Making decisions and considering the consequences

Even having balanced the risks and benefits, different decisions on actions may still be made.

To evaluate the possible actions fully, the available evidence should be used to state or describe the advantages and disadvantages of the consequences of each action. An informed decision can then be made, based on the evidence and arguments.

To justify a decision:

  • outline the key consequences
  • present an argument to show how the decision balances these to give the best outcome

When making or evaluating, a decision always considers the following types of consequence.

Type of consequenceEffects on:How will the decision affect:
PersonalIndividual peoplePeople's jobs, their family, living conditions, individual health
SocialGroups of peopleSpecific groups of people (young, old, commuters) employment, travel to work, provision of health care, living conditions, health
EconomicMoneyHow much people are paid, businesses make, people need to spend? The cost of raw materials or products made?
EnvironmentalLand, water or airAir quality, the atmosphere, water, land, climate? Man-made structures such as buildings? Specific habitats and their ecosystems. How will it affect reserves of finite resources?

Ethical considerations

There are some questions that science cannot answer.

Ethical decisions relate to whether an action and its consequences are right or wrong. This can relate to scientific research itself or the uses of the science. Science alone cannot provide an answer. The decision makers must consider the rights and wrongs of their choice.

For example, chlorine was used in the first world war as poison gas. It killed soldiers who were attacked and put the soldiers releasing the gas at risk as the gas could drift in the wind. This decision was an ethical decision. Your views on the decision will depend upon what you think is right and wrong. Science cannot answer this.