Tony O'Hagan - SHELF: the Sheffield Elicitation Framework



The SHeffield ELicitation Framework (SHELF) is a package of documents, templates and software to carry out elicitation of probability distributions for uncertain quantities from a group of experts.

Elicitation is increasingly important for quantifying expert knowledge in situations where hard data are sparse. This is often the context in which difficult policy decisions are made. It is generally important to elicit from a group of experts, rather than a single expert, in order to synthesise the range of knowledge and opinions of the expert community. (However, SHELF may be used for a single expert with only trivial modification.)

Despite this growing role for elicitation, there is little in the way of training and support available to those who wish to conduct elicitations. SHELF is a response to this shortage. By reading and carefully following the SHELF documentation, it is possible for an untrained facilitator to carry out competent elicitation. An elicitation training course based around SHELF is now available. This course has been given to several companies and was presented for open registration at the University of Warwick in April 2011. A similar course was given at the University of Sheffield in 2010 under the auspices of CHEBS. Please contact Tony O’Hagan ( if you are interested in a training course.

Who are we?

SHELF has been developed by Tony O'Hagan and Jeremy Oakley, in the Department of Probability and Statistics in the University of Sheffield. It arises out of our long-standing commitment to research and practice in elicitation. The principal spur for developing SHELF was discussions in the project "Bayesian Analysis in Microbial Risk Assessment," led by Helen Clough at the University of Liverpool and Marc Kennedy at the DEFRA Central Science Laboratory (CSL), and in particular the encouragement of Andy Hart at CSL.

Downloading SHELF

SHELF is delivered as a Zip file; click here to download the current version (2.0).


All materials in the SHELF package are made freely available, but they are nevertheless covered by copyright. They may be copied for the purposes of conducting elicitations, for private study or personal use. They may not be reproduced on any website, offered for sale or otherwise distributed without the written permission of either Tony O’Hagan or Jeremy Oakley. Further information about using SHELF and using the SHELF name are given in the Overview.doc document in the SHELF package.

Ongoing development

Version 1.0 of SHELF was released in 2008, and a minor upgrade, version 1.01, implemented some small improvements to the R software. Version 1.01 can be downloaded by clicking here. Version 2.0 was released in September 2010 and is a major upgrade. New procedures and new templates are provided, there is additional advice for facilitators and the software is completely revised.

Comments are welcomed by Tony O’Hagan ( and Jeremy Oakley ( We would particularly welcome offers of additional materials or suggested amendments to components of SHELF. We intend SHELF to be a growing and open resource for anyone wishing to conduct effective elicitation.

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Last updated: 10 March 2014
Maintained by: Tony O'Hagan