Decision-making under uncertainty: be aware of your priorities

Huma Samin*, Nelly Bencomo, Peter Sawyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-adaptive systems (SASs) are increasingly leveraging autonomy in their decision-making to manage uncertainty in their operating environments. A key problem with SASs is ensuring their requirements remain satisfied as they adapt. The trade-off analysis of the non-functional requirements (NFRs) is key to establish balance among them. Further, when performing the trade-offs it is necessary to know the importance of each NFR to be able to resolve conflicts among them. Such trade-off analyses are often built upon optimisation methods, including decision analysis and utility theory. A problem with these techniques is that they use a single-scalar utility value to represent the overall combined priority for all the NFRs. However, this combined scalar priority value may hide information about the impacts of the environmental contexts on the individual NFRs’ priorities, which may change over time. Hence, there is a need for support for runtime, autonomous reasoning about the separate priority values for each NFR, while using the knowledge acquired based on evidence collected. In this paper, we propose Pri-AwaRE, a self-adaptive architecture that makes use of Multi-Reward Partially Observable Markov Decision Process (MR-POMDP) to perform decision-making for SASs while offering awareness of NFRs’ priorities. MR-POMDP is used as a priority-aware runtime specification model to support runtime reasoning and autonomous tuning of the distinct priority values of NFRs using a vector-valued reward function. We also evaluate the usefulness of our Pri-AwaRE approach by applying it to two substantial example applications from the networking and IoT domains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2213-2242
JournalSoftware and Systems Modeling
Issue number6
Early online date25 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Funding: EPSRC Research Project Twenty20Insight (EP/T017627/1); Leverhulme Trust Fellowship (RF-2019-548/9)


  • Decision-making
  • Non-functional requirements
  • Priorities
  • Self-Adaptive systems


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