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New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis

Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis, published by the RAND Pardee Center, demonstrates a quantitative approach to making practical and powerful inquiries about the long-term implications of today’s actions. This approach combines some of the best features of narrative scenario analysis with quantitative decision methods that have been developed and applied at RAND for more than five decades.

Authors Robert J. Lempert, Steven W. Popper, and Steven C. Bankes, all senior analysts at the RAND Corporation, reject the time-honored but unanswerable question, “What will the future bring?” Instead they pose a more pragmatic but no less intriguing one: “How can decision makers identify near-term actions that will produce desirable long-term outcomes?”

The authors demonstrate how new robust decision methods, enabled by the advanced capabilities of modern computers, permit systematic examination of a vast number of plausible futures and identify near-term strategies that perform well across a full range of possibilities. The result is a powerful and systematic analytic enhancement of the human capacity for examining the future.

The authors propose four key elements for successful long-term policy analysis (LTPA):

  • Consider large ensembles (hundreds of millions) of scenarios.
  • Seek robust, not optimal, strategies.
  • Achieve robustness with adaptivity.
  • Design analysis for interactive exploration of the multiplicity of plausible futures.

Focusing on the problem of sustainable development in the 21st century, they discuss ways in which new quantitative methods can be applied to real-world cases of LTPA and to a wide range of other challenges involving decisionmaking under conditions of deep uncertainty.


  • Summary
  • The Challenge of Long-Term Policy Analysis
  • A History of Thinking About the Future
  • Robust Decisionmaking
  • A Framework for Scenario Generation
  • Implementing Robust Decisionmaking
  • Policy-Relevant Long-Term Policy Analysis
  • Conclusion: Moving Past Familiar Shores
  • Appendix


RAND | Monograph/Reports | Shaping the Next One Hundred Years: New Methods for Quantitative, Long-Term Policy Analysis