Decision Theater Project Spotlights

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Decision Theater

Project Spotlights

Table of Contents 4



The Future of Education in Arizona



10 WorldEDIT 12 Gulf of Mexico Biodiversity Vulnerability Tool 14 Megacity Disaster Response 16 Chief of Mission Security Training 18 PULSE 20 The Decision Theater in Washington D.C. 22 Decision Theater


Increasing understanding and assessing impacts of development on social-ecological systems in the lower Mekong river basin by increasing access to integrated and visualized data, models, and decision-making tools.

The Science Issue and Relevance

Methodology for Addressing the Issue

In the face of economic development pressure, better and

Under the guidance of the U.S. State Department, the

more explicit understanding of the interactions between social and ecological systems of the Lower Mekong River Basin will benefit the understanding and decision making between citizens and local and national governments. In order to assist in local, natural resource decision making, the U.S. State Department, through their Mekong-U.S. Partnership, is partnering with the US Geological Survey (USGS) to increase the availability and predicative capacity of existing social, economic, groundwater, surface water, and other biophysical data. Policy makers and technical users will have the opportunity to gain greater understanding of potential decision making outcomes by exploring dynamically integrated data and models in an immersive, visualized, environment that reflects the priorities and perspectives of each stakeholder.

USGS and Arizona State University, in cooperation with Mekong River Commission and assistance from Vietnamese and Cambodian university faculties, will build on existing regional research efforts while collecting and creating new information. Arizona State University’s Decision Theater® will integrate and conduct data analytics while visualizing available models and information in order to facilitate informed discussions and decision/policymaking. The Cambodia-Vietnam border area, from the Tonle Sap Great Lake to the sea, will be the initial geographic focus for groundwater, surface water, and socioeconomic data, information collection, and analysis.

The existing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Shared Vision Planning (SVP), will be the first model adopted into the Decision Theater software framework. Ultimately, the existing USGS modular finite-difference flow model (MODFLOW), the macro-scale variable infiltration capacity (VIC) hydrologic model, and, a multi-year, daily time step, multi-crop simulation model (CropSyst) will be integrated into the overarching NexView project along with new data and information collected as part of the NexView program. Importantly, the NexView integrated framework will also include socioeconomic drivers and indicators (e.g. rice production and fishery catch). Using the Decision Theater integrated and visualized NexView, technical experts and policy makers alike will be able to manipulate and explore decision scenarios. The result will be a better understanding of the complex interrelated environment and social economic aspects of the Lower Mekong River Basin, as well as more informed stakeholder conversations regarding the consequences of decisions, before they are made.

Future Steps

This integrated and visualized social-ecological modeling approach, focusing on water resource management, is intended to increase international cooperation and informed decision making. Ultimately, it is intended to improve the livelihoods for the people living in and around the CambodiaVietnam border. Future efforts are expected to expand this pilot program’s geographic area of interest while identifying and filling information gaps, and adding other beneficial disciplines.


Jenna Shinen

Matthew Andersen

Jon Miller

THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN ARIZONA Visualizing the Current Landscape to Prepare for the Future


The Education Landscape

The Decision Theater is at the center of

The education system is complex and interwoven with other social systems. Decision Theater projects in the education landscape provide forums for in-depth insight into distinct pieces of the education pipeline. When connected, these visualized observations reflect the greater system, unravel complexities and offer avenues for change.

efforts to create and use data driven analytic models to understand and assess Arizona’s educational achievement and impact. These research frameworks address the value of post-secondary attainment, the state’s future labor force, and the road to prosperity from K-12 education to a healthy economy.

Mapping High School Achievement What are the invisible relationships between student success and their surrounding environment? How do high schools across Arizona academically compare to one another? The ASU Decision Theater and the Decision Center for Educational Excellence (DCEdEx) collaborate to understand the mechanisms of student success. An interactive, multilayer software tool visualizes high school distribution and graduation data, community demographics, regional environmental statistics and college-going rates to capture a holistic view of the landscape and build more informed conversations on applicable interventions.

Education Advances Everyone How does postsecondary attainment impact the state’s economy and workforce? What regions and individuals could benefit most from increased postsecondary attainment?

The Decision Theater’s Achieve60AZ model analyzes the current state of post-secondary attainment across Arizona and calculates regional and state-wide outcomes of increased attainment.

High School Outcome Tool • •

Compare high school performance factors Identify barriers to graduation

Explore possible interventions

Consider the future alignment of workforce availability and occupational demands

Achieve60AZ • •

Identify occupational vulnerabilities to automation Understand the economic impacts of post-secondary degree attainment

The Decision Theater’s education software models are developed in partnership with ASU’s Decision Center for Educational Excellence, Helios Education Foundation and the Arizona Board of Regents to support the goals of the Achieve60AZ Alliance.

In Collaboration with


Navigate the Food, Energy, and Water Supply Chains Across the United States


Mapping the Invisible

A data-based exploration of invisible commodity networks

Food, Energy and Water (FEW) resources are transported across the U.S. to support regional population needs. FEWView™ tracks, analyzes, and visualizes this otherwise invisible supply chain. The connections and interdependencies between communities are illustrated and create greater understanding of their complexities.

Do you know where your food, energy and water come from? Would you guess that the trout on your plate in a New York City restaurant is almost exclusively sourced from Transylvania County, North Carolina? FEW-View™, ASU’s Decision Theater’s interactive map of the Food, Energy and Water (FEW) supply system, offers a simple approach to understanding these complex connections.

FEW-View™ is a research tool that maps and explores the complex ties of FEW systems. Decision Theater collaborated with FEWSION™ researchers to visualize commodity flows and integrate massive supply-chain datasets into one common framework. The tool provides unprecedented opportunities to explore the landscape of commodity exchange while gaining new insights into these intricate connections across the US.

The Decision Theater has been a great partner for the FEW-View™ project, providing expert consulting and implementation for our scientific visualization systems. DT is the best in class for these services.” Ben Ruddell Associate Professor in the School of Informatics

FEW-View™ can provide unprecedented insights to: • Emergency Managers for disaster planning •

Sustainability Officers reducing their community’s footprint

K-12 Educators to acquaint students to regional connections of food, energy and water systems

Researchers and the public to better understand their communities

Computing, and Cyber Systems, NAU

Fueled by new findings, users can invest in the security, resilience, and sustainability of regional supply chains in their communities and across the nation.

FEW-ViewTM Findings, what regions supply New York City’s FEW resources? New York City is the world’s original Megacity, with a current population around 20 million people. The city sources food, energy and water from around the nation and world. It takes a country, and a planet, to supply it.

How could an L.A. earthquake affect global FEW supplies? The San Andreas fault is a serious threat to Los Angeles. If highways, railroads and the Port of Los Angeles are seriously damaged, it could take years to regain the city’s major transportation hub. How much of your community’s supply chain passes through Los Angeles?

FEW-ViewTM Exploration Users explore pre-set scenarios built by FEWSION™ researchers or set their own research questions to discover new findings. The tool’s benchmarking features present side-by-side comparisons of state and county commodity flows. Users can explore resilience, dependence and circularity analytics and export charts, data and insights in a PDF format.

The core power of FEW-View™ rests in its backend computations. The tool processes millions of data points to display results in visual and consumable formats. FEW-View™ is a web app built using modern JavaScript and PHP frameworks. It is an initiative of the FEWSION™ project, a collaboration between scientists at over a dozen universities. FEWSION™ was founded in 2016 by a grant from the INFEWS basic research program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Follow the FEW exchange at

In Collaboration with

WorldEDIT Earth Degradation Intervention Tool


A Changing Landscape

Uncovering the Potentials of Land Restoration

Land degradation is a global challenge. Loss of productive land contributes to climate change, environmental hazards, food scarcity, economic and social turmoil, and the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Without intervention, degraded land will continue to impact increasing numbers of humans, endangered species and the climate, and will present new challenges to stable governance.

How has the earth’s land cover changed overtime? What strategies can country leaders implement to revitalize degraded land? What are the economic tradeoffs to interventions?

The Decision Theater environment allows groups with multiple perspectives and anchored positions to objectively and simultaneously examine data driven trade-offs and outcomes. Interacting with the model in the Decision Theater, participants are able to make their own discoveries and investigate possible futures, leading to more informed decisions.” Rahul Salla Technical Director, The Decision Theater

Degradation’s widespread nature and regional intricacies present a challenge to implement restoration strategies tailored to the unique characteristics of an area. The Decision Theater’s WorldEDIT informs leaders of existing land degradation trends and provides mechanisms to virtually experiment with proposed interventions. The tool assists in the development of mitigation strategies providing the greatest impact to people, species, and the climate while balancing economic investment and return.

Multiple Perspectives in a Single Setting

New Findings Build Better Questions

World EDIT delivers dynamic insights into a region’s current and historic land degradation, agricultural production, economic standing and endangered species. The model prompts users to explore regionally suitable restoration interventions and calculates their projected impacts on future land coverage and economic outcomes.

WorldEDIT reveals insights on multifaceted impacts of land degradation in a new, easy to use and highly interactive, visualized format. The software platform provides users the freedom to ask their own questions while using multiple streams of data sources and high performance computing to receive immediate responses. As participants engage, design a scenario, and digest outcomes, they gain new understanding of system complexities. Equipped with more knowledge, users ask new questions and receive tailored insights into possible futures. WorldEdit provides visualized data driven analysis to make and compare alternative intervention business cases leading to more informed discussions and decision making.

Behind the Tool

Co-Creation for Effective Deliberation

WorldEDIT integrates data from Conservation International™, Trends. Earth, Redlist API and World Bank to deliver information on land coverage, endangered species and economic impacts of restoration efforts.

WorldEDIT is the product of close cooperation between ASU’s Decision Theater and Conservation International™ (CI) to inform decision and policy makers and stakeholders regarding soil degradation. Complex, interrelated problems such as land degradation require strategic, multidisciplinary framing. Development was informed by CI’s domain expertise and technically structured by Decision Theater’s software engineering team.

GULF OF MEXICO BIODIVERSITY VULNERABILITY TOOL Mitigating marine biodiversity loss in coastal regions


Core Capabilities

Marine resources play an important role in the economies of coastal regions. Greater biodiversity contributes to a greater number of physical, biological, and non-extractive resources. The decline of marine plants and animals can lead to conflict over resources and adversely impact these regions. It is critical to understand how human activity affects marine life so that restoration and recovery initiatives can be made effectively. The Gulf of Mexico decision-support tool developed by the Decision Theater team allows stakeholders to examine specific areas within the Gulf, identify which species are in that area, and assess the risks for those species.

The Gulf of Mexico Marine Biodiversity Vulnerability tool demonstrates the species-based consequences of development and oil rig operation along the gulf coast. Decision Theater partnered with the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes in the ASU School of Sustainability to incorporate their research on species vulnerability into a visualized, usable software tool. The species vulnerability index, which powers this tool’s findings, gives a first-ever comprehensive ranking for life in the region and offers a new metric for decision makers to consider. Through geospatial informatics, stakeholders are able to fully visualize where vulnerabilities lie within the Gulf of Mexico. This enables them to better prioritize species, habitat, and ecosystem conservation and restoration when making operational planning decisions.

Decision-makers need to make decisions within resource constraints and regions. They need to know what species are in an area and what their vulnerability is to extinction or threats. There are so many questions you can ask of this data in terms of management and decision science to help facilitate decision making.” Dr. Beth Polidoro Associate Director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes ASU School of Sustainability

How it Works This tool maps Marine Protected Areas, existing oil rigs,

As research in the Gulf continues, new data can be

and shipping lanes to demonstrate the species-based

incorporated into the tool’s framework to give a more

consequences of developing oil rigs along the gulf coast.

complete view of the region. Information for a larger variety of

A geospatial area can be selected from the map to show

species, as well as indexes for different vulnerabilities such

information for the species that live in that area, including

as petrochemical exposure or the presence of microplastics,

their IUCN Red List Categories, population status, and

can be integrated into the tool. The species vulnerability

distribution, use in trade, common threats, and conservation

index and decision-support research is not constrained to

measures. Data filters allow stakeholders to strategize their

the habitats within the Gulf of Mexico region. Data and index

course of action while maximizing biodiversity conservation in

rankings for resilience are available for an extensive range

the selected region. The current iteration of the model serves

of species across the world, and the Decision Theater’s

as a prototype that allows researchers to demonstrate the

software framework can be repurposed and customized for

value of this index to a wide audience of stakeholders in a

diverse audiences. Researchers, stakeholders, and policy

format that allows them to interact with the data, play what if

makers in other regions, such as the Persian Gulf, can work

scenarios, and determine how this information could be used

with the Decision Theater to develop a tool tailored to their

for their own decision-making purposes.

environment’s unique nuances and needs.

MEGACITY DISASTER RESPONSE Strategize Assistance in the Wake of Disaster


What happens when disaster strikes a megacity?

Building situational awareness with a unified approach

Large metropolitan cities present unique challenges to disaster assistance. The dense urban terrain limits land availability to establish aid camps, extreme weather conditions impact regular transportation routes within the city, and diverse populations seek refuge over limited resources.

The computational modeling and software integration behind this tool offer the backbone for informed emergency action. This model enables operatives to effectively manage multiple problem sources from an integrated perspective.

How can authorities strategize action? The Decision Theater’s Megacity Disaster Response model integrates prominent awareness factors into one operating framework. Armed with this tool, a response official can navigate: •

Possible transportation routes to hospitals, police stations and fire stations amid flooding in the streets

Available land to build humanitarian assistance camps

Potential conflict risks in the region

Resource acquisition and distribution strategies during a shortage

Facilities and Geographic Awareness

Transportation and Flooding

By integrating web-based map and weather services, this tool presents location data of nearby emergency services, current weather conditions, and available land cover.

A transportation and flooding model estimates travel time to emergency services by calculating regional flooding probability and its impact on transportation routes.

Security Considerations and Threat Assessments

Supply, Re-supply and Network Visualization

An agent-based model simulates possible security threats based on existing demographic and organizational data as well as communication patterns.

Operatives provide existing resource data to monitor the use and delivery of supplies to the region. Data on local affiliate organizations is organized through a network visualization graph to present their expertise, contact information, and relationship to other assistance organizations. This data-ready model can be customized to inform new situational awareness needs, offering flexible solutions to a wide range of conflicts.

CHIEF OF MISSION SECURITY TRAINING Decision-Making in Simulated Scenarios


Serious Gaming for Informed Action

As a newly appointed U.S. Ambassador, what

U.S. Ambassadors serve a critical role in managing foreign relations. Ambassadors consider policy goals, threat risks and mission objectives while maintaining international diplomacy. Newly appointed ambassadors learn to examine problems as they arise and respond with situational nuance.

choices would you make in a pre-crisis situation? What are the implications of those decisions? When would you consult with Washington D.C? How would you balance security risks with diplomatic, social and political dimensions?

The program for future ambassadors on managing the balance between goals and danger is an important and unique device for training America’s ambassadors.” Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann (ret) President American Academy of Diplomacy

The Chief of Mission Security Training provides an interactive, increasingly complex series of scenarios that allow newly appointed U.S. ambassadors to consider decision-making in unexpected environments. Through an immersive gaming platform, Ambassador trainees and Deputy Chiefs of Mission follow simulated missions and face crucial decisions that impact the course of future events. The Decision Theater’s Ambassador Training program develops Ambassadors’ mental capacity in decision-making, systems thinking, and anticipatory competence in pre-crisis situations.

The Game Each scenario is loaded in a flexible decision tree framework. Each player assumes their role as an advisor or Ambassador and follows the training’s events and action prompts. • •

Full day training follows a crawl/walk/run approach Choices made in the game trigger customized flags and outcomes

The Facilitation Each game is led by a trained facilitator,as well as a Senior Mentor with experience in the field. The Senior Mentor provides advice and feedback to the Ambassador trainee as needed throughout decision points in each scenario. • •

Each game event opens opportunities for discussion and learning Trainees can return to key decision points and re-play outcomes throughout the game

The Outcome Training sessions conclude with a Reflection panel, where the choices the Ambassador trainee made in the game are summarized and discussed. Diplomatic Security Officers and newly assigned ambassadors have the opportunity to reflect on the decisions made and discuss alternative approaches in the future.

This model was developed by the Decision Theater’s team of software engineers, game designers, curriculum experts, and graphic artists in partnership with retired ambassadors and diplomatic security experts from the American Academy of Diplomacy.

PULSE Real-time Data Analytics Platform


Data Investigation Across Diverse Platforms

Uncover critical insights into digital networks with PULSE

In the modern world, communication across social networking systems has become a primary form of expression, response and feedback. Individuals and organizations are constantly sharing mass amounts of new information and communicating across digital exchanges. Each tweet, Facebook post or Instagram story captures small pieces of life connected to user data, social network, and topics of conversation. Within the barrage of media posts exists undiscovered insight into prevailing public opinion. Websites, traditional databases, and other information sources are repositories of valuable data. PULSE navigates through the data chaos to extract meaningful information for action.

The Decision Theater’s information integration and network analysis platform enables powerful custom research for web-based investigations. PULSE speeds through social media posts, journal publications, databases and more to capture key information and their implications, perform a variety of analyses, determine implications and visualize the results.

Findings derived from PULSE can be used for a variety of purposes depending on the needs of the user: • • • •

Policy making based on public opinion Sales initiatives of a company Social science research Gauging interest for a product or idea

Clear Wisdom from Noisy Data PULSE offers analytical technology to collect, categorize, analyze and visualize social network data as it is posted in real time.

PULSE delivers visualized findings across a customdeveloped graphic dashboard. Decision Theater researchers work closely with users to identify appropriately tailored visualization techniques to communicate newfound insights.

To harness these investigative powers, users identify key terms, search parameters, and research objectives associated with their topic of study. Researchers at the Decision Theater help determine the mechanisms for analysis and implement appropriate algorithms to gather and sort information.

The parameters, search terms and visual components change with each new project. However, ability to uncover granular insight while filtering out irrelevant data sustains across all applications.

Data mining from traditional and non-traditional sources:

Available data analytics:



Location Analysis


Machine Learning


Statistical Analysis


Artificial Intelligence

Text documents Existing Databases

In Collaboration with


Sentiment Analysis Market Analysis

THE DECISION THEATER IN WASHINGTON D.C. Collaborative Problem-Solving Across the Nation


Shared technology for new perspectives

The ASU Decision Theater in Washington D.C. unites policy makers and stakeholders in the U.S. Capital with the computational, analytic and research capabilities of the Tempe, AZ headquarters.

Leaders from Washington D.C. routinely convene in the Decision Theater’s immersive satellite facility. Participants explore intricacies on matters such as health, education, sustainability and governance in a data-rich, visualized and interactive environment.

Our Washington DC-based operations are a perfect example of how the Decision Theater environment and capabilities can be made available and tailored to address highly complex issues with Washington based influencers and policymakers.” General Benjamin Freakley Executive Director Decision Theater

Decision Theater’s presence in the nation’s capital allows relevant parties to engage in the Decision Theater experience without traveling to the original facility in Tempe, AZ. This location affords users the ability to view all Decision Theater models in an environment intended for deliberation, collaboration and complex systems understanding.

How it Works Same construct; different space The Decision Theater in Washington D.C. mirrors the architectural and technological setup of the Tempe facility, allowing for seamless transition between locations. As research teams in Tempe, AZ develop analytic software models, leaders in Washington D.C. Decision Theater facilities convene to gain better understanding of complex problems and weigh the advantages and disadvantages and consequences of alternative decisions.

Data Scientists

The Power of the Tempe Campus

Real-time synchronization Information Technology experts in the Washington D.C. facility drive the audio/visual needs, leverage Decision Theater-Tempe developed and integrated models to engage Washington based influencers and decision makers. High speed internet connections provide access to high performance computing and browsers that synchronize, in real-time, shared content and engagements between decision makers, researchers, stakeholders in Tempe and global members of the Decision Theater Network nodes.

Data-driven conversations

Deliberative Facilitation in Washington, D.C

Development of Decision Theater

Interactive software models stream

products occur in Tempe, AZ through

from Tempe servers directly into the

collaboration between:

Software Developers

Washington D.C. Theater for: Policy experimentation for complex problems

Graphic Designers Remote engagements over shared findings

ASU faculty & researchers

The Decision Theater Network Complex, large-scale problems require creative and coordinated action. The stronger the networks of data-based, collaborative approaches grow, the more powerful and targeted the solutions.

The integration between ASU Tempe Decision Theater and Washington D.C. serves as a model for other Decision Theater Network nodes around the world. As a partner of the Decision Theater Network, universities and organizations throughout the United States and the globe have the power to build and utilize similar or custom design capabilities for their unique purposes.





What if you could evaluate and see decision outcomes before making them?


Informed Decision Making

The Arizona State University (ASU) Decision Theater (DT) is a university resource supporting and enabling research activities through data visualization, predictive modeling, and expert multi discipline and stakeholder analytics.

Complex systems by their nature are multi-dimensional and cross domain boundaries. System problems cannot be easily understood or solved by looking at it through a single prism that does not consider consequences to all aspects of the problem. While research and practical knowledge on interrelated functions exists, it is often challenging to communicate contextualized relationships to non-expert audiences or decision or policy makers. DT applies an integrated, visualized, data, and mathematical model approach to portraying and analyzing the functions of a system, conducting predictive analysis, and communicating to leaders, practitioners and community members.

The creativity and innovation Decision Theater brings to each project elevates the possibilities, and brings ideas alive.” Dominique Roe-Sepowitz Associate Professor, ASU School of Social Work

From fundamental research to real-world application, ASU DT staff develops custom modeling and simulation tools with unique visualization capabilities to create a common understanding of complex problems. Clients are able to test theories and forecast the outcome of prospective decisions. The collaborative, immersive, and interactive environments created at ASU DT affords researchers and other organizations unparalleled abilities to make decisions in a range of disciplines and environments, often in timesensitive environments, that incorporate multiple streams of real-time information. Economic policy, health care delivery, emergency preparedness, and disaster response are just some examples of the large scale, dynamic systems where key decisions have long-term ramifications.

Unique Decision Theater Methodology What makes ASU DT different is how we uniquely combine project teams’ technical capabilities using team science and decision science strategies, with specific subject matter expertise to capture project objectives, requisite data, system requirements, and required design elements for each individual project. As depicted in Figure 1, we seek to understand complex problems (the first plane of Figure 1). We integrate newly created or utilize existing models and data databases to represent real world problems (Figure 1, second plane). We conduct data analytics to gain unique insights and perform predictive analytics. But to truly create understanding and informed decision makers, we go further. As depicted on the bottom plane of Figure 1, we visualize the integrated models and data in order to convene engagements of technical experts, stakeholders, and policy makers. Our goal is better decisions made by better, more informed decision makers.

Model Development & Use ASU DT analysts and modelers work directly with individual researchers and mulitple groups of stakeholders from project initiation to completion and beyond. The process is iterative and user-led, which results in targeted custom model design and development, followed by highly relevant and scalable visualizations. ASU DT delivers products directly to the endusers after complete evaluation and provides thorough training. ASU DT is committed to high-performance and facilitates individual sessions, demonstrations, and working group discussions across the life-time of model development.

In Collaboration with

Decision Theater Arizona

Decision Theater Washington, D.C.

21 E. 6th Street, Suite 126A Tempe, AZ 85281

1800 I Street NW Washington, D.C. 20006

Phone: 480-965-4098

Phone: 202-601-4293

® Produced by ASU Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. © 2020 Arizona Board of Regents. All rights reserved. 03/2020