Improving Decisions in a Complex and Changing World
This project began in 2004 under a special National Science Foundation Grant for Decision Making Under Uncertainty, and concluded in 2012. The project site was archived in May 2012 and has not been updated since then.
Climate change presents public and private sector decisionmakers with a fundamental quandary: how to address a potentially serious, long-term, and deeply uncertain threat. By waiting until new science and unfolding events eliminate much of the uncertainty, it may be too late for decisionmakers to act effectively. If they act without understanding the extent and contours of the problem, they risk making serious miscalculations.
This project has three goals:
- conduct basic research needed to improve computer-based tools that enable decisionmakers to make better choices when confronted with deep uncertainty about the future;
- examine the best means to represent uncertain scientific information for decisionmakers so they can act on it more effectively, whether as individuals or groups; and
- strengthen the scientific foundations of robust decisionmaking (RDM), a promising new approach to computer-assisted support for decisionmakers facing deep uncertainty. When the future is hard to predict with confidence, RDM helps decisionmakers identify strategies that perform well over a range of plausible futures.
This project will draw on interactions with decisionmakers in two important policy areas:
- water resources planning under uncertainty; and
- responding to abrupt climate change.
In addition to aiding decisionmakers in these two domains, the project will improve methods to support decisionmaking under conditions of deep uncertainty for a wide range of public and private sector decision challenges.
Research under this project has lead to work with several leading resource management agencies helping them to include the potential impacts of climate change in their long-term plans. These projects include work led by David Groves with Southern California's Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA), the California Department of Water Resources, the California Energy Commission, Denver Water, and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Work has also included hurricane protection and coastal restoration planning in Louisiana and flood risk mitigation for New Orleans. A project under the leadership of Steven Popper is working with Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructure, Ministry of Finance, and the Prime Minister's office to examine the role of natural gas in Israel's long-term energy future.
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Decision Making Tools
Scenarios provide a commonly used and intuitively appealing means to communicate and characterize uncertainty in many decision support applications, but can fall short of their potential especially when used in broad public debates among participants with diverse interests and values. Work under this grant has helped develop "scenario discovery" methods and software that can help address these challenges.