Risk Analysis

The risk of intentional attacks from terrorism is fundamentally different from other types of hazards, like accidents or acts of nature, as intelligent and adaptable adversaries will change offensive strategies and adapt their tactics to bypass or circumvent defenses. Approaches to risk assessment and management that may work well in other contexts (e.g., protecting against accidents or acts of nature) can fail to correctly anticipate and quantify the risks from intelligent, adaptive adversaries. Therefore, a more effective approach is needed; methods for guiding resource allocations to defend against terrorism must explicitly take into account the intelligent and adaptive nature of the threat. The incomplete understanding of the motivating factors and payoffs to terrorists further complicates the analysis of terrorist threats, and these factors must be inferred in a data-poor environment and where direct access to terrorists is seldom possible. Our research team uses extensions of probabilistic risk analysis of engineered systems, game theory, and expert elicitation of risks and uncertainties to address this problem in all three contexts - terrorism, natural disasters, and man-made accidents.


Dr. Detlof von Winterfeldt is a Professor at the Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering of the Viterbi School of Engineering and a Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Price School of Public Policy at USC. In 2004 he co-founded the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), the first university-based Center of Excellence funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. Read More.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Dr. Richard John serves as the Associate Director for Research at CREATE, professor in the Department of Psychology at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at USC and as a Research Fellow at CREATE. His research focuses on normative and descriptive models of human judgment and decision making and methodological issues in application of decision and probabilistic risk analysis (PRA). Read More.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Dr. Robin Dillon-Merrill is a Professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and Area Coordinator for the Operations and Information Management Group. Professor Dillon-Merrill seeks to understand and explain how and why people make the decisions that they do under conditions of uncertainty and risk. Read More.


Dr. William Burns completed his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in Decision Science and subsequently held positions as a professor at the University of Iowa and UC Davis before moving to San Diego. He is currently a research scientist at Decision Research (Eugene, OR), an institute that focuses on judgment, decision making and risk perception, and is also associated with the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE at USC) where he has been named a CREATE Fellow and contributes to the risk assessment, risk perception and economic impact research. Read More.


Sample Papers

Dillon, R.L., Burns, W.J., John, R.S., 2018. Insights for Critical Alarm-Based Warning Systems from a Risk Analysis of Commercial Aviation Passenger Screening, Decision Analysis, 15(3): 133-194