Computer-Aided Decision Analysis: Theory and Applications

By Stuart S. Nagel | Go to book overview

8
Program Evaluation via Function-based Expert Systems

PAUL J. HOFFMAN

The term expert systems software sounds more esoteric and high-tech than it ought to be. In reality, the concept is simple. The objective is to create computer software that will enable users to emulate experts -- that is, to have the computer make decisions about alternatives in the same way that knowledgeable experts would make those decisions.

Perhaps the most familiar example of expert systems software is an airline reservation system. Enter a point of departure, a date, and a destination from the keyboard, and a good airline reservation system will display the flights that have seating available, along with their routes and type of service. A less familiar example is a system for the evaluation of research proposals. Select a proposal from the software's data files; then select a committee from the software's expert system directory. The proposal is automatically evaluated with respect to the standards and objectives of the committee and is immediately displayed to the user, ranked in relation to the other proposals on each of a number of key factors.

Program evaluation is exactly analogous to proposal evaluation. The only difference is that the "committee" whose expertise is available in the computer's files is in fact composed of stakeholders with different frames of reference and different levels of responsibility for decision making.

The origin of such systems is clearly with an expert or group of experts. For airline reservations, the group of experts are available to the software developers to help make decisions about routes and to assist in the formulation of algorithms. One such algorithm is availability (what number of extra passengers do you book when the space on a flight is 100 percent sold, on the expectation that a given number of the passengers will be no-shows?). For program evaluation, the knowledge and experience of the stakeholders

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