Coherent inference over a network of probabilistic systems for decision support with applications to food security.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Statistics

Abstract

Different panels of experts each provide their judgments together with supporting evidence through the outputs of their own probabilistic models. These then need to be networked together via their inputs and outputs to provide a unifying inferential foundation to underpin decision support. The different panels of experts share as common knowledge qualitative features of the domain often expressed as an agreed graphical model. A subjective expected utility maximising policy maker now plans to adopt the probabilistic judgments of the appropriate domain expert panels as her own. She will then use this unifying statistical model to draw together the disparate evidence into a single coherent and defensible whole and use this to guide her policy evaluation. We will develop this formal and defensible statistical methodology. Thus we will find sufficient conditions for different types of dynamic graphical models to remain coherent before and after relevant evidence is accommodated into the system. When the integrity of the system is violated we will develop methods which appropriately measure the extent of this violation. Recent advances in algebraic statistics will be used not only to investigate how such demands for coherence might be relaxed when the algebraic form of a user's utility function is known but will also guide associated computational algorithms. The development will be directed by the needs of policy makers and the structure and information bases used by experts and researchers into UK food security

Planned Impact

This programme will develop some of the technologies and methodologies that will make it possible and viable to design customized decision support tools. This will be able to demonstrably and quickly provide integrated probabilistic models for various social policy analyses and guide policy makers with evidence based support to ameliorate the threats it faces . The PI has been involved for 15 years in developing probabilistic decision support tools to manage nuclear risks. The PI and the VRF Prof. Nicholson also share a long history developing Bayesian Networks to work in dynamically evolving environments for clients in industry and government (see c.v.'s). This project will directly address a new area needing proper integrated decision support: food security and indirectly decision support methodology within analogous domains. By contributing to better governmental and international decision making it will contribute to the health, safety and security of people in the UK and worldwide. The theoretical researchers will work with two CI's who have excellent domain knowledge of complementary areas of food security research - one of the foci of the study and have excellent links to potential users of the new technologies we plan to address in this programme.

We envisage an impact of this research on:
(i) Applied Statisticians needing to inform decision support systems for policy analysis over networks by using the developed methodologies to do this more effectively. This impact will be felt in the short term (0-5 years).

(ii) Decision and risk analysts. Methods for appropriately integrating diverse probabilistic systems, with online updating of information bases supported by appropriate inferential methodologies will continue to be developed and implemented in a wide range of applications. This research will make a significant contribution to this field in the short and medium term (0-10 years).

(iii) Food researchers. The two studies we will undertake in this programme will form a template for the subsequent more comprehensive analyses designed to integrate decision making over the whole system. We would expect this impact to take place mainly in the medium term (5-10 years).

(iv) Policy makers and food providers. Our methods will eventually enhance understanding of the threat of food shortages and the development of short and medium term strategies enabling more efficacious and comprehensive policy decision making. This could have very strong societal impact and potentially benefit the lives of many. We would hope this will be felt in the medium term (5-10 years).

The types of impact that we expect from this project are (using the EPSRC impact categories):
1 Impact on Knowledge, in particular on techniques (through beneficiaries in groups [i] and [ii])

2 Impact on Society, in particular impact on the general development of better networked decision support systems through beneficiaries in group [ii] above) and on the associated food researchers [iii] and policy makers (group [iv] above, but also others in analogous roles in different domains.

3 Impact on People, in particular on skills through training the RA involved and facilitating the involvement of postdoctoral researchers in the workshops.
 
Description We found how to integrate high dimensional decision support systems.
Exploitation Route By designing decision support systems in the way respecting the technologies we defined on this grant.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Already two Decision Conferences held with Warwickshire County Council to elicit their needs for a decision support system for Food Security. Several international conferences and workshops have already been used to disseminate the information to a wide audience of potential users. Coventry City Council has also engaged and is interested in using these research outputs for decision support in the future. JQS & MJB have been invited to sit on the Feeding Coventry Steering Group and the Feeding Coventry Food resilience/securities/access sub-group.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Changes to regular household questionnaire for Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Household food security measured for the first time in Midlands, UK as part of regular survey. Our engagement with the technology to address food insecurity encouraged Warwickshire county and Coventry city councils to undertake a revision of their questionnaire to include food poverty within the local catchment areas to inform policy decision making. We were in a position to advise on the use of a validated question to include, which is the same in both authorities, enabling comparisons to be made across regions.
 
Description EC Marie Sklodowska-Curie COFUND
Amount £5,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions 
Sector Academic/University
Country Global
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2023
 
Description Newton Fund programme via the British Council
Amount £1,125 (GBP)
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2015 
End 09/2015
 
Description University of Melbourne
Amount $5,500 (AUD)
Organisation University of Melbourne 
Sector Academic/University
Country Australia
Start 09/2015 
End 12/2015
 
Description University of Warwick Food GRP
Amount £12,099 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2015 
End 05/2015
 
Description University of Warwick GRP Behavioural Science & Food GRP
Amount £7,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 05/2016
 
Description University of Warwick International Partnership Fund
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Warwick 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2015 
End 02/2016
 
Title Suite of Dynamic bayesian Network models 
Description Dynamic Bayesian networks for four food supply chains to contribute to network of probabilistic models required for decision support system being developed supported by this grant. 
Type Of Material Data analysis technique 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact One model has been submitted for publication and made available at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/statistics/crism/research/paper14-18 
URL http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/statistics/crism/research/paper14-18
 
Title Warwickshire County Council Data Repository 
Description A repository of data required to run the decision support system under development supported by this grant for Warwickshire County Council to compare policy options (e.g. different ways of making cuts required by central government). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Not yet realised 
 
Description BBC news interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact BBC news interview relating to expert elicitation workshop held to provide data for use in decision support system developed within this grant
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysliMe1-yj4&feature=youtu.be
 
Description BR-UK Researcher Links Workshop 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact BR-UK Researcher Links Workshop 2015: Dissemination of applications of technical methodological advances supported by this grant to business and policy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Birmingham Food Council's food poverty workshop "food insecurity - a city-level response?" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Birmingham Food Council's food poverty workshop "food insecurity - a city-level response?" a gathering of food industries, schools catering, policymakers, teachers, food banks and researchers to debate, discuss and formulate a city-level response to food poverty in the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.birminghamfoodcouncil.org/martine-barons-on-taking-steps-rather-than-swallowing-foodpover...
 
Description COST meeting Dubrovnik 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop two presentations to business, government , EFSA, academics on new methodology developed in the grant and its interface with established and new methods for expert elicitation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://expertsinuncertainty.net/Portals/60/Workshop%20Schedule_220316docx.pdf
 
Description Cafe Scientfique, Leamington Spa "UK food security in the twenty-first century" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk and debate at Café Scientifique on the application topic for the technical methodological advances supported by this grant
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.cafescientifique.org/index.php?option=com_contentbuilder&title=uk-leamington-spa&controll...
 
Description Calculating and Communicating Uncertainty 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Calculating and Communicating Uncertainty 2015: dissemination of technical methodological advances supported by this grant and their applications in managing risk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Case for measuring Household food-insecurity, Palace of Westminster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting to engage policymakers with the need to measure household food security in the UK analogously with the USA and Canada in order to inform policy and intelligently deploy reources.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://foodfoundation.org.uk/the-case-for-measuring-uk-household-food-insecurity/
 
Description CliMathNet workshop invited talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Applications of technical methodological advances supported by this grant to decision support in climate change policy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Co-organised COST Action IS1304 Workshop on Food Safety and Food Security 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Co-organised COST Action IS1304 Workshop on Food Safety and Food Security as second workshop of the grant. Emphasis on the role of expert judgement in building decision support using the recent technical methodological advanced supported by this grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description EPSRC Guest Blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Guest blog for EPSRC related to expert elicitation workshop, featured on BBC News. Tweeted and re-tweeted for International Women's day 8th March 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/blog/savingbeeswithmaths/
 
Description Elicitation workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Expert elicitation workshop funded by Warwick Behavioural Science GRP and Food GRP. This was to elicit quantities not available in experimental science to populate a decision support system for policies related to pollination abundance. This forms a sub-module in the overarching food security decision support system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description European Policymaker meeting, Brussels 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact European Policymaker meeting 2014. Presentation of progress to date on technical methodological advances supported by this grant in lay language to policy-makers and business.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/research/priorities/foodsecurity/newsandevents/pastevents/seminar_outline....
 
Description FSA Household food securityt policy workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Food Standards Agency: Household food insecurity policy sprint with the cabinet office policy lab
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description IMA ECM conference Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Presentation: decision support for pollinator abundance and food security IMA early career mathematicians conference. Describing application of the new methodology developed in the grant. Many undergraduates commented that they had no idea that the maths they are learning can be out to practical use for important issues like these.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ima.org.uk/conferences/conferences_calendar/early_career_mathematicians_conference_spring...
 
Description ISBA, Sardinia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Poster Presentation : Decision support for pollinator abundance based on elicited probabilistic judgements
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://bayesian.org/content/isba-2016-world-meeting
 
Description International food security forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International Food Security Forum Funded by Warwick-Monash Alliance. This is bringing our new technologies to a wider international food domain experts with a focus on food poverty amelioration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Interview for sustainability blog Warwick University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview in lay language on how the technical methodological advances supported by this grant are being applied to decisions about pollinators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/crossfac/sustainability-research/martinebarons
 
Description Invited seminar Auckland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Seminar Auckland University; dissemination of technical methodological advances supported by this grant within the research community
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Melbourne University Invited Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Seminar at Melbourne University: Dissemination of technical methodological advances supported by this grant within the research community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Organised Evidence-based decision support for food security workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Hosted international workshop on Evidence-based decision support for food security bringing together experts in food policy and poverty with experts in large-scale modelling of dynamic systems. Presented progress to date on the technical methodological advances supported by this grant. There was much cross-disciplinary discussion and subsequent co-operation between participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Oxford Food System workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Food system representation data and modelling using the technologies developed within the grant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Press release re Australia trip 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Press release about application of technical methodological advances supported by this grant to policy decision support for pollination services led to newspaper article
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/research/priorities/foodsecurity/newsandevents/?newsItem=094d43f55037e98d015045fe81877163
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://stratfordobserver.co.uk/view-edition/?ed_i=34&ed_u=/Stratford/2015/11/20&ed_p=48
 
Description RSS local branch talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact RSS local branch talk: working with local government to reduce hunger and malnutrition: networking information for decision support.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://sites.google.com/view/rsswmlg/calendar?authuser=0
 
Description Seminar Cranfield 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Postgraduate seminar for people interested in expert judgement, applications of Bayesian Networks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Toronto workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Setting up of two component Bayes Nets that could be integrated within out integrating decision support system. Dissemination of Bayesian probabilistic integrating decision support systems to international audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016