Determination of significance is widely recognised as an important step in environmental assessment (EA) processes. The prescriptive literature and guidance on significance determination is comprehensive within the field of EA, whereas descriptive and explorative studies of how we go about making sense, or construct meaning, of actions to determine significance are few. This article makes use of sense-making theory to explore how sense-making among EA researchers and practitioners influence significance determination. Focus is on the situation when persons have their first look at information about a strategic choice and as part of this make their initial judgement of significance. An experiment is designed and conducted to investigate how persons make sense of a specific case and determine significance in a screening and scoping context. The experiment indicates patterns in the test persons' sense-making, including important differences in the way individuals screen and scope. These patterns concern what we notice, how fast we frame the choice, and when we are critical about the provided information. The indications provide a basis for reflections on practice and on how to organise EA processes.
Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 2013, Vol 31, Issue 3, p. 180-189