrated processing of human–AI collaborative teams.« less