Useful Tool: DEA

Reading the paper by J.S. Brooks et al. (see my previous post) made me wonder why there isn’t more use of data envelopment analysis (DEA) in conservation. DEA is well suited to the analysis of problems with multiple inputs and multiple outcomes.

DEA is widely applied to problems in which answers about optimum input levels, their characteristics, and output levels are needed. It is a linear programming technique for measuring the relative performance of organisational units where the presence of multiple inputs and outputs makes comparisons difficult.

All units under comparison are assumed to operate homogeneously: they receive the same inputs and produce the same outputs (in differing quantities, of course) and these inputs and outputs are representative of the whole population. The figure below shows a model of a bank branch.

dea2.jpg

The example and the picture above is from Prodtools.com, a company that produces a DEA add-in for Excel, xlDEA. There is a free demo version available, try it out. You might think “protected areas” instead of “bank branches”; one output could be “population of endangered species X”, and, if you are dealing with Integrated Conservation and Development Projects, another could be “median income of local population”.

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