Robust Decision Making


Robust decision making (RDM) is an analytic framework that helps identify potential robust strategies, characterize the vulnerabilities of such strategies, and evaluate trade-offs among them. RDM is being used at RAND to help decisionmakers in areas such as water resources planning, energy, and coastal resilience—areas often plagued with “deep uncertainty,” in which stakeholders do not know or agree on the relationships among actions, consequences, and probabilities.

  • An aerial view of Central Texas homes under water at Graveyard Point neighborhood community in the flood plain of Lake Travis, photo by RoschetzkyIstockPhoto / Getty Images


    Climate Research at RAND

    May 17, 2019

    RAND researchers have a long history of shedding light on the social and economic implications of a changing climate, its impacts on the natural environment, and the challenges it poses to communities, regions, and our national security.

  • Flooding in Pittsburgh,  photo by Artem S/Getty Images

    Research Brief

    Green Infrastructure Can Help Manage Rainfall in an Urban Watershed

    Oct 29, 2020

    Urbanization, inadequate investment in aging infrastructure, and more-frequent heavy rainfall events due to climate change have led to sewer overflows, flooding, and reduced water quality in U.S. cities. The challenges of increasing volumes of stormwater can be addressed by a mix of solutions.

Explore Robust Decision Making

  • Sunrise over Louisiana wetlands


    Helping Coastal Communities Plan for Climate Change

    The vulnerability of coastal residents to loss of life and property damage from storm-surge flooding has already proven extensive in recent years. RAND has helped policymakers determine what mix of hurricane risk reduction and coastal restoration projects can reduce hurricane damage risk and rebuild coastal land, recognizing budget constraints.

    Jun 10, 2013

  • Vietnamese woman paddling a boat

    Journal Article

    Flood Risk Management in Ho Chi Minh City

    Ho Chi Minh City faces significant and growing flood risk. Recent risk reduction efforts may not work if climate and socio-economic conditions diverge from earlier projections. Robust decisionmaking can help Vietnam's capital develop integrated flood risk management strategies despite this uncertainty.

    May 1, 2013

  • houses destroyed by Hurricane Sandy


    Planning for Superstorms, Wildfires, and Deep Uncertainty

    The path to climate change preparedness should start at the intersection of resilience and robustness — that is, building resilient communities with the individuals and organizations within those communities making robust decisions, ones designed to work well over a wide range of ever-changing conditions.

    Apr 18, 2013

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    Journal Article

    New Methods to Implement Multi-Attribute RDM

    Many objective robust decision making (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.

    Apr 1, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Creating Constituencies for Long-Term, Radical Change

    This essay will argue that long-term emissions reduction goals currently proposed before Congress at best only highlight the magnitude of the climate change challenge, without contributing much to a solution.

    Apr 1, 2013

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    Journal Article

    Exploring Scenarios that Illuminate Vulnerabilities and Robust Responses

    Scenarios can be hard to employ effectively, particularly in the context of contentious public policy debates with diverse stakeholders. Building on work in robust decision making and themes from the decision support literature, the authors propose a new concept that envisions scenarios as illuminating the vulnerabilities of proposed policies.

    Apr 1, 2013

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    Research Brief

    Robust Decision Making Aids Planning Under Deep Uncertainty

    Quantitative analysis is often indispensable to sound planning, but with deep uncertainty, predictions can lead decisionmakers astray. Robust Decision Making supports good decisions without predictions by testing plans against many futures.

    Feb 28, 2013

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    Journal Article

    Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan: Overview of a Science-Based and Publicly Informed Decision-Making Process

    Louisiana's 2012 Coastal Master Plan is a long-term plan with clear economic, social, and environmental benefits, such as decreasing potential damages from storm surge by $5.3 billion to $18 billion.

    Jan 1, 2013

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    Journal Article

    Transport Surveys: Considerations for Decision Makers and Decision Making

    This book provides an international perspective on improving information to support transportation decision making.

    Jan 1, 2013

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    Journal Article

    Improving the Use of Climate Model Information in Decision Making

    The severe underutilization of climate models as tools for supporting decision making is slowing progress in developing informed adaptation and mitigation responses to climate change. Addressing the root causes of this problem will require expanding the conception of climate models as scenario generators.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Planning Tool Supports Effort to Envision the Future of Coastal Louisiana

    A computer-based decision-support tool, called the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) Planning Tool, provided technical analysis that supported the development of Louisiana's 2012 Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast through CPRA and community-based deliberations.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Navajo Bridge over Colorado River


    New Colorado River Basin Study Examines Tremendous Challenges of the Coming 50 Years

    Growing water needs combined with uncertain but possibly deteriorating future hydrologic conditions could stress the Colorado River system in the coming 50 years. Options that could be effective in improving it include urban conservation, agricultural conservation, and groundwater desalination.

    Dec 18, 2012

  • globe and sun

    Journal Article

    Shared Socio-economic Pathways Offer New Approach for Climate Change Analysis

    Developing an integrated perspective on mitigation, adaptation and residual climate impacts could be aided by identifying a set of global narratives and socio-economic pathways offering scalability to different regional contexts.

    Oct 1, 2012

  • Flooded I-10/I-610/West End Blvd interchange and surrounding area of northwest New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana


    Reducing New Orleans Storm-Surge Flood Risk in an Uncertain Future

    Preparing for natural disasters is a long, multi-faceted process that requires years of planning, coordination, and direct action. RAND has developed a new approach for assessing hurricane flood risk in New Orleans under uncertainty and evaluating city-wide approaches for reducing this risk.

    Sep 10, 2012

  • U.S. service members in a training exercise during Cyber Flag


    Applying Lessons from National Security Planning Under Uncertainty

    A first step in dealing with uncertainty is confronting its existence, ubiquity, and magnitude. A second step is dealing with it when informing assessments and decisions. Lessons from RAND's national security work on planning under uncertainty can be applied in many other fields.

    Jul 31, 2012

  • sunset port of los angeles

    Journal Article

    Characterizing Uncertain Sea Level Rise Projections to Support Investment Decisions

    Many institutions worldwide are considering how to include expectations about future sea level rise into their investment decisions regarding large capital infrastructures.

    Jun 1, 2012

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Recrafting Scenario Practice to Achieve Robust Long-Term Decisions

    In this essay, we are concerned with the question: How does what might happen in 2050 affect decisions about the freight transport sector today? How do we make near-term choices that last over the long term? In other words, how do we make decisions today that are robust over a wide range of alternative futures?

    Feb 1, 2012

  • Dissertation


    Reconsidering California Transport Policies: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in an Uncertain Future

    Applies robust decision methods to evaluate California's transportation policies that considers multiple views of the future, and identifies strategies that consistently reduce emissions at acceptable costs regardless of future conditions.

    Jan 20, 2012

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    Journal Article

    Comparing Robust Decision Making and Info-Gap Methods for Climate Policy

    An examination of Info-Gap and RDM finds that the two approaches reach similar but not identical policy recommendations and that their differing attributes raise important questions about their appropriate roles in decision support applications.

    Jan 1, 2012

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Investment Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty: Application to Climate Change

    This paper summarizes the additional uncertainty that is created by climate change, and reviews the tools that are available to project climate change (including downscaling techniques) and to assess and quantify the corresponding uncertainty.

    Jan 1, 2012