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.

The organizing committee


Session 1: Bridging the False Divide: Are We Ignoring the Role of Adaptive Operations for Improving the Efficiency, Resilience and Robustness of Planned Infrastructure?

This session will explore the critical question:  “Do we understand how alternative strategies for operating complex infrastructure systems influences their initial designs as well as their long term evolution?”. Understanding 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.). This session will draw on a suite of multi-sector examples to clarify emerging innovations and persistent challenges related to bridging the planning and management divide.

Session 2: Deep Uncertainty and the Long-Term: Time, the policy challenge and enablers for policy persistence

Policy-makers are often confronted with policy problems that have the following characteristics: 1) deep uncertainty requiring adaptive capacity for responding to changing circumstances; 2) long-term societal benefits that depend on imposition of near-term costs (fiscal or regulatory); and 3) threats to policy credibility and durability arising from electoral pressures and vested interests. Examples include; the design of policies to adapt to sea-level rise where the rate of change and its magnitude are uncertain; measures to address the fiscal costs of population ageing in the face of macroeconomic uncertainty; in a context of technological and behavioural uncertainty. Political short-termism or a ‘presentist bias’ is a critical policy challenge for democratic governance that often undermines better long-term outcomes. This session will present examples of institutional mechanisms and their design features that may be enablers for changing how decisions are taken and the outcomes they achieve, including using deliberative mechanisms and various analytical tools to reduce decision-making biases.

Session 3: Endogenising the ‘exogenous’: complex feedbacks in decision problems

Decision problems are conventionally framed in terms of choosing from a set of alternatives in the context of a set of exogenous “states of nature”. However, we recognise that there are feedbacks between the choices that are being evaluated and the context they inhabit. Take, for example, infrastructure investment, where the macro-economic context of a project (which influences demand for infrastructure services) is conventionally taken as being exogenous and uncertain, but the infrastructure investment is explicitly intended to promote growth i.e. change the context. The strength of that feedback is uncertain, and is spatially heterogeneous. As our thinking extends increasingly from individual projects to systems and programmes, the significance of macro-scale feedbacks, both positive and negative, becomes ever-more important in decision analysis.

Session 4: DMU Techniques in Practice – Successes, Challenges, and What’s to Come

This session will focus on “stories from the field” based on implementation experiences and will be an opportunity for discussions with experienced practitioners in different sectors.

Session 5: Balancing Decision-making Needs Under Deep Uncertainty with Effective, High-Quality Integrated Systems Modeling

Climate change and other long-term drivers affect a range of interrelated physical, ecological, and socioeconomic systems at once. But policy research using methods to incorporate or manage deep uncertainty often ignores or greatly simplifies these complex interrelationships, especially when the science is not yet mature. This session will ask participants to consider and discuss the appropriate balance in resource investment between simulation model resolution or complexity, model integration, and uncertainty analysis in different sectors.

Session 6: When poorly-designed indicators lead to bad decisions

Development institutions have implemented increasingly sophisticated monitoring frameworks to measure the success of development projects, and created result-based instruments that directly link resource disbursement to desired outcomes. One challenge is that many development objectives are difficult to measure: capacity and institution building, resilience building, or education are domains where quantified, objective and observable outcome indicators are difficult to develop. There is therefore a risk to create wrong incentives and to neglect important development objectives only because they are difficult to measure. This session will discuss the opportunities and risks linked to performance- or outcome-based indicators and incentives, and discuss the experience from sectors where measuring results remains challenging.

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