Systems/operational research and sustainable development: Towards a new agenda

Midgley, Gerald and Reynolds, Martin (2004). Systems/operational research and sustainable development: Towards a new agenda. Sustainable Development, 12(1) pp. 56–64.



Operational research (OR) and environmental planning for sustainable development share three characteristics: first, both have wide boundaries in terms of clientele, range of methodological approaches used, and attention to multiple (and often conflicting) values; second, both traditions have an interest in fostering interdisciplinarity; third, both traditions are concerned with the implementation, as well as the design, of planning strategies. In a literature review and interviews with stakeholders associated with both traditions, three generic issues were found to recur: complexity and uncertainty (regarding the unpredictability of natural and social phenomena); multiple and often conflicting values (of those involved in environmental planning); and political effects (on those not involved in planning processes, including non-human nature). This paper reveals a pattern of how these generic issues are perceived in the public, business and voluntary sectors, and explains how, through a series of workshops and a mini-conference, three interrelated agendas for future action by systems/OR practitioners took shape.

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