21/12/2023 | Dr Fridolin Haag and Dr Arjun Chennu from ZMT’s Data Science and Technology working group have been honoured with a Best Paper Award from the scientific journal Omega.  

The magazine’s editorial board and the directors of publisher Elsevier B.V. chose the data scientists’ publication “Assessing whether decisions are more sensitive to preference or prediction uncertainty with a value of information approach” for the accolade recognising their significant contribution to the journal.

”At its core, our study asks a simple question that is relevant to any decision, including our everyday decisions," explains lead author Fridolin Haag: "What information would make us change our mind about what the best solution is?”.

The ZMT researchers have worked on methods to deal productively with the large uncertainties that are common in many environmental management decisions. When faced with uncertainties, a common response is to request more information, additional studies, or better science - in the hope that this will reduce uncertainties and allow definitive conclusions about the best course of action. “However, additional information or data does not always help to make a better decision and can be costly to acquire," says co-author Arjun Chennu.

Therefore, Fridolin Haag and Arjun Chennu developed quantitative methods to describe and handle those uncertainties in a decision situation. In a previous study , they had already dealt with uncertainty about predictions of management interventions – for example, when we are uncertain about how fish stocks will respond to a new marine protected area. In their new award-winning study, they extended the approach to handle an important, but often overlooked, source of uncertainty: the views and values of societal stakeholders to the decision outcomes. For example, the extent to which fishers may be willing to trade off fishing yield for longer-term reef health.

For Fridolin Haag, an important conclusion was that "we were able to show in a quantitative way what we may already intuitively suspect: even perfect scientific predictions about the future will not always help us make the right decision if the key uncertainties are about the views and trade-offs that stakeholders would be willing to make, and vice versa."

Fridolin Haag adds: “Receiving this recognition is a great affirmation that this is a valuable line of research. By identifying key uncertainties with methods like ours, we are opening up opportunities to make iterative data collection for decision support processes much more efficient".

Co-author Arjun Chennu says: “Omega is a well-regarded journal and I am happy that our paper has left an impression on the editors to receive this award.”

About the Omega journal

Omega is aimed at practicing managers, specialists in management services, operational research workers and management scientists, management consultants, academics, students and research personnel throughout the world. It has an impact factor of 8.673. The journal reports on developments in management, including the latest research results and applications. Original contributions and review articles describe the state of the art in specific fields or functions of management, while there are shorter critical assessments of particular management techniques. Other features of the journal are the "Memoranda" section for short communications and "Feedback", a correspondence column. The material published is of high quality and relevance, written in a manner which makes it accessible to all of this wide-ranging readership.