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Public Policy Design - Join in!

Welcome to the Public Policy Design Special Interest Group pages on which we’ll be posting comments, information, news of our events and activities, reports of meetings and other interesting features.

  • Be kept informed about events, conferences, publications and online resources.
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Recent Blog Posts

Thursday, 5 May 2016
Louise Orpin

The Behavioural Insights Team, Oxford University and Harvard University are hosting a Data Science and Government Conference


On the 22nd of June 2016, Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, in collaboration with the Behavioural Insights Team and Harvard’s Behavioral Insights Group, will host a meeting of academics and policymakers to discuss Data Science and Government.

This one-day conference programme will combine the latest academic findings with real-world results. There will also be collaborative sessions to find data driven solutions to problems faced by governments, such as allocating resources to projects or predicting problems before they arise. Delegates can expect talks by expert academics and practitioners and will hopefully leave with inspiration about what to try next in their own organisations.

Speakers will include:

The conference is free to attend, but places are limited to 80 delegates. Please register your interest in attending by filling out this form by 5pm on the 10th June 2016.

Wednesday, 27 Jan 2016
Robert Solly

In November I was very fortunate to attend the 3rd international workshop on "Decision making under deep uncertainty" in Delft, The Netherlands, where I met a hugely enthusiastic and eclectic mix of operational researchers and scientists working to help policymakers making decisions on issues characterised by "deep uncertainty". The paragraph below describes the types of challenge covered by the workshop:

Flood risk management, fresh water supply, energy, telecommunications, defense, transport and infrastructure are all examples of fields with challenges related to deep uncertainty. Many investment and policy decisions in these and other fields have significant and often long-term consequences. Moreover, long-term objectives often require near-term decisions. Making sound near-term decisions is critical, yet we live in an increasingly unpredictable dynamic world governed by competing and changing beliefs and preferences. When decision makers and analysts face a deeply uncertain future (e.g. due to climate change), they need more than traditional prediction or scenario-based decision methods to help them to evaluate alternatives and make decisions. Fortunately, there are new methods and tools that can help them to make sound decisions in the face of these challenges.

Firstly, I was amazed at the variety of professions and applications present, including:

  • all sorts of scientists making predictions about climate, population, infrastructure and flooding
  • analysts from the World Bank looking at the effect of climate change on global poverty
  • statisticians using big data techniques to understand the effect of hundreds of variables
  • economists helping local councils to decide whether it was worth investing in flood defences, given their own beliefs about the likelihood of climate change

but right at the heart of this debate are some eminent operational researchers

  • using table top games to raise policymakers' awareness of the options available to them, and their pros and cons;
  • using Robust Decision Making pioneered by Rob Lempert of RAND (analysing millions of scenarios to assess the robustness of solutions to uncertain futures)
  • using methods like Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways to help plot out the potential ways in which a situation might develop, and the policy options most sensible in each case

Secondly, it was really heartening to see these approaches being endorsed and applied at all levels, from small towns in New Zealand, to cities in Vietnam, countries (for instance a study by Oxford University for the Treasury predicting the effects of population changes on infrastructure and services across the UK), and international institutions like the World Bank.

There's a really nice video summarising the event and the new society for decision making under uncertainty, which aims to bring together people from this range of professions and others to help people to plan with uncertainty.

Tuesday, 27 Oct 2015
Louise Orpin

The Sir Gareth Roberts Science Policy Lecture is held by the Science Council (of which the OR Society is a member body) every two years in honour of the organisation’s founding president. Speakers are invited to consider issues of policy and policy making that impact scientists and their application of science. It is free to attend.

Previous lectures have covered "Why Science Needs Ethics" (2013), the invaluable role of technicians (2011) and priorities for science in the 21st century (2009).

Can international policy be driven by politics, values and beliefs alone?

This year, Professor Anne Glover, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission, will deliver a thought-provoking presentation for the Science Council’s Sir Gareth Roberts Science Policy Lecture 2015 on whether scientific evidence has a place in policy making in the 21st century.

Professor Glover has long experience of informing high-level policy decisions in a variety of settings, including British and European governments. The lecture will be followed by a question and answer session, chaired by Professor Sir Tom Blundell.

  • Venue: The Law Society, London
  • Date: Tuesday 3 November 2015
  • Time: 5.30pm Registration, 6pm Lecture, 7.15pm Drinks Reception

Drinks and refreshments included. The event will conclude by 9pm.

To book, go to

This event is not just for scientists; anyone with an interest in science and policy making is welcome.

Friday, 25 Sep 2015
Peter Miles

The Behavioural OR, Decision Analysis, Defence and Public Policy Design SIGs are holding a joint event focussed on 'Bridging the gap between analysis and implementation'. The aims for the event are to identify common success factors for the ready exploitation of analysis products and to identify knowledge gaps that should be addressed through research.

The morning session will comprise a number of short talks from a mix of OR academics and practitioners including Prof. Colin Eden (Strathclyde University), Mr. Peter Miles (Catalyze Consulting), Mr. Max Moullin (Sheffield Business School), Mr. Rob Solly (Dstl), Prof. Leroy White (Warwick University) and Dr. Mike Yearworth (University of Bristol).

The afternoon session will comprise two interactive workshops to identify (i) common success factors for the ready exploitation of analysis products and (ii) knowledge gaps that should be addressed through research.

Places are limited and so if you have not already registered for this event then please contact Peter Miles – petermiles(at) - no later than Thursday 8th October.

Venue: Dstl Portsdown West (PO17 6AD)
Date: Friday, 16 October 2015 at 10:00 - 16:00

Event Committee

POC: David Lowe - david.lowe(at)

Monday, 9 Feb 2015
Louise Orpin

Further to the inaugural meeting of the OR Society PPD SIG, you may be interested in a forthcoming meeting of the System Dynamics Society.  Themed around public policy modelling and on 26-27 March 2015 at LSE, there are speakers from two of the PPD committee members.  The outline programme is:

  • Prof David Lane (Henley Business School -- Munro Review of child protection policy)
  • Geoff Mulgan (Nesta -- systemic innovation)
  • Ian Mitchell (BIS -- UK innovation and international benchmarking)
  • Prof Steve Keen (Kingston University -- macroeconomics and financial modelling)
  • Rian van Gulijk (Dutch MoJ --  public policy modelling)
  • Ben Ramalingam (Overseas Development Institute -- systems thinking in international development)

Please look at for further details.

Thursday, 5 Feb 2015
Robert Solly

Thanks so much to Cara Quinton for getting the web pages for the Public Policy Design Special Interest Group up and running! We now have space to store the outcomes of our various meetings, but also shared documents, plans etc in the document repository. At the moment Cara has given all committee members and sub-group leads write-access to the pages, but please let me know if you or others would like to post blogs or documents here too.

Cara has also set up our email list which all of you can use: Members can use this to contact all other members of the group, but please remember that this is a large list so don't over-use it! Please also note that if you are a member, Cara uses the email associated with your membership. If you want her to change that, please let Cara know on .

We are now making early arrangements for our next meeting in London in March. If you haven't recevied an invitation to a Doodle poll from Jean McLeod, please contact Jean at and we will see if we can find a time to suit as many as possible. In the meantime, please sign up for one of our sub-groups by contacting one of the three leads:

David Lowe ( will lead a sub-group to develop and promulgate good practice for OR, particularly to ensure that its recommendations are implemented

Ian Mitchell ( will lead a sub-group working with local government to apply OR to a local development plan

Rob Solly ( will lead a sub-group working to apply OR in the What Works centres, Behavioural Insights Team or Policy Lab work on cross-departmental and local/national issues

Many thanks in anticipation, and here's to a productive 2015!