Ralph L. Keeney

January 29, 1944

Brief Biography

Ralph L. Keeney is a Frederick W. Lanchester Prize and Saul Gass Expository Writing Award-winning author who has made significant contributions to the field of decision analysis. Keeney studied engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles prior to attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school. At MIT, he pursued degrees Electrical Engineering before receiving his PhD in operations research in 1969. While working on his graduate study, Keeney was a member of the Technical Staff at Bell Telephone Laboratories.

Keeney’s first postdoctoral position was as an Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at MIT. He remained at his alma mater for five years, spending the 1972-1973 academic year as an assistant professor for Boston University’s European Graduate Program in Heidelberg, West Germany. Keeney co-authored Analysis of Public Systems (1972) with MIT professors Alvin W. Drake and Philip M. Morse. In 1974, he left Massachusetts to join the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. In 1976, Keeney returned to the States to and became Vice President and Head of Decision Analysis at Woodward-Clyde Consultants.

That year, he and Howard Raiffa of the Harvard Business School co-authored Decisions with Multiple Objectives: Preference and Value Tradeoffs. The book was jointly awarded the Frederick W. Lanchester Prize for best publication in operations research that year. Decisions with Multiple Objectives was celebrated for establishing decision analysis as an approach for “normally intelligent people who want to think hard and systematically about some important real world problems.” Keeney and Raiffa collaborated again in 1999, publishing Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions with John S. Hammond.

In 1983, Keeney returned to academia and joined the University of South California as a Professor of Systems Management. In 1988, he published an article titled “Value-Focused Thinking And the Study of Values” that founded and named the area of value-focused thinking”. This area concerns identifying, structuring, quantifying, and using values in decision-making and in models to inform decision-making. Keeney’s 1992 book “Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decisionmaking” is the seminal work in this area.

In 1989, the Decision Analysis Society awarded him the Frank P. Ramsey medal in recognition of his distinguished contributions to the field. After fourteen years, Keeney switched to the university’s Center for Telecommunications Management. Between 1994 and 2012, Keeney received the Decision Analysis Publication Award on three separate occasions for Smart Choices (1999), Value-Focused Thinking (1992), and “Improving the generation of decision objectives”, a 2012 journal article published in Decision Analysis by Keeney, Samuel Bond, and Kurt Carlson.

Keeney left USC to join Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2002. It was then when he was named an inaugural Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. That same year, he and Raiffa were also named co-recipients of the Saul Gass Expository Writing Award. The selection committee celebrated the two men’s corpus of works, beginning with Decisions with Multiple Objectives, and the influence they've had in making decision science a recognized discipline within operations research and the management sciences. Keeney and Raiffa’s writings are well known for their clarity and organization, making arguments in an inviting style that is well suited to communicating the concepts of decision science to a wide audience.

Among his other awards and honors, Keeney is a Fellow of the Society of Decision Professionals, a recipient of the INFORMS President’s Award, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is currently Research Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at Duke and Research Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California.

Other Biographies

Duke University Fuqua School of Business. Ralph L. Keeney, Research Professor Emeritus: Bio. Accessed May 10, 2015. (link


University of California, Los Angeles, BS 1966

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SM 1967

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, EE 1968

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD 1969


Academic Affiliations
Non-Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

  • Multiple Criteria Decision Making
Application Areas

Oral Histories

Ralph L. Keeney (2018) Interview by Detlof Von Winterfeldt, November 4, 2018, Phoenix, AZ.

NOTE:  The video chapter transcripts below are searchable, with search results displayed as marks on the time bar above the search box.  Click a mark to jump to the search word or phrase in the video and transcript, or click on any word in the transcript to jump to that point in the video.

Jump to Chapters

Chapter 1: Early Life
Chapter 2: College at UCLA and Grad School at MIT
Chapter 3: Howard Raiffa, PhD Advisor
Chapter 4: First Academic Job
Chapter 5: IIASA and the Book Decisions with Multiple Objectives
Chapter 6: Woodward-Clyde Consultants
Chapter 7: Applying Decisions to A Personal Life
Chapter 8: From Consulting to USC
Chapter 9: More Decisions in a Personal Life
Chapter 10: Duke University
Chapter 11: Retrospective

Howard R. A., Keeney R. L., et al. (2014) Part One: The History. Presentation. 50 Years of Decision Analysis Conference. November 7. Decision Education Foundation. (video). 

Memoirs and Autobiographies


Ralph L. Keeney Curriculum Vitae

Awards and Honors

Frederick W. Lanchester Prize 1976

Frank P. Ramsey Medal 1989

Philp McCord Morse Lectureship 1993

Decision Analysis Publication Award 1994, 2001, 2012

National Academy of Engineering 1995

Society for Risk Analysis Fellow 1995

International Society for Multiple Criteria Decision Making Gold Medal 1998

Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences Fellow 2002

Saul Gass Expository Writing Award 2002

INFORMS President's Award 2009

Society of Decision Professionals Fellow 2010

Selected Publications

Drake A. W., Keeney R. L., & Morse P. M., eds. (1972) Analysis of Public Systems. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. 

Keeney R. L. & Raiffa H. (1976) Decisions with Multiple Objectives: Preference and Value Trade-Offs. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Keeney R. L. (1980) Sitting Energy Facilities. Academic Press: New York. 

Fischhoff B., Keeney R. L., Lichtenstein S., Slovic P., & Derby S. (1981) Acceptable Risk. Cambridge University Press: New York. 

Keeney R. L. (1982) Decision analysis: an overview. Operations Research, 30(5): 803-838.

Keeney R. L. (1992) Value-Focused Thinking: A Path to Creative Decsionmaking. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.  

Keeney R. L., Sebenius J. K., & Zeckhauser R., eds. (1996) Wise Choices: Games Decisions, and Negotiations. Harvard Business School Press: Boston, MA. 

Hammond J. S., Keeney R. L., Raiffa H. (1999) Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions. Harvard Business School Press: Boston, MA. 

Keeney R. L. (1999) The value of internet commerce to the customer. Management Science, 45(4): 533-542.

Bond S. D., Carlson K. A., & Keeney R. L. (2012) Improving the generation of decision objectives. Decision Analysis, 7(2): 238-255. 

Additional Resources

Freakonomics. Decision-Making Master Ralph Keeney Answers Your Questions. Published January 5, 2010. Accessed May 10, 2015. (link

Howard R. A. et al. (2014) Part Two: The Future. Presentation. 50 Years of Decision Analysis Conference. November 7. Decision Education Foundation. (video).