SYST 473:  Decision and Risk Analysis

Spring 2006


Course Overview

Systems Engineering and Operations Research

George Mason University


Instructor:                                             Dr. Rajesh Ganesan


Office:                                                    Science and Tech II, Room 323


Phone:                                                    (703) 993-1693 (O)




Office Hours:                                        2:00-3:00 PM, TR


Text:                                                      Making Hard Decisions, by Clemson and Reilly Duxbury Publishers


                                                               Logical Decisions Software


TA:                                                         Poornima Balakrishna



TA Office Hours                                   Wed. 1:30 - 2:30 Central Module Room # 15


Class Hours                                           Tue & Thu, 3 – 4:15 PM, Innovations Hall 136

Description: The intent of this course is to provide a modern perspective on analytical methodologies to support decision making.  Decision analysis offers a set of structured procedures that assist decision-makers in structuring decision problems and developing creative decision options, quantifying their uncertainty (this includes combining available statistics with expert judgments, and their own beliefs to arrive at estimates of the probabilities of various outcomes),  quantifying their preferences (this includes structuring their value tradeoffs and examining their attitude towards risk), combining their uncertainty and preferences to arrive at “good” decisions. This course provides an introductory treatment of decision analysis. The intended participants are students who want to learn more about decision making under uncertainty and tools that can be used to support it. 

Topic                                                                              Reading Assignment*


Introduction                                                                     Read Chapt. 1-2


Topic                                                                              Reading Assignment*


Introduction and Review of Probability                             Read Chapt.7-8-9


Influence Diagrams                                                          Reae Chapt. 3-4


Value Focused Thinking, Value Hierarchies                      Read Chapts. 6


Value Functions and Weight Elicitation     Read Chapt. 12


Sensitivity Analysis                                                           Read Chapt. 5


Utility Functions                                                               Read Chapt. 13-14


Bayesian Networks                                                         Read Handout


* Homework sets will be assigned on a weekly basis from appropriate problems in the textbook and on handouts.


Class Rules


1.  The book for this course is a basic text for a broad coverage of Decision Analysis.  It emphasizes problem solution using Excel.  The class presentation will often depart from the book in order to give you multiple perspectives on the covered topics.  You should read the applicable sections of the book prior to class. 


2.       Grades will be determined as follows:

                                 Class & Homework                                  10%

                                 Midterm                                                   30% (March 9th)

                                 Projects                                                   30%

                                 Final Exam                                               30%


Letter grades will be decided as follows: 

97% and above –A+, 94-96%- A, 90-93% -A-, 86-89- B+, 83-85%-B, 80-82%-B-,  76-79%- C+, 73-75%- C, 70-72%-C-, 66-69%-D+, 63-65%-D, 60-62%-D-, at or below 59%-F


3.  In any work you do, always show all the steps you used to get your answer.  If the answer is wrong, you may still get a great deal of partial credit if I can follow your logic.  This is especially important in the exam.


4.  Some of the lectures will be overhead presentations.  Previous classes have found it useful to have copies of the overheads during class for their use.  I am in the process of developing a web page for the class.  They will be available, along with other material, there.  The website is


5.  There will be homework problem sets just about every class.  These will be collected each week.  I will not grade them in detail, but I will keep track of students that do not hand them in.  I will also use them to gain insight into the understanding of the students.  Invest the time to do the problem sets.  You will have a hard time with the exam material if you cannot do the homework.

Each HW is out of 20 points. Late HW policy: (Late by 1 class: you can earn a max of 10 points out of 20, provided you have all correct answers. If late beyond 1 class then it will not be graded)


6.  There will be a project where you will perform a decision analysis.  The project will include both a written report and an oral presentation.  We will have an “in progress review” around the midterm where the groups will brief the problem statement and proposed approach.  The project presentations will be at the end of the semester.


7.  I am interested in your comments on the class as the term goes on.  Is it too hard or too easy?  Is it too fast or too slow?  How much time are you spending on homework?  Anything that will make the class better and more meaningful will be entertained.  Your advice may not be totally accepted, but your feedback will be much appreciated.


8.  Attendance in class is very important.  Information will be presented that will not necessarily be in the book that will show up on the midterm and final. 


9.  We will make use of the decision analysis software Logical Decisions for Windows.  This is a student copy that has a nominal time out after a year.  I have been told that software vendor will extend the time out if you ask. 

“Logical decisions for Windows - Version 5.1” This can be bought from

 for $65 (Student version). The bookstore does not carry a copy of this software.


10. Academic Policy:


All academic policies as given in the Honor System and code will be strictly followed. Visit URL


11. Exams will only be given at the predetermined dates. Early or late exam taking will not be allowed, except for very special cases.


12. Please visit to check for announcements, Hw problems, and solutions.


13. Please turn off your cell phones before class and do not use your cell phone during lecture. Feel free to walk out without distracting the class as and when needed.




Identification: all material handed in must have the following information in the UPPER  RIGHT -HAND CORNER; Name, last 4 digits of G #. Multiple pages MUST be stapled. Otherwise pages may get lost and the instructor and TA’s will not be responsible.