ADR and the Importance of Data

A recent post by Dr Becky Batagol had me thinking about the importance of good data collection in the field of ADR.  ADR proponents make many claims about the benefits of ADR.  We also know that most dispute resolution processes occur behind closed doors, which challenges our ability to make sweeping statements about “what goes on” in ADR processes.  Good data, collected from third party facilitators, disputing parties and non participant observers, helps us to make strong claims about the efficacy of ADR forums.

Such data may help us to more clearly consider questions that we believe we already know the answer to.  Do ADR processes really preserve relationships when compared to litigation?  Are the values of self-determination and autonomy actively promoted in ADR?  Do parties focus more on their interests, rather than their positions in ADR?  Are remedies achieved in ADR more flexible and varied, compared to court adjudication?

ADR researchers also need to consider methodological approaches that allow us to say things like:

  • ADR is cheaper than litigation.
    ADR is quicker than litigation.
    Settlement rates in ADR are high (compared to what?)
    Party satisfaction with ADR processes is high.

When I think about these claims, I think about the (initial) words of Thomas Jefferson and the American Declaration of Independence… “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable”.  I think good data allows us to cast sunlight on many of ADR’s claims.  It is important that we do shine light on these claims, so that users and providers of ADR services understand what ADR can and cannot sensibly lay claim to.  Becky made reference in her earlier post to data that would be useful to have:

  • settlement rates
    factors that may influence settlement rates, such as referral stage
    what happens when disputes are not settled at ADR
    participant satisfaction with ADR and perceptions of fairness, the time and costs expended by participants and service providers.

For members of the ADR research network and readers of this blog – what other data do you think we should be trying to collect??

James