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Projects and activities | 13 Jun 2024

SOCRATES - Social multi-criteria assessment of European policies

A software tool helping to implement the Social Multi-Criteria Evaluation methodological framework

Brief me

SOCRATES is a specialized software tool that facilitates ex-ante impact assessment of different policy options. It helps to implement the Social Multi-Criteria Evaluation (SMCE) methodological framework and enhances transparency in policy formulation. SOCRATES has been developed by the Decision Analysis Lab at the Joint Research Centre. 




More about SOCRATES

SOCRATES (SOcial multi-CRiteria AssessmenT of European policieS) implements the main principles of the Social Multi-Criteria Evaluation (SMCE) methodological framework. SMCE has been explicitly designed for public policy as a useful methodological and operational framework for ex ante impact assessment. In the SMCE framework, mathematical models play a very important role, i.e. the one of guaranteeing consistency between assumptions used and results obtained. This is a key success factor since multi-criteria mathematics answer to the standard objection that the aggregation of apples and oranges is impossible in a definitive way. Three main components constitute the core of SOCRATES: multi-criteria, equity and sensitivity analyses.

Multi-criteria analysis requires the definition of relevant dimensions, objectives and criteria. It uses weights as importance coefficients and clarify their role in the hierarchical structure. The impact matrix may include either quantitative (including also stochastic and/or fuzzy uncertainty) and qualitative (ordinal and/or linguistic) measurements of the performance of an alternative with respect to an evaluation criterion. It supplies a ranking of the alternatives according to the set of evaluation criteria (i.e. the technical compromise solution/s) computed by using the Kemeny non-compensatory aggregation rule. 

Equity analysis requires as input a set of social actors and their qualitative evaluation of the alternatives considered in the multi-criteria analysis. This makes a clear distinction between opinions (or in general more subjective evaluations) contained in the social impact matrix and evidence contained in the multi-criteria evaluation matrix. The equity analysis produces the following information:

  • indications of the distance of the positions of the various social groups (i.e. possibilities of convergence of interests or coalition formations)
  • ranking of the alternatives according to actors’ impacts or preferences (social compromise solution)

The objective of sensitivity analysis is to check if the rankings provided are stable and to determine which of the input parameters influence more the model output. Local sensitivity analysis looks at the sensitivity of results to a) the exclusion/inclusion of different criteria and dimensions and b) dimensions, criteria or social actors weight changes. All parameters are changed one at a time. Global sensitivity analysis focuses on all the possible combinations of criterion weights; all parameters are changed simultaneously. The whole information produced by local and global sensitivity analyses is synthesised into simple graphics.

Overall, the objective of SOCRATES is NOT substitution of policy-makers through a mathematical model; on the contrary, the objective is to improve their understanding of the main features of the problem at hand, such as key assumptions, degree of uncertainty, robustness of results and overall technical and social defensibility of options chosen.

I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.


This is the main inspiring principle of the SOCRATES software too.

Why use it

In summary, why SMCE and why SOCRATES in impact assessment studies?

  • SMCE is a well-established methodology for impact assessments. It provides structured steps to build the impact matrix and rank all the feasible policy options. This ranking step is not present in many impact assessment studies and this can be considered a weakness of the current practice.
  • By applying SMCE, it is possible to add consistency between the problem structuring and the selection of a desirable option, thus improving transparency too.
  • By using SOCRATES, it is possible to assure repeatability of the calculations; which enhances transparency of public policy development. 


During the inception phase of the project, both SCME and SOCRATES were applied in a set of impact assessments of the EC. The first impact assessment (DG SANTE) has been now been published: “IMPACT ASSESSMENT REPORT Accompanying the document Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on standards of quality and safety for substances of human origin intended for human application and repealing Directives 2002/98/EC and 2004/23/EC EUR-Lex - SWD:2022:190:FIN - EN - EUR-Lex (

The United Nation International Atomic Energy Agency has also decided to use SMCE and the SOCRATES software in its activities of decommissioning and environmental remediation, in the framework of the MAESTRI project (Management Systems Supporting Environmental Remediation Projects) developed in the scope of the Environet (Network on Environmental Remediation and NORM Management).


The SOCRATES manual explains in detail the principles and functionalities of the software. 


Detailed SOCRATES description can also be found in the Commission’s Modelling Inventory MIDAS.

In addition, the Decision Analysis Lab team is describing the workflows related to the potential use of SMCE and SOCRATES for European Commission impact assessments, by using the Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) – a standard graphical notation for business processes.

All methodological and mathematical details behind the SOCRATES software can be found in the references listed below.

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