Category Archives: annual-meeting

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,

Kwakkel, J.H. Exploratory Modeling Analysis Workbench.

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, 
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Bridging the False Divide: Are We Ignoring the Role of Adaptive Operations for Improving the Efficiency, Resilience and Robustness of Planned Infrastructure?

by: Patrick Reed

This blog reports on one of the session of the annual meeting of 2016. The sessoin was organized by Patrick Reed (Cornell University), Jan Kwakkel (TU Delft),  Andrea Castelletti (Politecnico di Milano), Laura Bonzanigo (World Bank). Invited speakers were Julie Quinn (Cornell University) and Marc Jaxa-Rozen (TU Delft).

Session Focus: This session explored the interplay between short-term adaptive operations and their influence on long-term planning is particularly relevant for irreversible decisions for long-lived infrastructures that present complex ecological impacts, and must reliably meet multi-sectoral demands (e.g., reservoirs, energy production/transmission, transportation networks, etc.). A core theme throughout this whole session is that current DMDU frameworks that truly seek robustness must better exploit information feedbacks, tailor adaptivity so that triggered actions are contextually appropriate, and minimize lock in.  The session was organized into three case study presentations, five posters, and an interactive serious table top game. This suite of multi-sector examples helped clarify emerging innovations and persistent challenges related to bridging the planning and management divide.

Case Study Example #1 (Speaker: Patrick Reed, Research Triangle Region, NC, USA): This case study highlighted emerging work bridging the Many-Objective Robust Decision Making (MORDM) and Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways (DAPP) DMDU frameworks.  The example showed how the region’s water utilities’ long term infrastructure pathways are strongly shaped by their short term conservation policies and their ability to consider regional water transfers. Cooperatively developed, shared investments across four municipalities expand the capacity to use short term transfers to better manage severe droughts with fewer irreversible infrastructure options. Cooperative pathways are also important for avoiding regional robustness conflicts, where one party benefits strongly at the expense of one or more the others. A significant innovation of this work are the mix of weekly and annual dynamic risk-of-failure action triggers that allow for new information feedbacks and provide high levels of adaptivity.

Suggested Further Reading:

Zeff, H., J. Herman, P. Reed and G. Characklis (2016). “Cooperative drought adaptation: Integrating infrastructure development, conservation, and water transfers into adaptive policy pathways.” Water Resources Research,

Case Study Example #2 (Speaker: Julie Quinn, Red River Basin, Vietnam):  This case study highlighted that simple deterministic and static rule-based abstractions of reservoirs that are commonly employed in standard simulation frameworks  are unable to realistically consider the complex dynamics and key sources of information that shape river basin operations. Consequently, they also fail to explore the full set of tradeoffs across alternative operating policies seeking to balance evolving multi-sector basin demands under changing hydroclimatic forcings. This case study illustrated how to better sample and quantify the adaptive capacity of a complex multi-reservoir system in the Red River Basin to manage evolving pressures related to energy security, food security, and urban flood risks.

Suggested Further Reading:

Giuliani, M., D. Anghileri, A. Castelletti, P. Nam Vu and R. Soncini-Sessa (2016). “Large storage operations under climate change: expanding uncertainties and evolving tradeoffs.” Environmental Research Letters 11(3),

Case Study Example #3: (Speaker: Marc Jaxa-Rozen, Dutch ATES Planning & Management): This case study highlighted how short term centralized and cooperative control mechanisms fundamentally shape the long term value and efficiency of Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) systems. ATES systems can significantly reduce energy demand for building heating and cooling. However, these systems are affected by uncertainties ranging from daily energy demand to multi-year geohydrological processes, leading to suboptimal outcomes under the static planning approaches which are currently used to manage this technology in the Netherlands. Price-based coordination mechanisms may yield improved performance under these uncertainties, by providing greater operational flexibility for ATES operators and supporting the design of self-organized institutional arrangements as an alternative to static permits.

Suggested Further Reading:

Rostampour, V., M. Jaxa-Rozen, M. Bloemendal and T. Keviczky (2016). “Building Climate Energy Management in Smart Thermal Grids via Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage Systems1.” Energy Procedia 97,


  1. Michael Green, Global Sustainability Institute, “Real options and robust adaptive management in irrigated agriculture and urban drainage: supporting the next generation of UK climate change projections”.
  2. Steven Popper, RAND Corporation, “Future Force Planning: The Present is Prologue”.
  3. Lauren Cook, Carnegie Mellon University, “Using precipitation data from climate change projections in engineering resiliency applications under deep uncertainty”.
  4. Kim Smet, Harvard University, “Flexibility in flood management design: proactive planning under uncertainty”.
  5. Vivek Srikrishnan, Pennsylvania State University, “Identification of signposts for adaptive flood risk management in the Netherlands”.

Serious Table Top Interactive Game (Lead Facilitator: Julie Quinn):  The session ended by engaging all of the participants to team up in a simulated river basin decision problem. The teams had to confront severe flood risks to a major city, water shortages for agriculture, and highly variable energy production. Each team had to divide its players to advocate for specific hydropower, agriculture, and urban flooding interests.  The game had three stages: (1) choose between two candidate formulations, (2) specify performance requirements for your sector, and (3) exploit interactive visual analytics to explore tradeoffs and negotiate a compromise.  A key take home point from the game is that “problem framing” itself is a critical deep uncertainty and false perceptions of system requirements and their tradeoffs can yield severe and unexpectedly negative unintended consequences.

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Deep Uncertainty and the Long-Term: Time, the policy challenge and enablers for policy persistence

by Judy Lawrence and Robert Lempert

At the conclusion of the DMDU workshop at Deltares, The Netherlands in 2015, we identified political scientists as an additional group that could inform the discussions at the next annual workshop. Accordingly, we designed a problem session at the annual workshop at the World Bank in 2016, entitled: Deep Uncertainty and the Long-Term: Time, the policy challenge and enablers for policy persistence. Whether or not decision makers consider the implications of their decisions for future generations under changing conditions depends on a range of institutional, political, behavioural and ethical factors. One of these is the extent to which policy decisions are influenced by short-termism or presentist bias. This in turn, depends on the political context within which decisions are made.

Tools developed for decision making under conditions of uncertainty and change, need to be ‘fit’ for the changing environment and for the political context, to enable policies to persist over time and adapt to changing conditions. Or the political context could be changed using commitment devices. Thus, for successful implementation of policies that can persist over the long term or be adjusted as the world changes, we need to understand the drivers that motivate the actors.

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Programme for the 2016 annual workshop is now available!

The World Bank will host the 2016 DMDU workshop in Washington DC, on November 16 and 17, 2016, with a training on DMDU methodologies scheduled for November 15th, 2016. There is still place for the training, but it is running out fast. Please confirm here by October 15 if you have not done that already, to make sure we save you a spot! The annual meeting is fully booked. Please let us know if you will not come so there will be place for others to attend. Download the programme. Continue reading

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Embracing Uncertainty for Better Decision-Making

by Laura Tuck and Julie Rozenberg, Sustainable Development Practice Group, World Bank Group

We all face uncertainties.

What if the train’s late? What if it rains? What if traffic is bad? What if there’s a shift in government before the project starts?

Every day we’re hit by all the “what ifs” especially in our line of work at the World Bank Group, whether in the field or within our organization. But how do we best cope with this? Embracing uncertainties may be the answer.

The World Bank Group has been at the forefront of mainstreaming new methods to deal with uncertainties. In fact, you may not know this, but the World Bank is one of the founding members of the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty.

Today’s decision makers face conditions of fast-paced, transformative, and often surprising change. Traditional decision analysis relies on point and probabilistic predictions. But under conditions of deep uncertainty, predictions are often wrong, and relying on them can prove costly and dangerous. Fortunately, new methods and processes now exist to help decision makers identify and evaluate robust and adaptive strategies, thereby making sound decisions in the face of these challenges. Continue reading

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Rules and Processes of the Society

The Leadership Team has drafted and discussed the Rules and Processes document for the Society. The document forms the basis of the operations of the Society and describes, amongst others, membership procedures, the responsibilities and duties of the Leadership Team and the election process.
The procedure for adoption of the Society’s Rules and Processes is as follows:
  • The document is available for download Rules_DMDU
  • Comments can be sent to dmdu.rules[at]
  • The Leadership Team will discuss the comments from the members in the September meeting of the team and the draft document will be updated to a final draft. An overview of all comments will be posted on the Society’s website.
  • The Leadership Team will have a final discussion on the final draft document and adopt the document as Provisional Rules & Processes that will be used for the elections.
With this procedure the Leadership Team hopes to have found a balance between efficiency, practicality and participation of the members in developing the Rules and Processes for the Society.
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Annual Workshop

Registration for our annual workshop in Washington DC (November 16-17) is now closed.

This year’s workshop is organized around two key elements. First, the workshop will include 6 “problem-solving” sessions during which we will have group discussions around practical problems our Society members face in their work, and possible solutions. These will not be typical panel sessions since the audience will be actively involved. Second, the workshop will use posters as the primary means for participants to present their current work.  The workshop will integrate posters in three ways: (1) pitches in the problem-solving sessions for posters that speak to the problems described; (2) pitches in poster sessions; (3) informal discussions around posters during all breaks and social times. You will find below a short description of the 6 sessions that were selected for group discussions. Continue reading

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