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Transport and ethics: Dilemmas for CBA researchers. An interview-based study from the Netherlands


  • Van Wee, Bert
  • Molin, Eric


This paper presents the results of an interview- and web questionnaire-based study into the ethics-related dilemmas of researchers in the field of cost–benefit analysis (CBA) in the Netherlands. The results reveal first that ethical codes are only known to a limited extent by researchers in the Dutch CBA community, and formalized. Second, having the promoter of major infrastructure projects as the client for 'independent' ex ante CBA of those projects creates a conflict of interest, and limits the usefulness of CBA in modern societies. Third, respondents with a university background tend to value the interests of society more highly than consultants, who value the client's interests more. Fourth, role-related dilemmas can easily occur. A first dilemma in this category relates to the trade-off between the quality of research and constraints (on time, money, and delivery), a second dilemma relates to what research a university should or should not do, a third dilemma follows from the publication culture at universities. Fifth, the respondents believe that the Dutch OEI-guidelines (guidelines that explain that a CBA should be carried out for large national infrastructure projects, including how these CBAs should be carried out) increased the quality of CBAs for national projects in the Netherlands and reduced ethical dilemmas for researchers. We present several possible implications of our research, including arguments for developing codes of conduct for clients of research; doing CBA for more than only large national projects; and an independent second opinion or an independent committee supervising the CBA research.

Suggested Citation

  • Van Wee, Bert & Molin, Eric, 2012. "Transport and ethics: Dilemmas for CBA researchers. An interview-based study from the Netherlands," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 30-36.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:24:y:2012:i:c:p:30-36
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tranpol.2012.06.021

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bristow, A. L. & Nellthorp, J., 2000. "Transport project appraisal in the European Union," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 51-60, January.
    2. Thomopoulos, N. & Grant-Muller, S. & Tight, M.R., 2009. "Incorporating equity considerations in transport infrastructure evaluation: Current practice and a proposed methodology," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 351-359, November.
    3. Bert van Wee, 2007. "Large infrastructure projects: a review of the quality of demand forecasts and cost estimations," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 34(4), pages 611-625, July.
    4. Bert van Wee, 2007. "Large Infrastructure Projects: A Review of the Quality of Demand Forecasts and Cost Estimations," Environment and Planning B, , vol. 34(4), pages 611-625, August.
    5. Odeck, James, 2004. "Cost overruns in road construction--what are their sizes and determinants?," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 43-53, January.
    6. Hayashi, Y. & Morisugi, H., 2000. "International comparison of background concept and methodology of transportation project appraisal," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 73-88, January.
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    CBA; Ethics; Codes of conduct; Dilemmas;


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