Many Objective Robust Decision Making for Complex Environmental Systems Undergoing Change

Published in: Environmental Modelling and Software, v. 42, Apr. 2013, p. 55-71

Posted on RAND.org on April 01, 2013

by Joseph R. Kasprzyk, Shanthi Nataraj, Patrick M. Reed, Robert J. Lempert

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This paper introduces many objective robust decision making (MORDM). MORDM combines concepts and methods from many objective evolutionary optimization and robust decision making (RDM), along with extensive use of interactive visual analytics, to facilitate the management of complex environmental systems. Many objective evolutionary search is used to generate alternatives for complex planning problems, enabling the discovery of the key tradeoffs among planning objectives. RDM then determines the robustness of planning alternatives to deeply uncertain future conditions and facilitates decision makers' selection of promising candidate solutions. MORDM tests each solution under the ensemble of future extreme states of the world (SOW). Interactive visual analytics are used to explore whether solutions of interest are robust to a wide range of plausible future conditions (i.e., assessment of their Pareto satisficing behavior in alternative SOW). Scenario discovery methods that use statistical data mining algorithms are then used to identify what assumptions and system conditions strongly influence the cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and reliability of the robust alternatives. The framework is demonstrated using a case study that examines a single city's water supply in the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) in Texas, USA. Results suggest that including robustness as a decision criterion can dramatically change the formulation of complex environmental management problems as well as the negotiated selection of candidate alternatives to implement. MORDM also allows decision makers to characterize the most important vulnerabilities for their systems, which should be the focus of ex post monitoring and identification of triggers for adaptive management.

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