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Multi-Criteria Decision-Making (MCDM)

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Definition of MCDM

"Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) is the study of methods and procedures by which concerns about multiple conflicting criteria can be formally incorporated into the management planning process", as defined by the International Society on Multiple Criteria Decision Making

MCDM is also referred as:

The Decision Theory

Decision analysis looks at the paradigm in which an individual decision maker (or decision group) contemplates a choice of action in an uncertain environment. The decision theory helps identify the alternative with the highest expected value (probability of obtaining a possible value). The theory of decision analysis is designed to help the individual make a choice among a set of pre-specified alternatives. The decision making process relies on information about the alternatives. The quality of information in any decision situation can run the whole gamut from scientifically-derived hard data to subjective interpretations, from certainty about decision outcomes (deterministic information) to uncertain outcomes represented by probabilities and fuzzy numbers. This diversity in type and quality of information about a decision problem calls for methods and techniques that can assist in information processing. Ultimately, these methods and techniques (MCDA, MCDM) may lead to better decisions. 

Decision Methods

The Decision Paradigm

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Our values, beliefs and perceptions are the force behind almost any decision-making activity. They are responsible for the perceived discrepancy between the present and a desirable state. Values are articulated in a goal, which is often the first step in a formal (supported by decision-making techniques) decision process. This goal may be put forth by an individual (decision- maker) or by a group of people (for example, a family). The actual decision boils down to selecting "a good choice" from a number of available choices. Each choice represents a decision alternative. In the multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) context, the selection is facilitated by evaluating each choice on the set of criteria. The criteria must be measurable - even if the measurement is performed only at the nominal scale (yes/no; present/absent) and their outcomes must be measured for every decision alternative. Criterion outcomes provide the basis for comparison of choices and consequently facilitate the selection of one, satisfactory choice.

Mathematics Applied To Decision

Criterion outcomes of decision alternatives can be collected in a table (called decision matrix or decision table) comprised of a set of columns and rows. The table rows represent decision alternatives, with table columns representing criteria. A value found at the intersection of row and column in the table represents a criterion outcome - a measured or predicted performance of a decision alternative on a criterion. The decision matrix is a central structure of the MCDA/MCDM since it contains the data for comparison of decision alternatives.

Different Decision Methods

At a practical level, mathematical programming under multiple objectives has emerged as a powerful tool to assist in the process of searching for decisions which best satisfy a multitude of conflicting objectives, and there are a number of distinct methodologies for multi-criteria decision-making problems that exist. The decision theory is descriptive when it shows how people take decisions, and prescriptive when it tells people how they should take decisions. These methodologies can be categorized in a variety of ways, such as form of model (e.g. linear, non-linear, stochastic), characteristics of the decision space (e.g. finite or infinite), or solution process (e.g. prior specification of preferences or interactive). For an example of a multi-objective methodology for the management of water resources integrating climate change and climate variability data, look at the article on Climate and Water in the West: Science, Information, and Decision-Making.

Taking The Future Into Account

The true goal in integrated decision-making support is to provide the decision-maker with the ability to look into the future, and to make the best possible decision based on past and present information and future predictions. In the case of sustainable development, this means to be able to predict in advance the risk and vulnerability of populations and infrastructure to hazards, both natural and man-induced. This requires that data be transformed into knowledge, and that the consequences of information use, as well as decision-making and participatory processes, be analyzed carefully (see Science, vulnerability and the search for equity: El NiƱo events, forecasts and decision making in Peru and Brazil).

Decision Support Systems

Decision support systems (DSS) are computerized information systems that support decision making activities.

The Computer-Aided Decision

A decision involves making a selection from a set of alternative choices. Broadly speaking, a decision-support systems (DSS) is simply a computer system that helps you make a decision by leveraging the multi-criteria decision-making model. DSS provide a means for decision-makers to make decisions on the basis of more complete information and analysis. Among the main advantages of the use of DSS are the following:

  1. Increased number of alternatives examined 
  2. Better understanding of the business 
  3. Fast response to unexpected situations 
  4. Improved communication 
  5. Cost savings 
  6. Better decisions
  7. More effective teamwork
  8. Time savings
  9. Better use of data resources 

When Theory Meets Practice

There is a need for approaches that combine available quantitative data with the more subjective knowledge of experts. Decision-theory techniques applied by high-end knowledge professionals have been successfully used for contrasting expert judgments and making educated choices. The multi-criteria decision-making model, by coupling theory and knowledge, provides an analytical approach to expert consultation and is adapted for a variety of technology and business fields aiming at suitability assessments.

Web Resources About MCDM/MCDA

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POGO Urges OSTP to Ensure that Agency Scientific Integrity Plans Include Contractors and Grantees

POGO is pleased to see that most federal departments and agencies have finally made public their draft or final scientific integrity plans in response to President Obama's March 2009 Memorandum on Scientific Integrity. However, POGO is concerned that several agencies have not included contractors or grantees in their plans. The failure to ensure the integrity of science performed outside the government but funded with taxpayer dollars is particularly troubling given that some of these departments or agencies—such as the Department of Energy (DOE)—rely heavily or nearly entirely on contractors and grantees for scientific research. .

14 Federal Agencies Fail to Fulfill the President's Directive: Billions in Taxpayer-Funded Science Not Included in Integrity Plans and Policies

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Food and Drug Administration were two of 14 federal agencies that failed to set proper scientific standards for contract and grantee researchers, despite the fact that tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer money funds this science each year, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) said in a letter sent today to the Obama administration..

POGO Supports DoD Effort to Redefine Commercial Items

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) urges you to support the Department of Defense's (DoD) legislative proposal for the National Defense Authorization Act that will result in improved oversight of billions of dollars' worth of so-called "commercial" goods and services..

POGO Supports Proposed Defense Contractor Crime Reporting Rule

The Department of Defense (DoD) seeks input on a proposal to amend the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) to expand coverage on contractor requirements and responsibilities with regard to the reporting of crimes committed by or against contractor personnel. .

POGO's Response to Professional Services Council Letter Regarding Reducing Civilian Workforce

Senators and Representatives recently received a letter from the Professional Services Council (PSC) responding to their letters to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in they criticized the Department of Defense's (DoD) efficiency initiative, which aims to reduce costs by scaling back the civilian workforce to 2010 levels rather than compliance with mandates to reduce reliance upon contractors. We would like to offer some perspective on a number of points raised in the PSC letter..

POGO and Partners Strongly Support Passage of the DATA Act

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing in strong support of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), H.R. 2146, which is planned for a floor vote this Wednesday. The DATA Act is an important step towards improving federal financial transparency and would empower the public to better understand how their federal dollars are being spent. .

A Test Case on Sanctions?

If there's one thing most Americans support in foreign policy, it's sanctions against Iran to halt its alleged drive for nuclear weapons. From President Obama to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, leading candidates all want to put the economic squeeze on Tehran and to signal their support for Israel. President Obama recently announced he will ratchet up sanctions on the country's oil exports and declared a "national emergency" to deal with the Islamic Republic. The Senate will try to iron out its differences over anti-Iran measures in coming weeks, as bus stations around Washington, DC, are studded with advertisements questioning the President's resolve on the issue..

U.S. Wasting Billions on Over-Priced Service Contracts; Government Lacks Data to Make Informed Contracting Decisions, POGO Tells Congressional Subcommittee

The federal government more than doubled its spending on service contracts over the last decade, despite having inaccurate data on the "true" cost of those contracts—largely because of the misguided notion that outsourcing is more cost effective than using federal workers, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) told a Senate subcommittee today..

POGO's Scott Amey testimony on "Contractors: How Much Are They Costing the Government?"

I want to thank Chairman McCaskill, Ranking Member Portman, and the Subcommittee for asking the Project On Government Oversight (POGO to submit written testimony about the important, but often ignored, issue of service contracting costs. Although there are many initiatives in place to cut federal agency spending and reduce the costs associated with the federal workforce, the cost of contractor services has escaped scrutiny. Such avoidance is extremely disturbing because the government annually spends more taxpayer dollars on contractor services than it spends on goods, over $320 billion and $210 billion in FY 2011, respectively. To put that level of spending in perspective, total contract spending was $205 billion in FY 2000, of which services accounted for $128 billion of the total..

Last Modified: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 9:25:11 PM

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