Ali Abbas Awarded Best Paper from IEEE Systems

Professor Ali Abbas

Professor in the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Ali Abbas has been honored with a 2019 Best Paper award from prestigious journal, IEEE Systems.

The paper, On the Use of Utility Theory in Engineering Design, written with Abbas’ former student, Andrea Cadenbach, was awarded top honors from a pool of 680 papers.

Abbas said the paper explores some common misuses of applying decision analysis in large-scale systems. He said that recent study estimates that poor decision-making processes in systems design contribute to an estimated loss of about $150 million per day at the Department of Defense alone.

“When scaled to a national level, the costs of inconsistent decision-making in large systems may become exorbitant,” he said.

Abbas said there were four major misuses of decision analysis in large systems:

  • Confusing direct and indirect value attributes when making decisions.
  • Using inconsistent valuations methods throughout the analysis.
  • Using inconsistent methods for dealing with uncertainty.
  • Using over-simplistic methods for constructing the utility function.

Abbas said the paper also highlights the need for rigorous decision-making education in engineering systems and to promote conversations between various academic communities and industry.

“It is advantageous for large firms to acknowledge that doing decision-making work within a field of engineering does not make a person an expert in decision analysis. Conversely, knowing decision analysis does not necessarily make a person an expert within a field of engineering,” Abbas said.

“However, through appropriate communication and exchange of ideas, the intersection of the fields can lead to superior designs,” he said.

The award will be presented at the 2019 IEEE International Symposium on Systems Engineering in Scotland.

The paper is available at IEEE Systems.

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