Person walking through a maze-like landscape

Methods Center

Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty

Photo by Robin Jaffray / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Acting without understanding the extent and contours of a problem risks serious miscalculations. To help, the Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty assesses the depth and breadth of uncertainty and risk levers in policy domains and research pathways. Its researchers

  • identify and characterize uncertainties that shape a policy decision
  • communicate the levels of uncertainty and risk to stakeholders
  • improve decision making by clarifying options and potential outcomes.

Pardee RAND has pioneered the development and implementation of tools and methodologies for decision making under uncertainty (DMU). As policymaking becomes ever more complex, DMU is uniquely poised to advise decision makers on their best possible options.

VIDEO: An Introduction to the Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty

Acting without understanding the extent and contours of the problem risks making serious miscalculations.

Methodologies & Tools

DMU researchers employ multiple methodologies, including forecasting and decision support, to analyze organizational decisions in broad settings where the uncertainty is high, the risk is complex, and the implications of such decisions are long-term and future-oriented.

To analyze and support individual decision making, where the level of uncertainty is often more constrained, the scope is less complex, and the implications are more short-term, our researchers draw on a diverse portfolio of methodologies, including qualitative analysis of mental models and behavioral experiments.

  • Forecasting
  • Decision Support
  • Mental Models
  • Behavioral Experiments

Real-World Applications

Flooded I-10/I-610/West End Blvd interchange and surrounding area of northwest New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana

Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Niemi/U.S. Coast Guard

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana asked RAND to help assess coastal flood risk and the loss of coastal wetlands.

Researchers applied decision making under uncertainty forecasting and decision support to analyze how coastal communities can remain resilient in the face of deeply uncertain climate change effects, changing land-use patterns, and complex investment strategies and rebuilding options.

The result was an innovative and robust planning tool and risk assessment model that shaped Louisiana's 50-year Coastal Master Plan.

The planning tool helped generate broad support from Louisianans and from federal, state, and local agencies engaged in protecting the Gulf Coast. Louisiana's state legislature unanimously adopted the Coastal Master Plan in 2012. The state is currently implementing it.

Tools and methodologies that our researchers have developed for decision making under uncertainty have also helped

  • optimize national defense acquisitions
  • clarify the implications of emerging health care policies and develop consensus standards in health care
  • prepare for an aging population
  • structure teacher incentives.

"By determining how to use our limited dollars, river water, and sediment to gain the most value, we have identified investments that will pay off, not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren."

website of the 2012 Coastal Master Plan


Co-Directors of the RAND Center for Decision Making Under Uncertainty

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Methods Centers at Pardee RAND