Abstract of "Expert Opinions in forecasting: Role of the Delphi technique," Gene Rowe, Institute of Food Research & George Wright, University of Strathclyde

Expert opinion is often necessary in forecasting tasks because of a lack of appropriate or available information for using statistical procedures. But how does one get the best forecast from experts? One solution is to use a structured group technique, such as Delphi, for eliciting and combining expert judgments. In using the Delphi technique, one controls the exchange of information between anonymous panelists over a number of rounds (iterations), taking the average of the estimates on the final round as the group judgment. A number of principles are developed here to indicate how to conduct structured groups to obtain good expert judgments. These principles, applied to the conduct of Delphi groups, indicate how many and what type of experts to use (five to 20 experts with disparate domain knowledge); how many rounds to use (generally two or three); what type of feedback to employ (average estimates plus justifications from each expert); how to summarize the final forecast (weight all experts’ estimates equally); how to word questions (in a balanced way with succinct definitions free of emotive terms and irrelevant information); and what response modes to use (frequencies rather than probabilities or odds, with coherence checks when feasible). Delphi groups are substantially more accurate than individual experts and traditional groups, and somewhat more accurate than statistical groups (which are made up of non-interacting individuals whose judgments are aggregated). Studies support the advantage of Delphi groups over traditional groups by five to one with one tie, and their advantage over statistical groups by 12 to two with two ties. We anticipate that by following these principles, forecasters may be able to use structured groups to harness effectively expert opinion.