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Design and Investigation of a Decision Support System for Public Policy Formulation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Computer and Systems Sciences. (Risk and Decision Analysis)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9423-2301
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The ultimate aim of support for public policy decision making is to develop ways of facilitating policymaking that can create policies that are consistent with the preferences of policymakers and stakeholders (such as an increase in economic growth, the reduction of social inequalities, and improvements to the environment), and that are at the same time based on the available knowledge and evidential information.

Using the design science research methodology, an iterative design process was followed to build and evaluate a research artefact in the form of an analytical method that is also operationalised as a decision support system (DSS) – in order to facilitate the problem analysis, the impact assessment and the decision evaluation activities carried out at the policy formulation stage of the policymaking process. The DSS provides a web-based, user-friendly interface for two main software modules: (i) a tool for modelling and simulation of policy scenarios; and (ii) a tool for multi-criteria evaluation of policy decisions. The target end-users of the DSS tools are policymakers, the support staff of politicians, policy analysts and researchers within governmental departments and parliaments at the various institutional levels of the European Union.

The proposed model-based decision support approach integrates systems thinking, problem structuring methods and multi-criteria decision analysis, in what can be described as a ‘sense-making’ approach. A new policy-oriented quantitative problem structuring method is introduced in this research, the ‘labelled causal mapping’ method, which aims to reduce the cognitive overload involved in representing complex mental models using system dynamics simulation modelling in order to facilitate knowledge representation and system analysis. One contribution of this work is an object-oriented implementation of a prototype tool for systems modelling and simulation of policy decision situations based on the labelled causal mapping method. The method provides a basis for further computational decision analysis. We proposed criteria models and data formats for common (generic) policy appraisal, and a preference elicitation method for in-depth decision evaluation based on the results of scenario simulation and the preferences of decision makers and stakeholder groups.

The artefact evaluation clarifies how well the proposed approach and the DSS tool prototype support a solution to the problem and the extent to which the outcomes in two policy analysis use cases are useful in terms of output analysis and knowledge synthesis.

The contributions of this research to theory and practice were articulated based on the design knowledge obtained through an iterative design process, notably the emergence of the concepts of transparency and intelligibility in policymodelling, (i.e., the need for explicit and interpretable models that can provide justification of a specific decision).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University , 2018. , p. 258
Series
Report Series / Department of Computer & Systems Sciences, ISSN 1101-8526 ; 18-010
Keywords [en]
Systems Thinking, Prescriptive Policy Analysis, Policy modelling and Simulation, ICT for governane, Sense4us, Policy Impact Assessment, Scenario Planning, Knowledge synthesis
National Category
Computer Sciences Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-159437ISBN: 978-91-7797-426-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-427-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-159437DiVA, id: diva2:1242925
Public defence
2018-10-12, Lilla hörsalen, NOD-huset, Borgarfjordsgatan 12, Kista, Sweden, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 8: Submitted.

Available from: 2018-09-19 Created: 2018-08-29 Last updated: 2018-09-19Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. An Integrated Decision Support System Framework for Strategic Planning in Higher Education Institutions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Integrated Decision Support System Framework for Strategic Planning in Higher Education Institutions
2014 (English)In: Group Decision and Negotiation. A Process-Oriented View: Proceedings / [ed] Pascale Zaraté, Gregory E. Kersten, Jorge E. Hernández, Heidelberg: Springer, 2014, p. 237-245Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [sv]

Strategic planning models and information provision for decision-making in complex strategic situations are frequent subjects for scientific research. This research deals with the problem of supporting strategic planning decision-making in public higher education (HE) institutions by designing a Decision Support System (DSS) to be used by HE decision makers in implementing their strategic planning process, considering that the DSS would be anchored in on all databases of the institution’s information systems. This paper adopts a model for the strategic planning process, advocates the incorporation of technologies of participation (ToP) and introduces a collaborative framework for the planning activities at the different institutional levels to develop the institution’s strategic plan using a bottom-up approach. Based on the strategic planning process model, a DSS framework is proposed and decision support methods are suggested for the different modules of the DSS. The DSS provides intelligent support (on the individual, group and organizational levels) to strategic planning decisions in all stages of the process. By utilizing this DSS, it is possible to create better conditions for implementing the objectives of the future-oriented activity of the institution.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Heidelberg: Springer, 2014
Series
Lecture Notes in Business Information Processing, ISSN 1865-1348 ; 180
Keywords
Strategic Planning, Higher Education, Technology of Participation, Decision Support Systems, Group Support Systems, Collaborative frameworks.
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-110948 (URN)10.1007/978-3-319-07179-4_27 (DOI)978-3-319-07178-7 (ISBN)978-3-319-07179-4 (ISBN)
Conference
Joint INFORMS-GDN and EWG-DSS International Conference, GDN 2014, Toulouse, France, June 10-13, 2014
Available from: 2014-12-19 Created: 2014-12-19 Last updated: 2018-09-19Bibliographically approved
2. A Causal Mapping Simulation for Scenario Planning and Impact Assessment in Public Policy Problems - The Case of EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Causal Mapping Simulation for Scenario Planning and Impact Assessment in Public Policy Problems - The Case of EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework
2014 (English)In: Proceedings of the 5th. World Congress on Social Simulation: WCSS 2014 / [ed] Edward MacKerrow, Takao Terano, Flaminio Squazzoni, Jaime Simão Sichman, 2014, p. 284-296Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

The ultimate objective of studying, modeling and analyzing policy problems is to incorporate the newest management technologies in the public policy decision-making in a meaningful and practically feasible way that adds significant value to the process. Simulation techniques can support the policy decision process by allowing empirical evaluation of the system dynamics present in the policy situation at hand. This paper presents a decision support simulation model for the European Union (EU) Climate and Energy targets 2030 as a case study of public policy decision making on the EU level. The simulation model is based on the problem structuring or framing by derivation of a system dynamics model from verbal descriptions of the problem, the graphical representation and analysis of change scenarios using the ‘Causal Mapping and Situation Formulation’ method. This approach supports the analysis of qualitative and quantitative information in order to facilitate both the conceptualization and formulation stages of the system modeling process. The resulting model, which is simply a topology of quantified causal dependencies among the problem key variables, can be used to simulate the transfer of change. The aim of simulation herein is to apply cognitive strategic thinking and scenario-based planning in a public policy problem situation in order to design alternative options and provide foresight or ex-ante impact assessment in terms of economic, social, environmental and other impacts.

Keywords
Public Policy Analysis, Scenario Planning, Impact Assessment, Problem Structuring, Causal Mapping, Systems Dynamics, Climate Change, Renewable Energy
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-110940 (URN)978-0-692-31895-9 (ISBN)
Conference
5th. World Congress on Social Simulation, WCSS 2014, Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 4-7, 2014
Note

Will be published soon in Springer Advances in Computational Social Science The Fifth World Congress Series: Agent-Based Social Systems.

Available from: 2014-12-19 Created: 2014-12-19 Last updated: 2018-09-19Bibliographically approved
3. Text Analysis to support structuring and modelling a public policy problem: Outline of an algorithm to extract inferences from textual data
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Text Analysis to support structuring and modelling a public policy problem: Outline of an algorithm to extract inferences from textual data
2014 (English)In: DSV writers hut 2014: proceedings / [ed] Gustaf Juell-Skielse, Stockholm: Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University , 2014Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Policy making situations are real-world problems that exhibit complexity in that they are composed of many interrelated problems and issues. To be effective, policies must holistically address the complexity of the situation rather than propose solutions to single problems. Formulating and understanding the situation and its complex dynamics, therefore, is a key to finding holistic solutions. Analysis of text based information on the policy problem, using Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Text analysis techniques, can support modelling of public policy problem situations in a more objective way based on domain experts’ knowledge and scientific evidence. The objective behind this study is to support modelling of public policy problem situations, using text analysis of verbal descriptions of the problem. We propose a formal methodology for analysis of qualitative data from multiple information sources on a policy problem to construct a causal diagram of the problem. The analysis process aims at identifying key variables, linking them by cause-effect relationships and mapping that structure into a graphical representation that is adequate for designing action alternatives, i.e., policy options. This study describes the outline of an algorithm used to automate the initial step of a larger methodological approach, which is so far done manually. In this initial step, inferences about key variables and their interrelationships are extracted from textual data to support a better problem structuring. A small prototype for this step is also presented.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, 2014
Series
Report Series / Department of Computer & Systems Sciences, ISSN 1101-8526 ; 14-019
Keywords
Public policy, problem structuring, qualitative analysis, Natural Language Processing, algorithm, inference extraction
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-111107 (URN)978-91-637-7457-7 (ISBN)
Conference
DSV writers hut 2014, Åkersberga, Sweden, August 21-22, 2014
Available from: 2014-12-22 Created: 2014-12-22 Last updated: 2018-09-19Bibliographically approved
4. Modeling for Policy Formulation: Causal Mapping, Scenario Generation, and Decision Evaluation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Modeling for Policy Formulation: Causal Mapping, Scenario Generation, and Decision Evaluation
2015 (English)In: Electronic Participation: 7th IFIP 8.5 International Conference, ePart 2015, Thessaloniki, Greece, August 30 - September 2, 2015, Proceedings / [ed] Efthimios Tambouris, Panos Panagiotopoulos, Øystein Sæbø, Konstantinos Tarabanis, Maria A. Wimmer, Michela Milano, Theresa Pardo, Springer Publishing Company, 2015, p. 135-146Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper we present a work process with associated operational research modeling and analysis tools for the policy formulation stage of the Lindblom policy cycle process model. The approach exploits the use of causal maps for problem structuring and scenario generation of policy options together with decision analysis for evaluating generated scenarios taking preferences of decision makers and stakeholders into account. The benefits of interest when exploiting this integrated modeling approach is to enable for; (i) problem structuring and facilitating understanding and communication of a complex policy problem, (ii) simulation of policy consequences and identification of a smaller set of policy options from a possible very large set of possible options, and (iii) structured decision evaluation of the generated alternative policy options.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Publishing Company, 2015
Series
Lecture Notes in Computer Science, ISSN 0302-9743 ; 9249
Keywords
Policy analysis, Impact assessment, Policy modelling, Problem structuring, Dynamic simulation, Causal mapping, Scenario planning, Decision analysis
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-122843 (URN)10.1007/978-3-319-22500-5_11 (DOI)978-3-319-22499-2 (ISBN)978-3-319-22500-5 (ISBN)
Conference
7th IFIP 8.5 International Conference, ePart 2015, Thessaloniki, Greece, August 30 - September 2, 2015
Available from: 2015-11-11 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2018-08-29Bibliographically approved
5. A systems tool for structuring public policy problems and design of policy options
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A systems tool for structuring public policy problems and design of policy options
2017 (English)In: International Journal of Electronic Governance, ISSN 1742-7509, E-ISSN 1742-7517, Vol. 9, no 1/2Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Systems analysis allows quantitative empirical testing of models that exist in the study of public policy. Simulation and visualisation techniques can help policy makers to reduce uncertainties on the possible impacts of policies. This paper presents a new tool for systems modelling and simulation of policy problems to support the problem analysis, the design of policy options and impact assessment activities. The tool facilitates the cognitive activity of representing complex mental models using system dynamics simulation modelling by defining standards and a procedure for policy modelling. We propose a new policy-oriented problem structuring method (PSM), the ‘labelled causal mapping’. The method supports scenario-based dynamic simulation and provides graphical representations of the involved actors, key variables, control flows and causal dependencies in a policy decision situation. A web-based tool prototype has been implemented in a Node.js environment. Two real policy problems are presented for demonstration of the use of the prototype.

Keywords
public policy analysis, policy options, impact assessment, systems thinking, exploratory modelling, gaming simulation, scenario planning, problem structuring, causal mapping, visualization, European Union
National Category
Computer Sciences
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-144895 (URN)10.1504/IJEG.2017.10005473 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-06-29 Created: 2017-06-29 Last updated: 2018-08-29Bibliographically approved
6. Multi-stakeholder Preference Analysis in Ex-ante Evaluation of Policy Options - Use Case: Ultra Low Emission Vehicles in UK
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Multi-stakeholder Preference Analysis in Ex-ante Evaluation of Policy Options - Use Case: Ultra Low Emission Vehicles in UK
2016 (English)In: Electronic Participation: 8th IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference, ePart 2016, Guimarães, Portugal, September 5-8, 2016, Proceedings / [ed] Efthimios Tambouris, Panos Panagiotopoulos, Øystein Sæbø, Maria A. Wimmer, Theresa A. Pardo, Yannis Charalabidis, Delfina Sá Soares, Tomasz Janowski, Springer, 2016, p. 176-188Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

While the simulation-based impact assessment of public policy proposals allows policy makers to identify the feasible policy options and verify their economic, social and environmental impacts, it does not provide the explicit evaluation of policy options. Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) techniques can support an in-depth performance evaluation of policy options taking into account the preferences of decision makers and stakeholders. These preferences reflect acceptable trade-offs of performance among objectives. This study reviews multi-attribute decision-making (MADM) technique and presents a common policy appraisal format using main evaluation criteria linked to a set of measurable, context dependent attributes. We argue for a rank-based approach for eliciting preferences, select a novel method for attribute weight elicitation, and show how it can be integrated within a public policy multi-criteria evaluation framework. A use case for policymaking, ‘Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) Uptake in UK’, is used for demonstration of the proposed approach for policy decision analysis. This approach seeks to couple systems modelling and simulation of policy scenarios with MCDA, stakeholder analysis and preference elicitation. The outputs can further provide analytical insights in controversy/acceptability of policy options, and consequently guide further policy formulation and the design of better options.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2016
Series
Lecture Notes in Computer Science, ISSN 0302-9743 ; 9821
Keywords
Public policy analysis, multi-criteria decision analysis, stakeholders, preference elicitation, decision support tools, ultra low emission vehicles
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135435 (URN)10.1007/978-3-319-45074-2_14 (DOI)978-3-319-45073-5 (ISBN)978-3-319-45074-2 (ISBN)
Conference
8th IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference, ePart 2016, Guimarães, Portugal, September 5-8, 2016
Available from: 2016-11-08 Created: 2016-11-08 Last updated: 2018-08-29Bibliographically approved
7. Fossil-free Public Transport: Prescriptive Policy Analysis for the Swedish Bus Fleets
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fossil-free Public Transport: Prescriptive Policy Analysis for the Swedish Bus Fleets
2016 (English)In: 2016 13th International Conference on the European Energy Market (EEM), IEEE Computer Society, 2016Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Elicitation and processing of the relevant information is the core of any policy decision-making process. This study presents a prescriptive policy analysis for the “fossil-free fuel deployment for public transport buses at the national level in Sweden”, using a policy-oriented modelling and simulation tool, Sense4us , that supports systems analysis for policy involving:: (i) Structuring of policy problems using the labelled causal mapping method [11], (ii) Ex ante Impact assessment using scenario-based dynamic simulation modelling and (iii) Ex-ante evaluation of the considered policy options based on the simulation results and using a set of standard criteria for evaluation of EU policy interventions. The results are most of all useful for designing a policy pathway for public bus transport that is both environmentally sustainable and economically feasible. Moreover, the process allows involvement of the key stakeholders to reflect various priorities and preferences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IEEE Computer Society, 2016
Series
International Conference on the European Energy Market, ISSN 2165-4093
Keywords
Policy analysis, labelled causal mapping, Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, public transport, bus, Sweden
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-135419 (URN)10.1109/EEM.2016.7521266 (DOI)978-1-5090-1297-8 (ISBN)
Conference
13th International Conference on the European Energy Market (EEM), Porto, Portugal, June 6-9, 2016
Available from: 2016-11-08 Created: 2016-11-08 Last updated: 2018-08-29Bibliographically approved
8. SENSE4US Policy Modelling and Simulation Tool: Evaluation Use Case: Finland’s 2015 Asylum Seekers Crisis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>SENSE4US Policy Modelling and Simulation Tool: Evaluation Use Case: Finland’s 2015 Asylum Seekers Crisis
(English)In: Cybernetics and systems, ISSN 0196-9722, E-ISSN 1087-6553Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

A key challenge for policy planning and risk assessment in governmental institutions is to ensure that relevant information, expertise and knowledge are fully integrated and taken into account during the policy process. A systems thinking approach can help gathering and organizing the necessary policy intelligence and involving a diverse range of stakeholders. This study is done as part of a design-science research (DSR) project to build and evaluate a new systems tool for structuring of public policy problems and the design of policy options to be used by policy makers, analysts and researchers in governmental institutions and parliaments. The study aims at evaluation of the tool to establish its utility and efficacy for achieving its stated purpose and assess the end-user benefits. That is performed through application of the tool to analysis of a real public policy problem, Finnish government’s action in response to the rapidly growing numbers of asylum seekers entering Finland in recent years. The resulting simulation model allows designing a pathway for immigration policy that aims to mitigate the resulting problems.

Keywords
Systems Thinking, Prescriptive Policy Analysis, Policy modelling and Simulation, Sense4us, Impact Assessment, Scenario Planning, Immigration, Finland
National Category
Computer Sciences Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Computer and Systems Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-159435 (URN)
Available from: 2018-08-29 Created: 2018-08-29 Last updated: 2018-09-20

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