Structured Evidential Argumentation System


"By providing transparent, credible, early alerts to decision makers, SEAS allows effective response to changing situations."

"SEAS is especially useful for facilitating decisions that must rely on results from complex collaborative-environmental analysis efforts."

- Bill Ralston and Ian Wilson, "The Scenario Planning Handbook: Developing Strategies in Uncertain Times," Thomson/South-Western, 2006

Versions of SEAS

There are two different versions of SEAS available for distribution. The GOTS version of SEAS, known simply as SEAS, is available for US government use free of any license fees. High SEAS, the COTS version, is available under license and has associated fees. High SEAS differs from SEAS in the following ways:

Release History of SEAS

The current verions of SEAS have development histories dating back to 1998. The first release of SEAS, SEAS 1.0, occurred durring the spring of 1998. Since that time, there have been numerous additional releases, each improving upon the previous. Development continues and new releases are anticipated. Release notes, beginning with SEAS 6.0 in late 2002, up through the present release follow:

New Exclusively in High SEAS 7.1

released November 26, 2007

Enhanced Table Viewer

The Table Viewer has been redesigned to depcit more details regarding arguments. Now fusion methods, weights, evidence, exhibits, discovery tools, memos, signal flags and the specific lights that convery answers to questions and the relevance of evidence can all be optionally depicted within the Table Viewer. This makes the tables far more comprehensive and easier to answer some questions of interest pertaining to arguments e.g.,are there questions unsupported by evidence/exhibits/discovery tools.

Collection Comparison Viewer/Editor

The new Collection Comparison Viewer allows the contents of multiple arguments to be compared side-by-side. A table depicts each argument in a column with each row corresponding to a question from a common template. This view makes it easy to see where answers to common questions differ and where supporting evidence differs. This can be used to understand the evolution of versioned/sequential arguments over time or how alternative arguments compare and contrast. It also can be used to support Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) [Heuer-99].

Collection Film Viewer

A Film Viewer has been added as a new way to explore the contents of collections. It allows you to rapidly cycle through graphical depictions of arguments/templates in the collection, making it easy to spot small changes and trends.

Incremental Versioning in Collection Viewers

Now you can increment a versioning or sequential collection, through one-click versioning, without leaving the collection.

New in both High SEAS and SEAS 7.1

released November 26, 2007

Warning about More Recent Versions

If you open an argument or template for editing, for which there is a more recent version, you are warned. This helps to ensure that modifications are confined to the appropriate versions.

New Viewer Parameter Dialogs

Viewer parameter dialogs have been redesigned to be more consistent and easier to use. Automatic color selection for starbursts, based upon the fusion methods in use, is now an option.

Optional Exporting of Group Members in AML

Now you can optionally disable the exporting of group members from AML files, making them smaller, while also protecting the privacy of group members.

New Exclusively in High SEAS 7.0

released July 28, 2006

Tabbed SEAS Manager

There is a new version of the SEAS Manager that opens objects as tabs within the same browser window, rather than opening them in new browser windows. This makes it easier to keep track of open objects, and reduces clutter on the desktop. The original SEAS Manager is still available. Choose to use the Tabbed Interface, or not, within the SEAS User Information Viewer/Editor.

View Histories of Answers and Evidence

Now you can view the history of changes made to question answers and supporting evidence within arguments. Each entry in the history shows who made the change, when they did it, and what their answer/rationale/relevance was. This is available in both the Hierarchical and Summary Viewer/Editors.

Weights on Evidence Always Available

Prior to version 7.0, weights on evidence were only available within the Hierarchical Viewer/Editor and only where a weighted automated fusion method was in use. Now they are always available within the Summary and Hierarchical Viewer/Editor, whether or not a weighted fusion method is in use. This provides a convenient means for recording source credibility estimates across all evidence.

Upload Multiple File Exhibits

Now you can upload multiple files, from your computer, as exhibits, through a single dialog. A button in the dialog allows you to add additional files with corresponding citations, speeding exhibit creation.

Copy and Move Template Branches

To better support argument template development, you can now copy or move entire template branches. This works within a common template or across different template. All template information is copied/moved including questions, amplifications, multiple choice answers, and discovery tools. Arguments based upon these templates are automatically updated to reflect the changes made including the copying/moving of answers, rationale, evidence, exhibits, and discovery tools.

View Supported Objects

Now you can see and open the SEAS objects that are directly supported by templates, arguments, and collections. This includes collections for which the given object is an item, multi-dimensional objects for which the given uni-dimensional object is a component, and arguments based upon the given template. This is available through the information button on the auxiliary toolbar.

Joins in Alternatives Collections

One key use of alternaives collections is to organize arguments that represent differing opinions on a common topic. If all such arguments are based upon a common template, then a consensus argument, utilizing the same template, can be automatically produced through a "join". The resulting argument arrays the answers given by each of the arguments as elements of evidence in support of the joint answer. If an automated fusion method is chosen to perform the join, then the consensus answers are automatically entered in the resulting argument.

Filling Alternative Collections

To ease the development of independent assessments on common topics, alternatives collections now have a "Fill" button. After creating an alternatives collection and establishing it audience, pushing the "Fill" button and selecting a template or argument will cause an independent argument to be created for each member of the audience and placed in the alternatives collection. After these arguments are completed by the audience members, they can be joined into a common argument that summaries their collective assessments.

New in both High SEAS and SEAS 7.0

released July 28, 2006

Library of Exemplar Templates

A new miscellaneous collection called the "SEAS Library" is home to the "Q&A Library" and "Template Library". The Q&A Library houses the exemplar template questions and multiple-choice answers, introduced in SEAS 6.4. The Template Library includes templates for a range of business applications and one for assessing the quality of SEAS template. While these might be directly applicable to problems of interest, they are primarily provided to illustrate how SEAS can be applied to a wide range of problems and to provide examples of good template design.

Viewer Preferences

Now you can specify your preferred way of viewing SEAS objects. For arguments and templates, you can specify the Hierarchical, Table, or Summary viewer as your default, and for collections you can specify the Tabular or Graphical view as your default. When an object is opened, these preferences are used to determine how it will be viewed. Also, there are preset configurations to choose from when changing the parameters associated with SEAS viewers, keyed off of the level of detail you wish to see i.e., minimal, moderate, or full.

Finding Objects by Words in Names

The SEAS Find capability has been enhanced to search for objects based upon words contained in the their names. It can look for specific words or words that begin with a given sequence of letters. This can be used in combination with all of the other Find criteria.

New in SEAS 6.4

released September 10, 2004

Responses to Memos Supports Dialogs

SEAS now allows one to respond to a memo. In so doing, a new memo is created on the same topic. When a memo is opened for reading, all memos on the same topic (to which the reader has access) are displayed, allowing the reader to review the dialog pertaining to that topic.

Library of Exemplar Template Questions and Multiple-Choice Answers

To help speed the creation of templates and improve their quality, a library of exemplar template questions and associated multiple-choice answers is provided. When entering the multiple-choice answers associated with a given question in a template, there is the option to directly choose a multiple-choice answer set from the library, to reverse the association of choices with the colored light scale, and to propagate those choices to all other questions in the template.

Propagate Publication and Situation Information from a Collection to its Items

When entering or editing the publication information or the situation information associated with a collection, there is now the option to propagate that information to the items in that collection. This greatly speeds making coordinated changes to this information across items in a collection.

HTML Tags can be Incorporated into the Text You Enter

Now as you enter text to be incorporated into SEAS arguments/templates, you can choose to include HTML tags in that text (e.g., to make text bold, italic, underlined, colored,, etc.) and they will influence the way that that text appears.

Discovery Tools for Collections

Discovery tools can now be attached to collections in the same way that they are attached to templates or arguments (in addition to being included as items in collections). If those attached are auto-populating discovery tools, when triggered, the resulting new exhibits are automatically added as items in the collections. All such auto-populating discovery tools attached to a collection can be simultaneously triggered by pushing the discovery button associated with that collection.

Directly Open Exhibit/Evidence or the Documents on which they are Based

Now when exhibits or evidence are displayed in collections or in the SEAS manager, clicking on the associated icon will open the dialog pertaining to the exhibit/evidence, while clicking on the citation will open the document on which that exhibit/evidence is based. This allows direct access to the underlying documents.

Alternatives Collections

A new type of collection has been added, one that captures the idea that its items are in competition with one another to be designated the best. This type of collection can be used to organize arguments that represent differing opinions on a common topic. One of those can also be designated as the "best".

New Options in the Summary Viewer

The summary viewer parameters now include an option to include a graphic depicting the summarized arugment/template at the top of the summary. In addition there is an option to directly answer questions within the summary viewer, rather than having to go to the hierarchical viewer/editor to do so.

Preferred Viewer/Editor

Now you can designate the hierarchal viewer/editor, the summary viewer/editor, or the table viewer as your preferred viewer. Whenever an argument or template is opened from a collection or from the SEAS manager, it is opened in the preferred viewer.

AML Export/Import

SEAS export/import capabilities have been extended to handle all of the new features of SEAS 6.4. In addition, files used as the basis for exhibits/evidence are included in the exports/imports allowing arguments and their supporting exhibit/evidence files to be moved from one SEAS server to another.

New in SEAS 6.3

released December 16, 2003

Ability to Weight Answers or Evidence

SEAS 6.3 lets you decide which answers or evidence to weight more heavily in a conclusion through the use of weighted fusion methods. This gives you the opportunity to fine tune your analysis. You can also use this method to discount evidence that may be less reliable.

Ability to add Memos on Exhibits, Evidence, & Discovery Tools

With SEAS 6.3 you can place memos on finer grained objects (e.g., exhibits, evidence, discovery tools) facilitating discussion about more specific SEAS objects.

Moving items between Collections

The Collection Manager now includes a one-step operation to move an item out of another collection and into the current collection.

Create a Version with One-click

SEAS 6.3 allows you to easily capture the current version of your argument or template and continue working. With one-click versioning, you can create a new version of an argument or template and have it automatically saved in an appropriate collection, all in one step. SEAS keeps track of the versions so you will always know which is the most recent.

The Option to Copy Answer Choices from one Question to all Other Questions

With a single click, you can now copy all the answer choices from one question in a template to every other question in that template. If you use a consistent style of questions/choices, it's only necessary to type the choices once.

Ability to Parse HTML and RSS files for Exhibits

With SEAS 6.3 you can use a Web URL as a discovery tool and it will find the hypertext links, ask which pages you are interested in, and create exhibits from the ones designated. This feature is available for HTML or RSS pages.

Comparing and Merging SEAS Arguments/Templates

SEAS 6.3 introduces a powerful new feature that allows you to compare SEAS arguments and SEAS templates side by side. You can also copy any component part of an object (question, answer, rationale ...) from one object to another. There is no longer a need to cut and paste when copying answers, questions, or other parts of a template or argument.

Print SEAS Arguments and Templates without SEAS Icons

Now when you print a SEAS argument or template you can get a printout with only your data. No SEAS buttons or icons will appear.

AML Export/Import

SEAS export/import capabilities have been extended to handle all of the new features of SEAS objects in 6.3.

Configure User Timeout

Through the SEAS System Administration Interface, the system administrator can now configure a User Timeout variable. The timeout variable refers to the length of time before a non-active user is automatically logged out of SEAS.

New in SEAS 6.2

released April 23, 2003

The 6.2 release of SEAS is a minor release, but contains important changes since 6.0. Please read all 6.x Release Notes, included here. If you are upgrading from 5.1, we recommend loading 6.2 directly.

Ability to See from the SEAS Manager which Templates, Arguments, and Collections have Memos and Flags

Within the SEAS Manager you can now see which objects have visible memos and signal flags. The types of memos that are visible are determined by the current parameter settings.

Creating new Arguments and Templates within a SEAS collection

With SEAS 6.2, you can create and add new objects to a collection through a single operation. After creating a collection, click on the New Collection In symbol.

Adding Discovery Tools to Arguments

In SEAS 6.2 you can now add discovery tools to SEAS arguments as well as templates.

Improved Speed

SEAS 6.2 has improved speed for many operations, including the start-up sequence, copying SEAS objects, and modifying large templates and arguments.

SEAS Administration Interface

SEAS now comes with a series of tools to help you diagnose problems and manage the knowledge-base and server, accessible through the SEAS Administration Interface.

Ability to Unpublish Templates and Arguments

Through the SEAS System Administration interface, you now can unpublish templates and arguments. There are two ways for a system administrator to unpublish a SEAS object. 1) Temporarily Unpublish will allow you to unpublish and make simple edits on a SEAS Template or Argument, but you cannot delete it. 2) Permanently Unpublish allows you to edit or delete the object, but also unpublishes all the objects that are dependent on the original object (e.g., unpublishing a template will unpublish all the arguments based on that template).

Deleting Users and Groups

The SEAS 6.2 System Administration Interface includes the ability to delete users and groups from the system.

New in SEAS 6.1

released January 28, 2003

The 6.1 release of SEAS is a minor release, but has important changes since 6.0. Please read both 6.1 and 6.0 release notes, included here. If you are upgrading from 5.1, we recommend loading 6.1 directly.

Graphical Collection View

You can now view graphical representations (e.g., starbursts, navigation maps) of objects and full text of memos, discovery tools, and citations on one printable page. To use this feature, place the objects in a collection and the graphical view button.

Viewing and Printing Full Memo Text in Argument, Template and Collection Viewers

With the new Memo Content parameter you can set SEAS to display either full text or a synopsis for each memo. (Note: you can set parameters to suppress memo display entirely.)

New Critique Feature: Checking Arguments and Templates

With SEAS 6.1 you can set criteria to judge arguments and templates to encourage the use of best practice. This feature will add critique memos to each question where it detects a possible problem.

Editing Exhibits Directly through Collections

SEAS 6.1 fixes an earlier problem (SEAS 5.1) with editing exhibits accessed through the collections.

Improved Import and Export

SEAS 6.1 fixes earlier problems with import and export (SEAS 6.0).

Improved Support for Large Templates and Arguments

SEAS has increased the speed and processing of large Uni-Dimensional arguments or templates.

Feedback for Long Processes

SEAS 6.1 contains user messages to inform you of long processes.

Automatic Restart if SEAS Server Fails

The SEAS server can now be automatically restarted if there is a server failure. During SEAS 6.1 installation, you can install a feature that will check the SEAS server periodically and restart it if the server fails to respond.

New in SEAS 6.0

released Nov. 13, 2002

Adding and Deleting Branches

Although the SEAS team generally recommends the use of regularly structured template skeletons, in some cases irregular skeletons are appropriate. With SEAS 6.0, you can edit templates and arguments to create irregular (asymmetrical) skeletons (e.g., one branch of a template skeleton might have three supporting questions, while the others have two).

To add or delete branches:
  1. Create a template with a regular skeleton.
  2. Add or delete branches to create the overall structure you need.

Setting Fusion Methods and Number of Answer Choices per Question

With SEAS 6.0, you can choose the number of answer choice (i.e., the number of lights) for each question in a template. You select from 2, 3, or 5 choices (lights). You can also independently vary the fusion method used at each question, choosing Maximum, Minimum, Average, or Consensus. Collectively, the assigned fusion methods make up a template's inference method.

Support for Larger Uni-Dimensional Templates and Arguments

SEAS 6.0 supports the use of larger Uni-Dimensional templates and arguments. Large skeleton graphics are scrollable, and operations are faster.

Adding Security Markings

With SEAS 6.0, you can add a security marking to appear at the top of every template or argument page. The same security marking is used for all pages a template, argument, or collection.

New System Administration Interface

SEAS 6.0 includes a graphical user interface to support the SEAS system administrator. This interface makes it easy for the system administrator to add new users, create new groups, assign users to groups, reset user passwords, and manage accounts.

Expanded Export/Import Capabilities Using Enhanced Version of AML

With SEAS 6.0, you can export and import arguments and templates to move SEAS objects among different SEAS servers. SEAS 6.0 makes use of a new version of AML, the Argument Markup Language, that is capable of representing more of the objects used by SEAS in greater detail within XML files.

Increased Browser Compatibility

SEAS 6.0 is compatible with browsers: Internet Explorer 4.x - 6.x, Netscape 4.7 - 6.0, and Mozilla 1.0 - 1.2


[Heuer-99] Heuer, Richard J. Jr.. Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, 1999. 

SEAS, High SEAS, Structured Evidential Argumentation System, and SRI Early Alert System, are trademarks of SRI International.
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