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Professor wins international prize for research on decision-making

Emeritus Professor Raimo P. Hämäläinen’s career celebrated with the 2019 Frank P. Ramsey Medal
Picture of Professor Raimo Hämäläinen
Emeritus Professor Raimo P. Hämäläinen

Professor Raimo P.  Hämäläinen has been awarded the 2019 Frank P. Ramsey Medal by the Decision Analysis Society (DAS) of INFORMS, the leading international association for professionals in operations research and analytics. The Ramsey medal is the highest award that the DAS can bestow upon its members, and recognizes the breadth and impact of professor Hämäläinen’s career. His research covers models for decision making ranging from negotiation support to pilot decision making and participatory multi-criteria methods for environmental policy.  He has collaborated for long with the Finnish Air Force and the Finnish Environment Agency.  As an emeritus he is actively continuing research in Aalto and in collaboration with international scholars.

‘When we are dealing with climate issues, the decisions we make need a strong factual basis but values need to be incorporated in the process as well, says Professor Hämäläinen. ‘I first got into this line of work in the 1980s when the parliament of Finland was debating the license of a nuclear powerplant. At the time the debate was quite confusing. With these kinds of decisions, you can fight over the data and you can fight over your values, and it is essential to keep these transparently separate. We took a decision-support approach to the parliament to help them with the decision. We were able to help them reach a point where they could say: “We agree on the final decision but we don’t have the same values,” which is very appealing for politicians!’

Professor Hämäläinen receiving his prize medal
Receiving the medal in Seattle

Founder of the Systems Analysis Laboratory

Professor Hämäläinen was appointed Professor of Applied Mathematics at Helsinki University of Technology (now part of Aalto University) in 1981. He established the Systems Analysis Laboratory in 1984. It has become an internationally recognized research unit and has had a strong national impact in educating operations research professionals for important positions in the Finnish industry and society.  Professor Hämäläinen has a high number of citations for his over 200 publications, and has supervised over 40 doctoral graduates. In 2017 he was also appointed an Honorary Visiting Professor in the Loughborough University, UK.

The Ramsey medal was awarded on 21 October at the INFORMS conference attended by six thousand operations research scholars in Seattle. The conference is an opportunity for the global operations research community to come together to discuss their current research, and they will also be taking time to celebrate Professor Hämäläinen’s distinguished work for the past three decades.

New research area - Behavioural Operations Research

‘My most recent research interests focus on people. I am collaborating with Professor Esa Saarinen in Aalto in developing the concept of Systems Intelligence. The discipline of operations research is about problem solving and there the human component is also essential. We coined the term and defined a new research area Behavioural Operations Research in 2013 and subsequently this has emerged as a very active new field internationally. We need to acknowledge that we modelers as well as any other people have multiple cognitive biases. Psychologists are always finding more but we in operations research are trying to come up with ways to mitigate the effects of biases in decision making,’ said Professor Hämäläinen.

Professor Jason Merrick, the chair of the medal award committee said in the statement announcing the prize “Dr. Hämäläinen has an outstanding record as a scholar, focusing on multicriteria decision analysis and related behavioral issues, and as an academic leader of several groups in Finland and Europe.”

‘People´s values  need to be represented in decisions’

Whilst the prize is a celebration of past work, Professor Hämäläinen is still looking to the future, where he sees important questions over the prominence of Artificial Intelligence in decision making. ‘There is a little bit of a blindness going on with respect to AI – it is seen as a magical silver bullet that solves everything. AI can learn by crunching numbers, but decision-making takes numbers and works with people. People´s goals and values also need to be represented in the decision being made”

Professor Hämäläinen has already won honors in Finland and globally. He was invited a member of the Finnish Academy of Technology in 1985 and was named Honorary President of the Finnish Operations Research Society in 2008 for his contributions in developing the field of Operations Research in Finland. He also won the MCDM Edgeworth-Pareto Award, the highest award for career contributions from the International Society on Multiple Criteria Decision Making, which has subsequently also been awarded  this year to his former student today another Aalto university Professor, Ahti Salo.

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