Authors: Robert Lempert, Steven Popper, David Groves, Jordan Fischbach, Nidhi Kalra
Quantitative information is often necessary for good decisions. But successful decision support must also enable decision makers to engage effectively with the information. This can prove a particular challenge for so-called “wicked problems,” which are characterized by the presence of deep uncertainty, contested interests and values, unclear system boundaries, and often non-linear dynamics. In addition, as the ability to simulate complex systems improves, so too does the need for quantitative decision-support methods that can make use of the unique types of information such simulations provide about a fast-changing, contingent, often hard-to-predict world. In recent years, methods such as robust decision making and scenario discovery have enabled significant advances in decision support under such conditions. These approaches are made possible by advanced computational capabilities, data analysis, and visualizations methods and are specifically designed to help identify and adjudicate trade-offs in the presence of deep uncertainty. Drawing on examples from climate change and other policy areas, this talk will survey the history and current application of robust decision making and scenario discovery and address directions for the future.
Robert Lempert is a senior scientist at the RAND (Research and Development) Corporation and director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. His research focuses on decision making under conditions of deep uncertainty, with an emphasis on climate change, energy, and the environment. Lempert and his research team assist a number of natural resource agencies in their efforts to include climate change in their long-range plans. He has also led studies on national security strategies and science and technology investment strategies for clients such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Lempert is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the US National Academy of Sciences Panel on Assessing the Impact of Climate Change on Political and Social Stresses, and a lead author for Working Group II of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report and for the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.