Multidisciplinary Uncertainty Management and Mitigation

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Doel vak

To understand the main principles of Multidisciplinary Uncertainty
handling and Mitigation, relevant for students in Earth Sciences. The
course includes some practical role-play examples by teams of students
each of whom may represent a single discipline. The course organisers
intend to select examples such that detailed knowledge of Subsurface is
not a prerequisite.
After the course, the student will
- have an understanding of types of uncertainty (know what you know,
know what you don’t know; don’t know what you know; don’t know what you
don’t know)
- Understand the difference between the statistical uncertainty of data
(or variability) and uncertainty of a prediction
- know about Bayes Rule; know about Biases; Motivational bias, anchoring
bias, confirmation bias, availability bias, cognitive biases (or
illusions), overconfidence
- know about (the role of) Serendipity
- have familiarized with examples of multidisciplinary projects with
unexpected outcome
- have familiarized with examples of (own) estimation errors
- have learned the importance of sharing uncertainties related to one’s
(discipline) results and
- have learned to overcome hesitation to discuss them
- have learned how to be prepared for unlikely scenario’s
- have worked a number of practical examples
Not incorporated in the course is geostatistical analysis (e.g.
variograms, kriging, sequential gaussian simulation).

Inhoud vak

Multidisciplinary Uncertainty Analysis is not generally covered in VU
University education programmes, although it is important in science and
business. Many fields of modern earth science activities require team
work by multidisciplinary teams. This course is expected to contribute
to your knowledge of uncertainty management when dealing with
multidisciplinary teams, inside as well as outside subsurface
resourcing activities.
Single discipline studies usually concentrate on the most likely
scenario within that discipline. In multidisciplinary projects, it is
not unusual that in one of the disciplines, a less likely scenario
occurs. It is essential that all contributors to a multidisciplinary
project are aware of each other’s “less likely” scenario’s and know how
to react if one materialises. Participants need to communicate what they
know and don’t know. This is not easy since there is a psychological
hurdle to make explicit what one does not know.
In Earth Sciences, too, you generally have to work with limited and
ambiguous data from different disciplines; for example, in subsurface
studies, deciding whether and where to drill a hole for oil or
geothermal energy; in studies designing a space mission to return
samples from Mars, dealing with data from geology, geophysics,
geochemistry and engineering. An evaluation carried out in a single
discipline may arrive at a very plausible conclusion from the
perspective of that discipline, which may, however, be very unlikely (or
even impossible) from the perspective of a different discipline. It is
therefore essential to work in multi-disciplinary teams with frequent
meetings in which the findings of discipline-specific work is openly
discussed and challenged. Only then is it possible to develop a
technically sound integrated model that is consistent with data and
findings from all disciplines, and that is as little biased as possible.
In cases when unexpected outcomes were encountered, “post mortem“
studies almost always demonstrated that this resulted from
under-appreciation of some data or information that was available, but
with which the evaluation study team had been less familiar.


A four-week “Multidisciplinary Uncertainty Handling & Mitigation” course
in 14 afternoons. The course consists of a series of lectures by guest
lecturers. There will be a major final Exercise which is done by teams
of students, under supervision.

The course will be built around a number of practical Geoscience related
examples. Course organizers try to focus the course around geothermal
projects that EBN is involved with. EBN have agreed to assist with data,
guest lectures and examples.
In addition, two afternooons have been scheduled for guest lectures from
non-geological disciplines. Course organizers intend to invite
representatives from the Medical, Economics or Environmental
disciplines. Possible subjects could be Patient diagnosis and Treatment,
the 2008 Economic Crisis, Planning and Outcome of the Noord-Zuid Metro


By the end of the course, students will present the results as a Team in
an oral presentation for a forum of experienced VU and external staff.
This presentation will be assessed to define the scoring. There will be
no written exam.

Vereiste voorkennis

Bachelor degree in Earth Sciences of Applied Earth Sciences (NL: VU, UU,
TUD), Applied Earth Sciences (NL: TUD), Future Planet Studies (NL: UvA),
Earth Sciences and Economics (NL: VU); or Permission of the Coordinator.


Handouts via Canvas. Reports and Literature, to be distributed.

Algemene informatie

Vakcode AM_1249
Studiepunten 6 EC
Periode P3
Vakniveau 400
Onderwijstaal Engels
Faculteit Faculteit der Bètawetenschappen
Vakcoördinator prof. dr. W. van Westrenen
Examinator dr. P.J.F. Verbeek

Praktische informatie

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Werkvormen Hoorcollege, Werkgroep

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