The Decision Theater, a collaboration with Arizona State University

Any response to societal challenges involves policy and behavior changes. To be effective, these need to be data driven and evidence based. Furthermore, all these challenges represent complex or wicked problems that do not have simple, optimization-based solutions. For such cases the Decision Theater provides a platform for the creation and implementation of model-based scenarios, models, and visualization that allow the exploration and analysis of the consequences of individual and collective decisions.

The Challenge of Complexity

Complex systems by their nature are multidimensional and cross domain boundaries. System problems cannot be easily understood or solved by looking at it through a single prism that does not consider consequences to all aspects of the problem. While research and practical knowledge on interrelated functions exists, it is often challenging to communicate contextualized relationships to non-expert audiences or decision or policy makers. Decision Theater applies an integrated, visualized, data, and mathematical model approach to portraying and analyzing the functions of a system, conducting predictive analysis, and communicating to leaders, practitioners, and community members.

Interactive Modeling

From fundamental research to real-world application, Decision Theater develops custom modeling and simulation tools with unique visualization capabilities to create a common understanding of complex problems. Users are able to test theories and forecast the outcome of prospective decisions. The collaborative, immersive, and interactive environments created at Arizona State University affords researchers and other organizations unparalleled abilities to make decisions in a range of disciplines and environments, often in time-sensitive environments, that incorporate multiple streams of real-time information. Economic policy, health care delivery, emergency preparedness, and disaster response are just some examples of the large scale, dynamic systems where key decisions have long-term ramifications.

Unique Decision Theater Methodology

What makes the ASU/MPIGEA Decision Theater collaboration different is how we uniquely combine project teams’ technical capabilities using team science and decision science strategies, with specific subject matter expertise to capture project objectives, requisite data, system requirements, and required design elements for each individual project. As depicted in Figure 1, we seek to understand complex problems (the first plane of Figure 1). We integrate newly created or utilize existing models and data databases to represent real world problems (Figure 1, second plane). We conduct data analytics to gain unique insights and perform predictive analytics. But to truly create understanding and informed decision makers, we go further. As depicted on the bottom plane of Figure 1, we visualize the integrated models and data in order to convene engagements of technical experts, stakeholders, and policy makers. Our goal is better decisions made by better, more informed decision makers.

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