What is Decision Science?
Decision Science is the collection of quantitative techniques used to inform decision-making at the individual and population levels. It includes decision analysis, risk analysis, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis, constrained optimization, simulation modeling, and behavioral decision theory, as well as parts of operations research, microeconomics, statistical inference, management control, cognitive and social psychology, and computer science. By focusing on decisions as the unit of analysis, decision science provides a unique framework for understanding public health problems, and for improving policies to address those problems.
How is decision science different from other research approaches?
While most fields of research focus on producing new knowledge, decision science is uniquely concerned with making optimal choices based on available information. Decision science seeks to make plain the scientific issues and value judgments underlying these decisions, and to identify tradeoffs that might accompany any particular action or inaction.
What kinds of tools and methods do decision scientists use?
Decision science utilizes a variety of tools which include models for decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, experimental and descriptive studies of decision-making behavior, economic analysis of competitive and strategic decisions, approaches for facilitating decision-making by groups, and mathematical modeling techniques.
Where is decision science used?
Decision science has been used in business and management, law and education, environmental regulation, military science, public health and public policy. CHDS uses decision analytic methods to inform policies and practices that improve population health by systematically integrating scientific evidence with explicit consideration of individual and societal values for outcomes such as mortality, quality of life, and costs.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is risk analysis?
Risk analysis involves risk assessment (identifying and characterizing hazards to public health), risk management (evaluating how to protect public health), and risk communication (understanding and explaining health risks). Risk analysis is used to protect the environment and public health by organizing and communicating knowledge about health risks within a framework useful for decision making. It is used to inform regulatory policy and address concerns associated with health hazards in the environment.
Risk analysis is important because the public is increasingly concerned about how their health is impacted by environmental hazards such as chemicals, pollution, and food-borne disease. This increased awareness has repercussions for governments, health organizations, and private companies, all of which have a stake in protecting public health. Private corporations need to be able to understand and address the impact of their operations and products on consumers to ensure they are not harming public health. Risk analysis skills are equally important to public health agencies, as they must be able to review risk assessments conducted by industry or other agencies, interpret their findings, and prioritize governmental response to public health hazards. Learn more at the Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
What is cost-effectiveness analysis?
Cost-effectiveness analysis involves comparison of the additional costs and health benefits of an intervention with those of the available alternative(s). The aim of such an analysis is to determine the value in terms of money of the intervention(s). Within a cost-effectiveness analysis, the health benefits associated with the various interventions are measured in terms of natural units (e.g., survival, life years gained, the number of clinical events avoided).
What is benefit-cost analysis?
Cost-benefit analysis is a form of economic evaluation that can be used to assess the value in terms of money of healthcare interventions. In contrast with cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-utility analysis, which were developed specifically for the healthcare field, cost-benefit analysis has a long history of use in economics and is particularly linked to the theory of welfare economics. The characterizing feature of cost-benefit analysis is the measurement of costs and benefits in the same units. In practice, this almost always means that the benefits are measured in monetary terms.
What is operations research?
Operations research is a discipline that applies advanced analytical methods in order to facilitate better decision making. Operations research employs techniques from mathematical sciences, such as mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, and mathematical optimization, in order to determine optimal or near-optimal solutions to complex decision-making problems. Operations research emphasizes human-technology interaction, and focuses on practical applications, it overlaps with other disciplines including industrial engineering and operations management, as well as psychology and organization science. Operations research is often used to help determine the maximum (profit, performance, or yield for example) or minimum (loss, risk, or cost) of some real-world objective. While it originated out of military efforts before World War II, its techniques have grown and are applied to problems in all variety of industries.