First Annual Training Day on DMDU methods

by: Steven Popper

The Society for Decision Making under Deep Uncertainty held its first annual training day event on 15 November 2016 at World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC. This was the day prior to the start of the DMDU Society’s annual two-day workshop. The Society’s leadership team has decided that a training day will precede future DMDU workshops under the direction of the chair for education and training in coordination with that year’s workshop organizing committee. This decision is a direct response to an interest expressed through the questionnaire on education and training distributed to the Society’s membership earlier in 2016. The survey disclosed not only an interest in such a session but a willingness to participate on the part of students, DMDU analysts and methodologists, and policy practitioners.

This year’s training day planning team was led by the current chair, Steven Popper (RAND) with considerable assistance from the chair for Communication and Outreach, Marjolijn Haasnoot (Deltares). The day was designed to serve several purposes: to provide first-time workshop attendees with sufficient background on key DMDU concepts to participate in the topical sessions planned for the annual workshop’s following two days; to create a common forum for discussions among students, scholars and practitioners; to create face-to-face engagement between methodologists and those interested in learning DMDU methods; and for the first time present a common vocabulary and framework for comprehending the quickly proliferating world of DMDU technique and application.

The main themes that wove the entire day together were DMDU concepts, DMDU methods and DMDU in application. Steven Popper introduced the day and then assisted Marjolijn Haasnoot in presenting an interactive exercise/game designed by her and her Deltares colleagues. The purpose was to engage all participants as a group in gaining a practical understanding of the principal tenets and themes of DMDU analysis. This was then followed by Steven Popper presenting a preliminary nine-step framework by which to characterize the purpose and outcomes of various methods that would later be presented.
These preliminaries before lunch set the stage for two hours of DMDU technique and applications demos afterward. Building upon the success of a similar event organized by the organizing committee of 2015’s DMDU Workshop at Deltares and TU Delft in the Netherlands, six teams presented a 30-minute session four times each across the two-hour demo time slot. This meant that attendees could select those of most interest to them and be assured of receiving a full presentation in a systematic manner. Doing so called for great effort on the part of the presenting teams: Decision Scaling – Casey Brown (U Massachusetts); Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways – Marjolijn Haasnoot; Many Objective Robust Decision Making Using OpenMORDM – David Hadka (Penn State); Strategic Infrastructure System Investment Analysis – Anthony Hurford and Dr Evgenii Matrosov (Manchester U); DMDU Tools for Delta Planning – David Groves (RAND); and Exploratory Modeling Analyst’s Workbench – Jan Kwakkel (TU Delft.)

The day concluded with two further presentations. The first, organized by Vincent Marchau (Radboud U) and Warren Walker (TU Delft), allowed those authors contributing to a new edited volume sponsored by the Society to give very brief presentations on the book’s chapters. The book under preparation, DECISIONMAKING UNDER DEEP UNCERTAINTY – FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE (Marchau, Walker, Bloemen, Popper (eds.); Springer Verlag, forthcoming) is designed to be a unified textbook on DMDU techniques and applications. This was then followed by a final panel discussion intended for interactive engagement with training day participants. James Hall (Oxford U), chair of the 2017 DMDU Workshop organizing committee, along with Robert Lempert (RAND) and Jan Kwakkel, the Society’s current president and vice president, led a discussion on “What is in the DMDU analyst’s tool kit?” This served also as the general Q&A session to wrap up the training day.

The response to this program was positive on the part of the participants as well as the presenters. Planning is currently underway by the Society’s leadership team to incorporate the lessons of this first effort and present a suitably modified and improved version in November 2017 at the 5th annual DMDU Workshop scheduled for Oxford University. As in Washington, the current intention is to open participation not only to those who will be attending the subsequent workshop but also on a limited basis to outsiders with an interest in learning more about DMDU analysis in both theory and practice.

Suggestions for further reading (to be elaborated):

Hadka, D., Herman, J., Reed, P.M., Keller, K. (2015) “An Open Source Framework for Many-Objective Robust Decision Making”, Environmental Modelling & Software, v74, 114-129, 2015.

Haasnoot, M., J.H. Kwakkel., W.E. Walker, J.M ter Maat (2013) Dynamic adaptive policy pathways: A method for crafting robust decisions for a deeply uncertain world. Global Environmental Change, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.12.006

Kwakkel, J.H. Exploratory Modeling Analysis Workbench. http://simulation.tbm.tudelft.nl/ema-workbench/contents.html

Brown, C., Y. Ghile, M. Laverty, and K. Li (2012), Decision scaling: Linking bottom-up vulnerability analysis with climate
projections in the water sector, Water Resour. Res., 48, W09537, http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2011WR011212 
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