The 6th International Conference on System Reliability and Safety
Venice, Italy · November 23-25, 2022

Special Session| CFP flyer

Decision Making under Uncertainty - Dealing with uncertainties in a volatile connected world

Dealing with uncertainties in decision making is a challenge vividly illustrated by latest developments. Measures against the global corona pandemic had a lasting negative effect on entire economic sectors. The European energy supply is currently being put to the test by not only the sudden shortage of gas and oil but also by very different concepts and perspectives in individual member states, leading to inconsistently developed plans to contain the energy crisis and slow down global warming. Balancing risks in presence of deep uncertainty is one of the core issues to be addressed by industry experts and researchers from around the world, who are interested to join and contribute to our future activities.
Uncertain situations in decision making may concern, but are not limited to, critical infrastructures, complex processes and technical systems. Because of their fundamental importance to the functioning of modern networked and interdependent societies, critical infrastructures are of particular interest in this context. If reliability and resilience of these infrastructures are at stake, potential consequences may be immense, considering all stakeholders and subject to large uncertainty.
We need science-based approaches to make uncertainties manageable and consequently reach better decisions. What makes decision making under uncertainty difficult? Balancing risks (e.g. related to safety, security or reliability, economic cost and benefit) under restrictions or contradicting requirements is a particular challenge, when (deep) uncertainty is involved. This leads to a key question: What does it take to provide a solid basis for making good decisions under uncertainty? This question must be addressed properly to avoid poor analysis and bad decisions.
The special session “Decision Making under Uncertainty - Dealing with uncertainties in a volatile connected world” will give room for a broader discussion of challenges and solutions needed. Experts with an industry background are particularly encouraged to attend.

Invited speaker Professor Ahti Salo from Aaalto University, expert in decision analysis and risk management, will introduce into the field and discuss with us the topics of the session.


Professor. Ahti Salo, Aalto University, Finland

Bio: Professor Salo has worked extensively on the development of decision analytic methods and their uses in resource allocation, risk assessment, reliability engineering, technology foresight and efficiency analysis. He has published widely in leading international journals and received awards for his research from the Decision Analysis Society of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). In 2019, he won the MCDM Edgeworth-Pareto Award, the highest distinction of the International Society for Multiple Criteria Decision Making. He serves on the Editorial Boards of several refereed journals.

Professor Salo has directed a broad range of basic and applied research projects funded by leading industrial firms, industrial federations, and funding agencies. He has been visiting professor at the London Business School, Université Paris-Dauphine, and the University of Vienna. He has been the President of the Finnish Operations Research Society (FORS) for two biennial terms. In 2010-16, he was a jury member of the EDDA Doctoral Dissertation Award of the Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO) and chaired this jury in 2016. He served on the Board of the Association of Parliament Members and Researchers (Tutkas) in 1999-2019. In spring 2020, he was a member of the Science Panel, appointed by the Prime Minister's Office for obtaining scientific support for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020-2023, he is a member of the Government Foresight Group, appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office of Finland.

To present your work area in the session, please contact Kai-Dietrich Wolf (wolf@iss.uni-wuppertal.de) directly with an abstract. Submission of full papers is also possible, but not required. We also invite you to answer a short survey: https://uni-w.de/tc-dmu2 This makes the session more attractive and clearer how to participate.
This makes the session more attractive and clearer how to participate.

Introduction: About ESRA TC DM2U - Technical Committee for Decision Making under Uncertainty

Decision making under uncertainty is an issue vividly illustrated by latest developments. The breakdown of individual supply chains being a consequence of measures against the current global corona pandemic has a lasting effect on entire economic sectors. The European energy supply is currently being put to the test not only by the sudden shortage of gas and oil but also by very different concepts and perspectives in individual member states. Based on analysis of future scenarios, ad-hoc measures have to be taken under deep uncertainty. Various organizations and authorities analyze the effects of critical events and preventive measures to be taken differently. This leads to inconsistently developed plans to contain e.g. the energy crisis or slow down global warming. In recent months, industry, society and politics have become increasingly concerned with questions of how risk assessments can be conducted in order to make the best possible decisions. The Technical Committee “Decision Making under Uncertainty” aims at bringing together specialists and researchers worldwide who are contributing to improving the process of decision making under uncertainty with a focus on - but not limited to – reliability, safety and security, and scenarios characterized by severe uncertainties where resilience may be of paramount importance to risk mitigation.

We need science-based approaches to make uncertainties manageable and consequently reach better decisions. What makes decision making under uncertainty difficult? Balancing risks (e.g. related to safety, security or reliability, economic cost and benefit) under restrictions or contradicting requirements is a particular challenge, when (deep) uncertainty is involved. This leads to a key question: What does it take to provide a solid basis for making good decisions under uncertainty? This question must be addressed properly to avoid poor analysis and bad decisions.
Additional complexity to the decision-making problem comes from the different risk perspectives of the involved stakeholders, which are difficult to grasp by a single risk analyst because of their connection to field-specific domains, e.g. engineering, health, psychology and economy. Then, proper risk management should offer a framework of suitable methods and metrics to allow given uncertainties and inconsistencies to be made tangible, measurable and comparable in different contexts.

The Technical Committee "Decision Making under Uncertainty" has the mission of sharing the fundamental risk competence centered around challenges in decision-making for safety-, security- and resilience-related issues in presence of uncertainty at all scales. Uncertain situations in decision making may concern, but are not limited to, critical infrastructures, complex processes and technical systems. Because of their fundamental importance to the functioning of modern networked and interdependent societies, critical infrastructures are of particular interest in this context. If reliability and resilience of these infrastructures are at stake, potential consequences may be immense, considering all stakeholders and subject to large uncertainty. Still, the assessment of relevant sources of threats, hazards and consequences may depend on the perspective of individual stakeholders, e.g. operators of critical infrastructures, government officials, political decision-makers and civil society.

A Transmission System Operator (TSO), for example, may face situations where interventions are required to prevent overload or blackouts. These events may have severe consequences for electric power distribution affecting regional industries and potentially millions of people in Europe. Decisions have to be taken under large uncertainty here and only little time may be provided to balance risk perspectives of multiple stakeholders. Potential physical attacks on critical infrastructures seem to attract only little attention in current public perception, while the threat of cyberattacks is omnipresent. A lack of evidence of attacks on critical infrastructures makes it difficult to develop scenarios and identify and quantify threat, vulnerability and consequences in the course of a sophisticated risk assessment. This leads to extensive uncertainty in decision-making e.g. in cost-benefit analyses where investments in security measures, which are potentially huge, have to be balanced with regard to risk mitigation. In addition, consequences of physical attacks may be severe and lasting, leading to potentially long times for recovery. Similar problem constellations in reliability and resilience exist for a variety of technical systems and complex processes.
While probabilistic data e.g. on component failure may be widely available in reliability or functional safety, (physical) security analysts typically suffer from a lack of evidence – faulty security design often implies a “game over” scenario here. In IT-Security analysis, quantitative methods that enable representation and treatment of uncertainties are hardly available. These facts contribute to difficulties rising when combing safety and security analysis in a holistic manner.

The focus of the Technical Committee is on merging competencies in methods and metrics for system risk analysis and uncertainty treatment, as well as the associated methods for the evaluation of decision options. As a central aspect, the presence and influence of uncertainties shall be accounted for across all considered domains to enable a representation of the impact of uncertainties from all fields and on all scales, on the overall risk evaluation. The efforts of the committee shall thereby contribute an educated and improved decision making for risk management in the presence of uncertainty. Making decisions under uncertainty is a challenge that meets today's spirit of the time in many industries.

As a first aim, the results of the community activity will be reported via ESRA online publications and at the annual ESREL Conferences. Further, we believe that the network of this community can lead to exciting (international) research projects with research institutions and industry - possibly even with governments.

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