A HYBRID APPROACH TO INFORMATION AND DECISION SUPPORT SYSTEMS: HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES AND INDUSTRIAL RISK MANAGEMENT
Economics and Artificial Intelligence
FOREWORD Applied systems analysis is -or should be -a tool in the hands of planners and decision makers who have to deal with the complex and growing problems of modern society . There is, however , an obvious gap between the ever-increasing complexity and volume of scientific and technological information and tools of analysis relevant to large sociotechnical and environmental systems , and the information requirements at a strategic planning and policy level. The Advanced Computer
... omputer Applications (ACA) project builds on IIASA's traditional strength in the methodological foundations of operations research and applied systems analysis, and its rich experience in numerous applications areas including the environment , technology, and risk. The ACA group draws on this infrastructure and combines it with elements of Artificial Intelligence (Al) and advanced information and computer technology. Several completely externally funded research and development projects in the field of model-based decision support and applied Al are currently under way . As an example of this approach to information and decision support systems , a research and development project sponsored by the CEC's EURATOM Joint Research Center (JRC) at lspra , Italy, in the area of hazardous substances and industrial risk management, is described in this paper. With the emphasis on a directly understandable problem representation , and the user interface as a key element of interactive decision support systems, it is a step toward increased direct practical usability of IIASA's research results . Abstract: This paper describes a large-scale, model-based decision support system with embedded Artificial Intelligence (Al) technology, and a largely symbolic color graphics user interface. Designed for industrial risk assessment and the management of hazardous substances, its primary purpose is lo allow the efficient use of methods of analysis and information management and lo provide a powerful tool in the hands of planners, managers, policy and decision makers. This new generation of model-based decision support system should lead to a more informed, structured, comprehensive and interdisciplinary management of hazardous substances. To facilitate access for the non-technical user, and for more experimental and exploralive use, it proved necessary lo build much of the accumulated knowledge on the subject areas into the user interface. Thus, the interface incorporates elements of knowledge-based expert systems that are capable of assisting any non-expert user to select, set up, run, and interpret complex technical software. By providing a coherent, integrated user interface, the interactions between different models, their data bases, and software for display and analysis become transparent and the substantive information basis for decision support can be considerably enlarged. As a central component of this hybrid decision support tool, a heterarchical, object-oriented information system on hazardous substances has been incorporated . It provides aggregated as well as detailed information for non-specialist users and allows easy modular updating with automatic consistency checking. To cover all the different viewpoints under which one can group hazardous substances (e.g., chemical compounds, toxicity, etc .) an object-oriented heterarchy of viewpoints, groups, and subgroups, down lo the elementary substances, has been set up. Each object is activated when accessed, provides its descriptive data, refers to and derives data from other objects. In addition, every object statically inherits all the descriptive data and activities from all its predecessors in the heterarchy.