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Compendium helps Personnel Recovery team make sense of complex political scenario

Simon Buckingham Shum, Tuesday 07 December 2004 | Annotate
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Compendium's most recent application has been in assisting the 'planning cells' who rescue isolated personnel in conflict situations. The Compendium visual modelling tool is designed to bring together diverse perspectives and arguments to support real time collaborative sensemaking. In personnel recovery, Compendium has been trialled as a next generation tool for assessing the political, economic and social impacts that personnel recovery measures may have. We are, sadly, becoming all too familiar with news from conflict zones around the world, reporting the taking of both civilian hostages and servicemen and women. The Personnel Recovery agencies in different countries are responsible for deciding what to do in such situations. In today's world, it hardly needs emphasising that actions taken by one country within another can have complex political effects, which may even exacerbate the situation. A critical issue for Personnel Recovery research is to investigate tools which can help assess the 'messy impacts' of candidate courses of action. In a collaborative project led by Prof. Austin Tate of Edinburgh University's Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute, and Simon Buckingham Shum in KMi (with Clara Mancini & Al Selvin), a prototype system was developed to demonstrate the capabilities of combined human+AI sensemaking. The Co-OPR project (Collaborative Operations for Personnel Rescue) built on the success of the e-Science CoAKTinG project, integrating AIAI's I-X issue-based planning system, with KMi's Compendium issue-based hypermedia mapping tool. In a 6 month project culminating in a week-long experiment in Virginia, Co-OPR and several other tools were deployed in a rich personnel rescue scenario specifying political, historical, geographical and resource constraints. Commanders, ambassadors, political analysts and other stakeholders role-played the chain of command from US Secretary of State down. Compendium was used as the personnel rescue planning cell's primary working information visualization, capturing the issues, options and arguments in real time, linking them together through a set of custom designed templates to support a crisis action planning methodology, and shared via a collaboration environment. Feedback from an external evaluation consultancy who were brought in to assess the impact of the tools, confirmed that Co-OPR was highly rated, with potential for further development. Full results of the Co-OPR project are on the website.

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