Public Talk in Cape Town – ‘Is There Science in Decision Making?’

Apr 30, 2014 No Comments by

On Wednesday, 21st May, Professor Theo Stewart FRSSAf, Emeritus Professor of Statistical Sciences at the University of Cape Town will present a talk on this topic at the SA Astronomical Observatory Auditorium (see directions below).
Abstract : Decision science incorporates both descriptive (what decision makers actually do) and normative (what they should do) models of decision maker. In this talk we emphasize the middle road of prescriptive decision support, that is the tools by which the decision scientist “seeks to guide decision makers towards the ideals encoded by normative theories within the context of a real, often ill defined problem, mindful of their cognitive characteristics” (French, Maule and Papamichail, 2009). Such decision support demands a close integration of careful mathematical modelling and elicitation of human judgements. A central theme is the treatment of multiple conflicting goals in decision making, or multiple criteria decision analysis (MCDA). We shall look first at discrete choice problems, and discuss methods of integrating quantitative and qualitative (judgemental) objectives in decision making. Simple additive models incorporating both quantitative and qualitative in this context, if properly structured, are both legitimate and useful, but misuse as a result of misunderstanding of the theory and/or avoidance of the demands of the theory is widely found, and can lead to seriously biased results. Some experience from water and land use, and from fisheries rights allocations will be presented. Extension to broader mathematical optimization is more challenging, especially with regard to more qualitative objectives, but ignoring the latter because they are not easily quantified is to assume they have no importance which is itself a serious bias. We shall present some further experience of this nature from land use planning. Finally we discuss challenges in modelling risk attitudes in decision making under uncertainty, where commonly used risk measures are demonstrably incorrect for modelling rational choice.

Date:     Wednesday 21st May 2014

Time:    17h00 (Tea will be served from 16h30)

Place:    South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) Auditorium, Observatory Road, Observatory*

*Directions to SAAO Auditorium : From the N2, turn off to the M57 – Liesbeek Parkway; turning in the direction of Cape Town and continue until the traffic lights with Hartleyvale (hockey and football) on your left. Turn right at traffic lights into Observatory Road, pass the River Club; the S A Astronomical Observatory is next on the left. Once through the security gates bear left following the SALT signs to the auditorium i.e. last building on the left (white with stoep & ramp).                                 NO BOOKINGS / ALL WELCOME

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