Recent events have made clear that many decisions must be made in uncertainty – that is without the luxury of the requisite time, information or understanding to allow the decision-maker to know if s/he is making the best choice at the moment it is made.
However, academic analyses of uncertainty and decision-making vary considerably between disciplines. They differ in their relevance to real world decisions.

The goal of this network proposal is to generate a funding proposition to allow Research Councils UK to form a permanent cross disciplinary Decision-Making Under Uncertainty Research and Evidence Hub (the ‘Hub’) made up from a wide range of academic experts and practitioners able to work in close proximity. The Hub’s function wold be to co-ordinate best available expertise (or to commission it) and to offer government, industry and civil society partners tools to facilitate resilient and effective decision-making across a full range of real world uncertainty and practice contexts. Publishing relevant materials and manuals via a website, the Hub would meet the need for immediate, intermediate and long term consultation, research and training responses to practitioner requests.

The network proposed will lay the foundation for the Hub by delivering a draft guide to “Uncertainty Triage”, and a “Code of Practice” for making resilient decisions under uncertainty. “Uncertainty Triage” will be designed to identify what aspects of a given real-world challenge are (a) likely to fall into traditional statistical/decision theoretic methods, (b) require a broader approach as mature probabilities are not available, and (c) those in which radical uncertainty dominates so that a case-by-case reflection is required. The Code of Practice will incorporate known hazards facing real-world decision making and will evolve to incorporate lessons derived from experience along the lines of airline pilot safety manuals.

We will implement the network through interaction between the PI (a social scientist and psychologist) and the CI (a mathematician and statistician) building on the expertise of a widening core group drawn from key practitioner collaborators and academics from very different disciplines, linked to a series of national and international centres of excellence.

There are nine steps over 24 months:

  1. Engaging and integrating into the project a core group of practitioners from government and industry by undertaking with some of the academics a series of limited case studies describing in detail core features of some real world decision-making.
  2. A kick off conference addressed by experienced policy-makers and thinkers to introduce practitioners and academics to each other and the issues.
  3. Focusing the Core Group to explain their own frameworks for grappling with the cases collected above to people from outside their field.
  4. Organizing one-on-one or small group follow up meetings with practitioners to develop and deepen analysis of the specific challenges.
  5. Broadening the core network group to those interested and willing. A website (and blog) will be created.
  6. Organizing an open conference to report progress and launch a call to apply to undertake feasibility projects. Up to £15,000 for 6-8 short projects of 6 months approx.
  7. Continue Core Network meetings (including a two-day retreat to deepen understanding) to draft and test the Uncertainty Triage and Code of Practice.
  8. Hold an open and highly interactive workshop conference (22 months) to discuss the feasibility projects and other emerging material (draft Triage and Code of Practice) to evaluate it from the practitioners’ viewpoints.
  9. Produce Conclusions edited into long and short reports published on the website (and in book form) including a funding proposal to form the network into ‘the Hub’.

The financial crisis, the Brexit decision and climate change create uncertainty. This network aims to help us deal with it.