Science-Intensive Policy Disputes Negotiation Role-Play:

The Mercury Negotiation SimulationExplore the consequences of representing scientific uncertainty in a policy context

Leah C. Stokes, Lawrence Susskind, and Noelle E. Selin
This mercury game is a role-play simulation aimed at scientists, students and decision makers. Playing the game will help participants explore the consequences of representing scientific uncertainty in various ways in a policy context.

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OVERVIEW

Despite decades of scientific work on issues such as ozone depletion, climate change, and toxic chemicals, effectively communicating scientific uncertainty remains a major challenge in all environmental treaty negotiations.

Strategies for incorporating scientific information into policy include developing scientific assessments, setting up subsidiary bodies to treaty negotiations, and framing the information in an appropriate manner. How scientific information is perceived has been, and will remain, a key challenge facing all international environmental treaty-drafting efforts.

This mercury game is a role-play simulation aimed at scientists, students and decision makers. Playing the game will help participants explore the consequences of representing scientific uncertainty in various ways in a policy context. The game focuses on the credibility of various sources of technical information, strategies for representing risk and uncertainty, and the balance between scientific and political considerations.

The game also requires players to grapple with politics – it explores the dynamic between the global “North” (the developed world) and the global “South” (the developing world) at the heart of most treaty-making difficulties.

Ultimately, the role play should help to make clear how scientific information can be favorably employed in an environmental treaty making process.The results of the game will be used in a doctoral research project on the relationship between science and policy in international environmental negotiations.


LOGISTICS

  • The game takes 3-4 hours to play
  • The game is designed for students, scientists and decision makers
  • The game is for 9-11 players, depending on whether the facilitator plays the Chair and whether the India role is used.
  • A free version of the game is available for download from MIT. The PON and MIT versions differ slightly in format and content.


AUTHORS

The Mercury Game was written by Leah C. Stokes, Dr. Noelle E. Selin and Dr. Lawrence E. Susskind at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original game, that doesn’t include PON’s extensive Teaching Notes, is available for free here. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1053648.

 

The Mercury Negotiation Simulation Attributes

Time required:
3-4 hours
Number of participants:
9-11
Teams involved:
No
Agent present:
None
Neutral third party present:
Yes
Scoreable:
No
Teaching notes available:
Yes
Author:
Leah C. Stokes, Lawrence Susskind, and Noelle E. Selin
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You are then permitted to view the document on your computer and either print the number of copies you purchased, or forward the electronic file as many times as the number of copies you purchased. You will only receive a link to one electronic file per document. So, if you order 25 soft copies, you may either forward copies of the link to 25 people via e-mail, or print (and/or photocopy) 25 hard copies of the document.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

The purchase price and handling fee are the same for both soft and hard copies. Soft copies do not entail a shipping fee.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as all Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish to order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Participant Copies.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

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