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Translating Science into Policy
The Role of Decision Science
An Educational Module

Paul Brest
Former Dean and Professor Emeritus (active)
Stanford Law School


Decision Science

The materials in this module are mainly prescriptive, focusing on how to make good decisions. But they also include examples of the systematic ways that people make poor decisions— usually a consequence of decision makers’ overconfidence in their judgment or in errors in perceiving risks. The prescriptive materials, drawn from statistics and economics, introduce some basic techniques of “decision science.”

The module has been developed for use in a short stand-alone seminar or as an adjunct to a course or seminar that studies the policy implications of various natural science, social science, and health disciplines.

The module: 1) surveys the meanings of utility; 2) examines decision making in conditions where risk is not an issue; 3) examines decision making in conditions where risk is an issue because the likelihood of success is not assured; and 4) examines errors and biases that can affect the decision-making processes.   

NOTE: The current version of the module is a January 2017 revision of the module originally published in June 2016.  The current versions of the Instructor's Guide and Ancillary Materials are April 2017 revisions of the materials originally published in June 2016.

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