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Generating scenario trees for multi-stage decision problems

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>02/2001
<mark>Journal</mark>Management Science
Issue number2
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)295-307
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In models of decision making under uncertainty we often are faced with the problem of representing the uncertainties in a form suitable for quantitative models. If the uncertainties are expressed in terms of multivariate continuous distributions, or a discrete distribution with far too many outcomes, we normally face two possibilities: either creating a decision model with internal sampling, or trying to find a simple discrete approximation of the given distribution that serves as input to the model. This paper presents a method based on nonlinear programming that can be used to generate a limited number of discrete outcomes that satisfy specified statistical properties. Users are free to specify any statistical properties they find relevant, and the method can handle inconsistencies in the specifications. The basic idea is to minimize some measure of distance between the statistical properties of the generated outcomes and the specified properties. We illustrate the method by single- and multiple-period problems. The results are encouraging in that a limited number of generated outcomes indeed have statistical properties that are close to or equal to the specifications. We discuss how to verify that the relevant statistical properties are captured in these specifications, and argue that what are the relevant properties, will be problem dependent.