BeDMaSH: Behavioural and Decision Making Sciences in Healthcare GW4 Network

Initiator Fund

Project period: September 2015 – January 2016

GW4 community leads
University of Bath:
Dr Christos Vasilakis
University of Bristol: Professor Iain Gilchrist
Cardiff University: Professor Paul Harper
University of Exeter:
Professor Martin Pitt

Project outcomes

Health and social care systems across the world are faced with increasing demand and complexity in heath needs within constrained budgets. Designing and delivering prudent healthcare services and public health policy, to ensure resources are used to maximum effect, is a challenging yet vital task.

Healthcare systems are stochastic in nature; that is they typically operate in an environment of uncertainty and variability, both at scale and within highly complex and connected systems. Robust and evidenced-based decision-making is critical, as is the emerging research challenge to better understand and predict human behaviours and how these might be captured within healthcare decision support tools.

In the context of strategic and operational decision-making, systems modelling and simulation has been shown to play a key role. To date, however, modelling approaches often fail to do justice to the behavioural aspects of social systems central to public health and health service interventions. This entails understanding complex interactions and emergent properties rather than just linear cause/effect relationships. For example: peer influence and social networks affect public health policy; staff and patient behaviours and their complex dynamics affect health service policy and effective delivery.

Interactions and relations within a socially complex system thus determine many of the important outcomes. New methods are therefore required to understand these dynamics in order to better inform the design of more effective interventions and optimal health service configurations, as well as explore the cost-effectiveness of psychological versus physiological interventions.

This multidisciplinary network addresses these research challenges and has the potential to be globally at the forefront of research developments in this emerging interdisciplinary field by harnessing the existing complementary, internationally recognized research within GW4. A step-change in scholarly activity is anticipated by bringing together expertise from across Operational Research, Decision Sciences, Mathematics, Psychology, Sociology, Implementation Science, Organisational Studies and Public Health.

The Initiator Award funded three workshops:

1] Network launch. 62 delegates attended representing academia, NHS, Public Health and Government Interests. A series of lightning talks were followed by round-table discussions on emerging themes.


  • A database of BeDMaSH network members
  • A BeDMaSH website:
  • A YouTube playlist for the BeDMaSH lightning talks:
  • Outputs from the graphics facilitator:
  • Outputs from the round-table discussions:
  • Candidates for the Stage 2 residential sandpit
  • Agreed grand challenges to discuss at the sandpit

2] Residential Sandpit. 19 delegates attended with representation from all 4 GW4 partners.


  • Methodology – Identification of a need for a methods framework driven by the notion that individuals do not make decisions in isolation from other individuals and the environment; so a pivotal research question is how do the decisions made by individuals impact other individuals and, in turn, feed back into their own decisions? This will require the novel integration of agent-based simulation models and accumulator models into a single conceptual framework.
  • Implementation – Identification of a need to better understand how behavioural factors affect the conduct of, and interaction with, model-based processes that support problem solving and decision making.

3] Way Forward Event. Enabled the team to start work on plans for sustaining the work of this GW4 community.


  • Substantial external grant proposal being written for submission in the Autumn
  • Accelerator proposal being written
  • An additional collaborative proposal has been outlined for external funding concerning implementation of modelling approaches and behavioural decision-making processes.