The Royal Society of Canada (RSC) offers a variety of prestigious medals and awards recognizing outstanding achievements of Canadian researchers. It is a responsibility of Fellows of the RSC to nominate candidates for these honours, and they are explicitly invited to do so every year.
Earlier this year, Water Institute member Keith Hipel, University Professor in Waterloo's Department of Systems Design Engineering, was awarded the Miroslaw Romanowski Medal for significant contributions to the resolution of scientific aspects of environmental problems or for important improvements to the quality of an ecosystem in all aspects — terrestrial, atmospheric and aqueous — brought about by scientific means.
On November 29, professor Hipel will deliver the Miroslaw Romanowski Lecture at the University of Waterloo: "Negotiations over Groundwater Contamination."
The Graph Model for Conflict Resolution (GMCR) is applied to the explosive dispute that arose over the discovery of a carcinogen in the aquifer supplying water to the town of Elmira, located in Southern Ontario, Canada, to demonstrate how one can realistically investigate conflict in order to obtain strategic insights for supporting informed decision making. This highly divisive groundwater contamination conflict is utilized to explain a rich range of inherent capabilities of GMCR, as well as worthwhile avenues for extensions, which make GMCR a truly powerful decision technology for addressing challenging conflict situations. Moreover, the crucial importance of scientifically taking into account both the societal and physical systems aspects of this complex problem is emphasized within an interdisciplinary system of systems thinking perspective. A flexible preference elicitation method, called option prioritization, is employed to obtain the relative preferences of each decision maker (DM) in the dispute over the states or scenarios which can occur, based upon naturally expressed preference statements regarding the options or courses of actions available to the DMs. Solution concepts, reflecting how a chess player thinks in terms of moves and counter-moves, are utilized to mirror the ways humans may behave under conflict, varying from short to long-term thinking and from risk-averse to risk-seeking outlooks. After ascertaining the best outcome that a DM can achieve on his or her own in a conflict, coalition analysis is used to check if a DM can fare even better by cooperating with others. For the Elmira dispute, potential equilibria or compromise resolutions are predicted and the reasons for the decision of two of the disputants to form a coalition and bring about a dramatic resolution to the conflict are explained. The ability of GMCR to capture emotions, strength of preference, attitudes, misunderstandings (referred to as hypergames), and uncertain preferences (unknown, fuzzy, grey and probabilistic), greatly broadens its scope of applicability. Techniques for tracing how a conflict can evolve over time from a status quo state to a final specified outcome, as well as how to handle hierarchical structures, such as when a central government interacts with its provinces or states, further enforce the comprehensive nature of GMCR. In fact, an Artificial Intelligence algorithm is available to determine how DMs in a conflict must think in terms of preference in order to reach a desirable outcome in what is called the inverse engineering problem. Learning how DMs may think allows creativity in purposefully directing a dispute towards a win/win resolution.
Keith Hipel is Officer of the Order of Canada, University Professor of Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo, Past President of the Academy of Science within the Royal Society of Canada, Senior Fellow of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Fellow of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, and Coordinator of the Conflict Analysis Group at Waterloo. He is globally renowned for his unique interdisciplinary research from a Systems Engineering perspective on the development of conflict resolution, multiple criteria decision analysis (MCDA), time series analysis and other decision-making methodologies for addressing challenging system of systems engineering problems lying at the confluence of society, technology and the environment, with applications in water resources management, hydrology, environmental engineering, energy, and sustainable development. His recent breakthroughs in the inverse engineering of decision systems has opened fertile opportunities for benefiting society via seminal contributions in artificial intelligence (AI). Hipel has received numerous accolades for his highly original and useful research.