Where next for PSMs - a grass-roots revolution?

Mark Westcombe*, L. Alberto Franco, Duncan A. Shaw

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last 30 years, the field of problem structuring methods (PSMs) has been pioneered by a handful of 'gurus'—the most visible of whom have contributed other viewpoints to this special issue. As this generation slowly retires, it is opportune to survey the field and their legacy. We focus on the progress the community has made up to 2000, as work that started afterwards is ongoing and its impact on the field will probably only become apparent in 5–10 years time. We believe that up to 2000, research into PSMs was stagnating. We believe that this was partly due to a lack of new researchers penetrating what we call the 'grass-roots community'—the community which takes an active role in developing the theory and application of problem structuring. Evidence for this stagnation (or lack of development) is that, in 2000, many PSMs still relied heavily on the same basic methods proposed by the originators nearly 30 years earlier—perhaps only supporting those methods with computer software as a sign of development. Furthermore, no new methods had been integrated into the literature which suggests that revolutionary development, at least by academics, has stalled. We are pleased to suggest that from papers in this double special issue on PSMs this trend seems over because new authors report new PSMs and extend existing PSMs in new directions. Despite these recent developments of the methods, it is important to examine why this apparent stagnation took place. In the following sections, we identify and elaborate a number of reasons for it. We also consider the trends, challenges and opportunities that the PSM community will continue to face. Our aim is to evaluate the pre-2000 PSM community to encourage its revolutionary development post-2006 and offer directions for the long term sustainability of the field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)776-778
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of the Operational Research Society
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2006


  • problem structuring methods
  • PSMs
  • problem structuring
  • stagnation


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