5 years ago

Assessing the Reliability of Material Flow Analysis Results: The Cases of Rhenium, Gallium, and Germanium in the United States Economy

Assessing the Reliability of Material Flow Analysis Results: The Cases of Rhenium, Gallium, and Germanium in the United States Economy
managing.editor@est.acs.org (American Chemical Society)
Decision-makers traditionally expect “hard facts” from scientific inquiry, an expectation that the results of material flow analyses (MFAs) can hardly meet. MFA limitations are attributable to incompleteness of flowcharts, limited data quality, and model assumptions. Moreover, MFA results are, for the most part, based less on empirical observation but rather on social knowledge construction processes. Developing, applying, and improving the means of evaluating and communicating the reliability of MFA results is imperative. We apply two recently proposed approaches for making quantitative statements on MFA reliability to national minor metals systems: rhenium, gallium, and germanium in the United States in 2012. We discuss the reliability of results in policy and management contexts. The first approach consists of assessing data quality based on systematic characterization of MFA data and the associated meta-information and quantifying the “information content” of MFAs. The second is a quantification of data inconsistencies indicated by the “degree of data reconciliation” between the data and the model. A high information content and a low degree of reconciliation indicate reliable or certain MFA results. This article contributes to reliability and uncertainty discourses in MFA, exemplifying the usefulness of the approaches in policy and management, and to raw material supply discussions by providing country-level information on three important minor metals often considered critical.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.7b03086

DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b03086

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