Issue-based information system

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The issue-based information system (IBIS) was invented by Werner Kunz and Horst Rittel as an argumentation-based approach to tackling wicked problems—complex, ill-defined problems that involve multiple stakeholders.[1]

According to Kunz and Rittel, "Issue-Based Information Systems (IBIS) are meant to support coordination and planning of political decision processes. IBIS guides the identification, structuring, and settling of issues raised by problem-solving groups, and provides information pertinent to the discourse."[1]

Subsequently, the understanding of planning and design as a process of argumentation (of the designer with himself or with others) has led to the use of IBIS in design rationale.[2][3]

The basic structure of IBIS is a graph. It is therefore quite suitable to be manipulated by computer, as in a graph database.[4]


The elements of IBIS are issues (or questions that need to be answered), each of which are associated with alternative positions (or possible answers).[1][5] These in turn are associated with arguments which support or object to a given position (or another argument). In the course of the treatment of issues, new issues come up which are treated likewise.[6]

Issue-based information systems are used as a means of widening the coverage of a problem. By encouraging a greater degree of participation, particularly in the earlier phases of the process, the designer is increasing the opportunity that difficulties of his proposed solution, unseen by him, will be discovered by others. Since the problem observed by a designer can always be treated as merely a symptom of another higher-level problem, the argumentative approach also increases the likelihood that someone will attempt to attack the problem from this point of view. Another desirable characteristic of the IBIS is that it helps to make the design process "transparent." Transparency here refers to the ability of observers as well as participants to trace back the process of decision-making.

IBIS is used in issue mapping,[7] an argument visualization technique related to argument mapping. It is also the basis of a related facilitation technique called dialogue mapping.[8][9]

Some researchers and practitioners have combined IBIS with numerical decision-making software based on multi-criteria decision making.[10][11][12][13]


Rittel's interest lay in the area of public policy and planning, which is also the context in which he and his colleagues defined wicked problems.[14] So it is no surprise that Kunz and Rittel envisaged IBIS as the "type of information system meant to support the work of cooperatives like governmental or administrative agencies or committees, planning groups, etc., that are confronted with a problem complex in order to arrive at a plan for decision".[1]

When Kunz and Rittel's paper was written, there were three manual, paper-based IBIS-type systems in use—two in government agencies and one in a university.[1]

Graphical IBIS in Compendium (software)

A renewed interest in IBIS-type systems came about in the following decade, when advances in technology made it possible to design relatively inexpensive, computer-based IBIS-type systems.[2][4][15] In 1987, Douglas E. Noble completed a computer-supported IBIS program as part of his doctoral dissertation.[2] Jeff Conklin and co-workers adapted the IBIS structure for use in software engineering, creating the gIBIS (graphical IBIS) hypertext system in the late 1980s.[4][15] Several other graphical IBIS-type systems were developed once it was realised that such systems facilitated collaborative design and problem solving.[3] These efforts culminated in the creation of the open source Compendium (software) tool which supports—among other things—a graphical IBIS notation.[3][16][17] Similar tools which do not rely on a database for storage include DRed (Design Rationale editor)[18] and designVUE.[19]

Since the mid-2000s, there has been a renewed interest in IBIS-type systems, particularly in the context of sensemaking and collaborative problem solving in a variety of social and technical contexts.[7][20][21][22][23] Of particular note is the facilitation method called dialogue mapping which uses the IBIS notation to map out a design (or any other) dialogue as it evolves.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kunz, Werner; Rittel, Horst W. J. (July 1970). Issues as elements of information systems (PDF) (Working paper). Berkeley: Institute of Urban and Regional Development, University of California, Berkeley. CiteSeerX accessible. OCLC 5065959. 131. Retrieved 2017-05-26. 
  2. ^ a b c Rittel, Horst W. J.; Noble, Douglas E. (January 1989) [1988]. Issue-based information systems for design (PDF) (Working paper). Berkeley: Institute of Urban and Regional Development, University of California, Berkeley. OCLC 20155825. 492. Retrieved 2017-05-26.  Originally presented to the ACADIA '88 Conference, Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture, University of Michigan, October 1988.
  3. ^ a b c Buckingham Shum, Simon J.; Selvin, Albert M.; Sierhuis, Maarten; Conklin, E. Jeffrey; Haley, Charles B.; Nuseibeh, Bashar (2006). "Hypermedia support for argumentation-based rationale: 15 years on from gIBIS and QOC" (PDF). In Dutoit, Allen H.; McCall, Raymond; Mistrík, Ivan; Paech, Barbara. Rationale management in software engineering. Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 111–132. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-30998-7_5. ISBN 3540309977. OCLC 68629169. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  4. ^ a b c Conklin, E. Jeffrey; Begeman, Michael L. (October 1988). "gIBIS: a hypertext tool for exploratory policy discussion" (PDF). ACM Transactions on Information Systems. 6 (4): 303–331. doi:10.1145/58566.59297. Retrieved 2017-05-26. 
  5. ^ Awati, Kailash (8 July 2009). "The what and whence of issue-based information systems". Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  6. ^ Awati, Kailash (7 April 2009). "Issues, Ideas and Arguments: a communication-centric approach to tackling project complexity". Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  7. ^ a b Okada, Alexandra; Buckingham Shum, Simon J.; Sherborne, Tony, eds. (2014) [2008]. Knowledge cartography: software tools and mapping techniques. Advanced information and knowledge processing (2nd ed.). New York: Springer-Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-6470-8. ISBN 9781447164692. OCLC 890438015. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  8. ^ a b Conklin, E. Jeffrey (2003). "Dialog mapping: reflections on an industrial strength case study". In Kirschner, Paul Arthur; Buckingham Shum, Simon J.; Carr, Chad S. Visualizing argumentation: software tools for collaborative and educational sense-making. Computer supported cooperative work. London; New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 117–136. doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-0037-9. ISBN 1852336641. OCLC 50676911. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  9. ^ a b Conklin, E. Jeffrey (2006). Dialogue mapping: building shared understanding of wicked problems. Chichester, UK; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0470017686. OCLC 60491946. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  10. ^ Ouerdane, Wassila; Maudet, Nicolas; Tsoukiàs, Alexis (2010). "Argumentation theory and decision aiding". In Ehrgott, Matthias; Figueira, José; Greco, Salvatore. Trends in multiple criteria decision analysis. International series in operations research & management science. 142. New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 177–208. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-5904-1_7. ISBN 9781441959034. OCLC 495781251. 
  11. ^ Aldea, Arantza; Bañares-Alcántara, René; Skrzypczak, Simon (September 2012). "Managing information to support the decision making process". Journal of Information & Knowledge Management. 11 (3): 1250016. doi:10.1142/S0219649212500165. 
  12. ^ Aurisicchio, Marco; Baroni, Pietro; Pellegrini, Dario; Toni, Francesca (2016). "Comparing and integrating argumentation-based with matrix-based decision support in Arg&Dec". In Black, Elizabeth; Modgil, Sanjay; Oren, Nir. Theory and applications of formal argumentation: third international workshop, TAFA 2015, Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 25–26, 2015, revised selected papers. Lecture notes in computer science. 9524. Cham; New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 1–20. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28460-6_1. ISBN 9783319284590. OCLC 935213333. 
  13. ^ Culmsee, Paul (8 June 2017). "Innovations in decision making on a major infrastructure project: a dialogue mapping case study". Retrieved 2017-10-18. 
  14. ^ Rittel, Horst W. J.; Webber, Melvin M. (June 1973). "Dilemmas in a general theory of planning" (PDF). Policy Sciences. 4 (2): 155–169. doi:10.1007/BF01405730. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  15. ^ a b Conklin, E. Jeffrey; Begeman, Michael L. (May 1989). "gIBIS: a tool for all reasons". Journal of the American Society for Information Science. 40 (3): 200–213. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-4571(198905)40:3<200::AID-ASI11>3.0.CO;2-U. Retrieved 2016-02-24. 
  16. ^ Davies, Stephen; Velez-Morales, Javier; King, Roger (August 2005). Building the memex sixty years later: trends and directions in personal knowledge bases (Technical report). Boulder, Colorado: Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder. CU-CS-997-05. 
  17. ^ Montibeller, Gilberto; Shaw, Duncan; Westcombe, Mark (May 2006). "Using decision support systems to facilitate the social process of knowledge management". Knowledge Management Research & Practice. 4 (2): 125–137. doi:10.1057/palgrave.kmrp.8500092. 
  18. ^ Wallace, Ken; Ahmed, Saeema; Bracewell, Rob (2005). "Engineering knowledge management". In Clarkson, John; Eckert, Claudia. Design process improvement: a review of current practice. London: Springer-Verlag. pp. 326–343. doi:10.1007/978-1-84628-061-0_14. ISBN 185233701X. OCLC 55887578. 
  19. ^ Baroni, Pietro; Romano, Marco; Toni, Francesca; Aurisicchio, Marco; Bertanza, Giorgio (2013). "An argumentation-based approach for automatic evaluation of design debates". In Leite, João Alexandre; Son, Tran Cao; Torroni, Paolo; Torre, Leon van der; Woltran, Stefan. Computational logic in multi-agent systems: 14th International Workshop, CLIMA XIV, Coruña, Spain, September 16–18, 2013: proceedings. Lecture notes in artificial intelligence. 8143. Berlin; New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 340–356. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-40624-9_21. ISBN 9783642406232. OCLC 861569813. 
  20. ^ Conklin, E. Jeffrey (June 2008). "Growing a global issue base: an issue-based approach to policy deliberation" (PDF). Paper presented to the Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing & Conference on Online Deliberation (DIAC-2008/OD-2008), June 26–29, 2008, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  21. ^ Culmsee, Paul; Awati, Kailash (2013) [2011]. "Chapter 7: Visualising reasoning, and Chapter 8: Argumentation-based rationale". The heretic's guide to best practices: the reality of managing complex problems in organisations. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc. pp. 153–211. ISBN 9781462058549. OCLC 767703320. 
  22. ^ McCrickard, Scott (2012). Making claims: the claim as a knowledge design, capture, and sharing tool in HCI. Synthesis lectures on human-centered informatics. 15. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool. doi:10.2200/S00423ED1V01Y201205HCI015. ISBN 9781608459056. OCLC 847741769. 
  23. ^ Carroll, John M., ed. (2013). Creativity and rationale: enhancing human experience by design. Human–computer interaction series. 20. London; New York: Springer-Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-1-4471-4111-2. ISBN 9781447141105. OCLC 785082605.