6th International Conference on Decision Economics (DECON'24)
Assuming human rationality in decisionmaking: An understanding of the normative bedrock of [standard] economics^{*}
“Even if utilities look very unnumerical today, the history of the experience of the theory of heat may repeat itself, as it happened, though in different forms and ways, for the theory of light, colours, and radio waves.” [von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944, p. 17].
The year 2024 marks eighty years since the publication of von Neumann and Morgenstern’s [1944] seminal work “Theory of Games and Economic Behavior”. Since its inception in 1944, this work has been highly influential not only for being the boldest and methodical attempt to address the subject upon which modern game theory is based, but also for representing the first systematic application of formalised game theory to the social sciences. In the work, among other things, the two authors introduce the concept of stable sets and separate cooperative games from noncooperative ones. Nevertheless, when faced with the problem of solving variablesum games, they adopt the line that the solution space of such games effectively reduces to a negotiated solution and thus can be solved as coalition games via the concept of stable sets. The discussion is supplemented by mathematics underpinned by selfishmaximising rationality and complete information assumptions, which align with the 'economistic' paradigm and the related axiomatisation of formal systems.
This brings us to the nub of the matter: By analysing games played by perfectly rational and fully informed decisionmakers, especially in the fields of economic relations and social organisation, von Neumann and Morgenstern’s [1944] seminal work also suggests the possibility of applying game theory on a large scale to address problems inherent to economic strategies and—increasingly and more soundly—to the framework of organisational, social, political, military, and environmental issues. Hence the idea of including this mathematical theory in various research projects and degree course syllabi gives rise to fruitful contamination between ideas belonging not only to different disciplines but even to three disciplinary fields, such as the formal sciences, the social and cognitive sciences.
Therefore, in addition to being relevant to contemporary game theory, the diverse nature [and complexity] of that seminal work is generally understood to go well beyond the mathematics of rational decisionmaking by interacting individuals. Aside from providing a much deeper theoretical understanding of expected utility theory, this understanding expands the academic scope beyond that of mathematicians and encompasses multiple fields of inquiry, making it a more comprehensive body of knowledge. From this perspective, it is appropriate to look back on von Neumann and Morgenstern’s [1944] work and reflect critically and insightfully on what it meant, particularly its implications for the social and cognitive sciences, how it developed, and where we are today, recalling two of its key points here: The adoption of individual decisions as the starting point of economic research and the underlying [or rather overlying] role of human rationality in framing decision processes.
There appears to be wide recognition that, building on that work, advanced research in economics—and related areas—began to involve decision analysis, which soon shifted from parametric studies to strategic analysis. With the former, roughly speaking, the economic agent takes prices as given when making decisions, without any concern for the pricedetermining behaviour of other agents; with the latter, the agent takes into account the predictable reactions of others to her choices. This being the case, the assumptions and beliefs that shape the concept of rationality underlying economic behaviour allow the field of possible decisions to be narrowed down while constituting the strengths and weaknesses of the related theoretical framework. Yes, it is widely known that the book by von Neumann and Morgenstern [1944] is presented based upon an axiomatic structure comprised of postulates articulating the standard economic model of rational choice in decisionmaking, considering the preferences of each individual for any possible event, and assuming that the probabilities of the events are given. Once the axioms have been formulated—the main one being the postulate of rationality, understood as the lack of contradictions—the cornerstone of standard economic theory can be traced back to a set of logically necessary relations of mere deductive procedures that would characterise human behaviour.
Interestingly enough, the two authors’ seminal work, to which this Call refers, also allows their view of utility as an objectively measurable natural phenomenon to emerge. The work also assumes that a single probability measure is defined for all events while preferring the frequentist theory of probability to the subjective one. This view seems to align with the preParetian marginalist methodological approach to such an extent that “[e]ven if utilities look very unnumerical today, the history of the experience of the theory of heat may repeat itself, as it happened, though in different forms and ways, for the theory of light, colours and radio waves.” [von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944, p. 17, brackets added]. In any case, the two authors argue that probability and preference can be axiomatised together, focusing thereby on probabilistic risk instead of dealing with uncertainty. Savage [1954], afterwards, while synthesising the ideas of Ramsey [1931], de Finetti [1930, 1931, 1937] and von Neumann and Morgenstern [1944], introduces a novel analytical framework and conditions that are necessary and sufficient for the existence and joint uniqueness of utility and probability, and the characterisation of individual choice as expected utilitymaximising behaviour [i.e., a subjective approach to probability in a model of expected utilities à la von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944].
All in all, unlike the earlier marginalist tradition, von Neumann and Morgenstern’s unprecedented approach to decisionmaking concerns game theory and expected utility. This approach broadens the traditional economic focus on the problem of choice when dealing with scarce resources since each choice can lead to multiple outcomes, each with different probabilities. When making a decision, indeed, an economic [neoclassical] agent can calculate the expected utility of each available option by weighing the utility of each possible outcome by its probability. To analyse the expected utility, therefore, the two authors introduce a system of postulates that, in essence, correspond to the completeness, continuity, and transitivity of both preferences and the probabilities attributed to various choices. Furthermore, each preference relationship is considered independent from all other events; in other words, external effects are neglected. Thus, both utility and probability are considered measurable, that is, enumerable. The overarching set of axioms ensures that probability and utility—hence, expected utility—reflect the properties of mathematical expectations. Consequently, by assuming that economic agents have complete information, one can specify their choices [i.e., the system’s solutions] corresponding to rational behaviours or, better, to behaviours that [globally] maximise their expected utility.
Upon closer inspection, von Neumann and Morgenstern’s analysis contains a controversial aspect related to the concept of rationality, which can be understood in a descriptive and normative manner. The paradoxes raised by Allais [1953] and Ellsberg [1961], as well as other authors, make us question the descriptive validity of this concept. However, it could be argued that even its normative framework may also increase scepticism and give rise to criticism. In this wake, Savage’s Foundations of Statistics [1954] represents a significant contribution that builds on and advances the work of von Neumann and Morgenstern [1944]. The Foundations are widely regarded as the basis of modern inferential statistics and determine a crucial shift in the conceptual underpinnings of expected utility theory. Much debate surrounds the socalled "surething principle" axiom, which Savage used for his theory. According to this axiom, the choice between two options [i.e., alternatives] should not be affected by features that have the same value in both options. The Ellsberg [1961] paradox challenges this axiom by contradicting it. This contradiction has paved the way for a more comprehensive theory, providing valuable insights into the diverse aspects of probability, in which the probability measure need not be additive.
Because of the axiomatic focus on rationality, economic agents are allowed to derive the ordinal utility functions from their order of preferences. This way of proceeding has been dominating the marginalist approach to economic studies since Pareto’s works [1897, 1906, and 1911]. Rational behaviour is then assumed as the agent’s choice between alternative options. This choice maximises a specific objective function or, echoing von Neumann and Morgenstern [1944], the value of her expected utility. This would be true even if we claimed or aspired to broaden the field of economics to include the most diverse social phenomena [as advocated by Becker and Nashat, 1997], from micro to macro scales, realworld issues affecting everyday life: As posited by von Neumann and Morgenstern’s formal analysis, humans would be constantly faced with maximisation constraints characterised by a singledimensional utility function which determines preferences for their actions. Yet still, numerous doubts and controversies have arisen from various research streams—and continue to arise—regarding this conceptualisation of rational [selfreferential] behaviour and the standard generalisation that flows into the construction of the homo œconomicus. Among these streams, experimental and computational methodologies stand out, both conducted through various operational methods, deductively and inductively. Also noteworthy is the interdisciplinary research on the border between economics and neurobiology adopting the rejection of the postulate of perfect rationality as a point of departure. It might remain relatively open to attribute a normative significance to the standard theory supported by a sort of Olympian rationality [Simon, 1983] to be equipped with, against which agents’ actual behaviour might be viewed as a divergence from it, even if systematic and inherent to human nature.
It is important to note that upon closer examination of these research streams, it can be suggested that the paradoxes do not necessarily demonstrate the irrational nature of human behaviour. Rather, they reveal that economic agents operate within a more complex context and evolutionary pattern than those assumed by expected utility theory, particularly in two critical aspects. Firstly, agents work under conditions of uncertainty, which is not of a probabilistic kind but of Keynesiantype uncertainty. Precisely, this type of uncertainty corresponds to a limited knowledge of the situation at hand. Keynes believed that when it is possible to give a more or less precise evaluation of expected probability, it should be integrated with another element, the degree of confidence we can have in our probability estimate. This research line is characterised by bounded rationality and satisficing behaviour, as proposed by Simon [1947, 1955, 1959]. Secondly, agents are not driven by a single motivation but by an intricate set of beliefs, passions, and interests, as the Enlightenment tradition emphasises. These motivations may be contradictory, vary over time, and are socially conditioned by social norms and relations. This contrasts with the solipsism adopted by the marginalist tradition, which is consistent with its methodological individualism and the subsequent [neoclassical] hypotheses to which it gave rise.
The argument that economic agents’ behaviour does not comply with the precepts of such rationality, as represented in the expected utility paradigm, sets the groundwork for interdisciplinary research, especially between economics, constructive mathematics, and cognitive sciences, focused on the distinctive characteristics of human behaviour and the logic of discovery (Simon, 1973; Langley et al., 1987; Velupillai, 2005). Both classical and modern behavioural economics give rise to this kind of interdisciplinary work by identifying, among other things, stylised facts that characterise research into judgment, choices, and human decisions while using them to build interpretative models of constructive and computable analysis.
The controversies following the 1944 book by von Neumann and Morgenstern mainly revolve around the conceptualisation of the rationality assumption that underlies the axioms of expected utility theory: rationality understood with a descriptive rather than normative emphasis. Arguably, these controversies are sharper in the study of human decisionmaking than in any other field of inquiry. Not surprisingly, in all their variations and formulations, utility theories, notoriously, along with the [unrealistic] assumptions to which they give rise in standard economics modelling, presuppose that humans are concerned with both stocks and flows of knowledge systematically, a wellorganised and stable structure of preferences, and an excellent ability to compute utility values for all possible paths of action that are available to them. Although a certain academic belief regarding research methodology maintains that scientific disciplines do not have the purpose of explaining the functioning of the real world, the same authors—von Neumann and Morgenstern and similarly also Savage—considered their axioms to be both an abstract but realistic explanation of human economic behaviour and a standard for the adoption of rational decisions. Arrow [1951] also supports this idea [for an accurate reconstruction of these controversies, see Heukelom, 2014]. As with other research milestones, the work "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" continues today to arouse keen interest but also a healthy scepticism, raising numerous doubts and questions, which makes the 'game' of academic discourse much more enjoyable, allowing research to progress and embrace greater representativeness and greater reliability of the results. Therefore, the eightieth anniversary of that work represents an opportunity to reassess its significance to economics, mathematics, statistics, philosophy, finance, ethics, cognitive sciences, and other fields. In addition, it presents an opportunity to evaluate what remains of it over eight decades of intellectual development.
The above and some broader questions and issues about the intellectual forces operating in the development of scientific thought will be examined in the course of the Conference together with the founding topics of DECON. This year, too, the challenge is undoubtedly both theoretical and paradigmatic but also rigorously methodological, empirically, and experimentally grounded. It applies to all aspects of the interdisciplinary methodological approach that stems from the work of von Neumann and Morgenstern [1944]. This approach concerns several fields of science, starting with mathematics, statistics, economics, and social structures while spilling over into other research fields. Papers in the 2024 edition of Decision Economics are encouraged to support more interdisciplinary work accordingly.
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^{*} Given the topicality of the subject, several verbs included in this Call are intentionally conjugated in the historical present.
Topics
 The notion of measurement in utility theory, psychology, mathematics, and other areas of research.
 Generative models for human decisionmaking in behavioural economics and cognitive sciences.
 Asif behavioural economics and the bicycle repair shop: Neoclassical economics in disguise.
 Routinely violating Savage’s Sure Thing Principle, that is, violating the law of total probability.
 Treating the decision making agent’s mental state as a quantum state in Hilbert space.
 Fall between two stools: Perspective on contemporary game theory as a metatheory.
 Heuristics of discovery: Datadriven versus tooldriven in computable and experimental methods.
 Brouwerian constructivism as the appropriate approach to mathematical modelling in economics.
 Beyond the veil of theory: Normative vs. descriptive and optimising vs. nonoptimising approaches.
 Look before you leap into Savage’s small world vs. large worlds of scientific discovery and macroeconomic enterprise.
 Choice under uncertainty, problems solved and unsolved: Should a rational agent maximise expected utility?
 On the inadequacy of game theory for the solution of realworld collective action problems.
 The architecture of economic theory: Towards an evolutionary, processive conception of rationality.
 Ecological rationality vs. internal consistency: Growing adherence to irrational consistencies.
 Matching between a heuristic and the information structure in a particular environment.
 De gustibus non est explanandum: Preference formation and the role of social norms.
 How rationality and risk aversion change the rationale for discounting and choice of discount rate.
 Rational choice and the framing of decision structuring: When rationality fails.
 Decisional procedures: individual preference rankings vs. social ranking of preferences.
 The elegance of the hedgehog: Normativity, probability, and metavagueness.
 Normative treatment of expected utility: A goal achieved or a still open challenge?
 The emergence of bluff in pokerlike games and real life: Economicsrelated computing and decisionmaking.
 Game theory: Recent breakthroughs in AI for multiagent systems and their applications.
 Interplays between economics, mathematics, and computer science: Studying heuristically complex societies.
 Organisational behaviour and human decision processes: The humanproblem solving research.
 Autonomous agents and multiagent systems: Multiagent deep reinforcement learning.
 Talk is cheap: How private information is shared through market and other mechanisms.
 Decisionmaking in uncertain times: What can decision sciences say about or learn from economic crises?
 Controlling uncertainty in multistep decision scenarios: Human behaviour in complex dynamic environments.
 Invariants of human behaviour: Heuristic decisionmaking and learning strategies.
 Cognitive approaches to rationality: Instrumental rationality or capacity to choose?
 Neurocomputational models of social decisionmaking and learning: Where do we stand?
 Multiobjective optimum design methods and multicriteria decisionmaking methods.
 Players’ beliefs: Investigating coordination mechanisms in cooperative and noncooperative games.
 The role of leadership in team production and other managerial dilemmas: Political leadership in hierarchies.
 Normgenerating structures: An alternative approach to the generation and maintenance of norms.
 Cooperation and rationality: Notes on the collective action problem and its solutions.
 Simon’s behavioural model of rational choice: Incorporating bounded rationality in economic models.
 Rational recipes in action for a society composed predominantly of shortsighted and selfish individuals.
 Normatively understood rationality: On what grounds do we distinguish acceptable degrees of stability?
 Rational recipes under the sustainability eye: Trajectories in the current global challenges.
 Interlinking cognitive psychology, economics, and computer science: An appraisal.
 Heuristic decisionmaking in the ESG context: Bringing together simple rules and datadriven mathematics.
 Cognitive building blocks: Theories of decision making for basic claims underlying economic analysis of law.
 Search vs. omniscience: Aspiration level theories and fast and frugal heuristics.
 Multiobjective programming and its application in quantitative social and cognitive sciences.
 Resolving intergenerational conflicts over the environment according to rational choice view: Myth or reality?
 Representing the distribution of wealth: From standard analyses to cognitive studies.
 Novel scholarly journeys departing from standard economics: A oneway ticket.
 Examining alternative frameworks characterised by unmanageable degrees of complexity.
 Preference structure in data analysis and multiple objective linear programming.
 A fundamentally uncertain reallife: From rational choice theory to evolutionary patterns of change.
 When decisionmaking is decentralised: Timeconstraint and availability of information in decision processes.
 Games of partial information revolving around the concept of equilibrium.
 Evolutionary game theory versus inclusive ﬁtness theory: Modelling behavioural evolution.
 Efficiency considerations or sufficiency aspects and social welfare functions: A fairytale ending?
 Expert systems with applications: Multiobjective optimisation problems.
 Modelling approaches to welfare economics, social choice theory, and theory of justice.
 Conceptualising and measuring wellbeing using statistical semantics and numerical rating scales.
 Which rationality exists in the landscape of global climate governance and fiscal balance?
 Cognitive predicates of personal taste as linguistic devices used to convey perspectival information.
 Failing of the efficient market hypothesis because of homothetic properties and the market “memory”.
 Ranking of transitions as a psychologically plausible and scientifically legitimate way of preserving decreasing marginal utility vs. ranking as empirically unverifiable and superfluous to demand theory.
 Equilibrium as a distribution of strategies? Setting evolutionary stable strategies in a metamodelling context.
 Multiattribute decisionmaking methods: Alternative objectives and solutions, and composite scores.
 Metaheuristic multiobjective search approaches: Gait generation and metaheuristic algorithms.
 Failing of ideas surrounding the risk of financial operations within the randomness of market fluctuations and the normal distribution of returns.
 Economic policy views: Rational vs. adaptive expectations, rational vs. irrational beliefs in a complex world.
 Analysing decisionmaking in process control: Multidisciplinary approaches to understanding human performance in complex tasks.
 Business model dynamics and change management: Cause and rationale of business decisions.
 What economists and other social scientists have learned about dealing with descriptive/normative rationality and how they may drive future research progress.
 Heuristics and decisionmaking for a postEUT choicecentred view: A foregone conclusion?
 Understanding cooperative behaviour: EUT framework vs. evolutionary models of cooperation.
 Getting the upper hand: Crossdisciplinary nature of much modern statistical research.
 Bell, book and candle: Reason, sentiment, and the rationalirrational dichotomy.
 Advancing microeconomics analysis: Metatheoretical development in economics.
 Business model dynamics and change management: Replications and advancements.
 A bolt from the blue: Cause and rationale of business behaviour and business decisions.
 Coping with decisions and uncertainty: A postneoclassical decisionmaking perspective.
 Evolving concepts of optimality in strategic games: Multiagent systems and joint strategies.
 Organisations, societies, and the economies as dynamic evolving systems: Paces and characters of change.
 Simultaneous choices of maximal pure strategies: Equilibrium points in games with vector payoffs.
 Ordinal preferences over outcomes: Individual boundedly rational agents and nperson coalitions.
 Statistical semantics: Describing and measuring social phenomena through natural language.
 Applying statistics in social research: Cognitive aspects of naturally occurring [big] data.
 Optimality or efficiency in applied mathematics and computer science concerned with decision making.
 Satisficing approaches to eliciting risk preferences: Framing choices over risky payoff distributions.
 Modelling multiagent constraint systems: Satisfying user preferences while negotiating.
 Decisions with multiple objectives: The emergence of inductive probabilities?
 Satisficing under uncertainty: Leading to cooperation in mutual interests games.
 Between hope and fear: The psychology of risk and reward in shaping investment decisions.
 Satisficing within decisionmaking: Applications to engineering and computer science.
 Is Bayesian decision theory really the final word on how rational agents should make decisions?
 Methodological and theoretical foundations in economics: The positive, normative, and ontology of social problems.
 Future of judgment and decisionmaking research: Developing frameworks establishing connections with studies on cognition as well as on social and institutional factors.
 General equilibrium or everchanging structural stability? The emergence of the systemic [or induced] nature of economic crises.
 Aggregation of conflicting information coming from multiple sources: From rational choice theory to knowledge representation in databases.
 Preferences as subjective evaluation of alternatives: Bundles of goods as vectors, household production functions.
 General equilibrium or everchanging structural stability? The systemic or induced nature of economic crises.
 Does information processing generate a partition? Partitional models, nonpartitional models, and axiomatic approaches.
 The rich domain of uncertainty: Applying heuristic decisionmaking approaches to heterogeneous agent models.
 "As if" maximising expected utility involves assuming rational preferences, knowing utilities and the stochastic relation between actions and outcomes: Myth or reality?
 Individual decisionmaking vs marketlevel predictions: What happens to rational choice in experimental markets?
 Modelling bounded rationality as stemming from limited information processing: computability, automata, perceptrons, and optimal networks.
 Uncertainty in various [dis]guises: Dealing with dynamic decision problems when knowledge of the environment is limited.
Originating in 2015, DECON embodies original and comparative research, as well as annual followup assessments on decisionmaking and economics, aggregate outcomes, and implications for social and cognitive sciences. It involves several international research institutions and over three hundred authors and academic departments. In the continuing spirit of international cooperation, the steering and organising Committee of DECON issues this Call for Papers, culminating in the annual threeday Symposium to be held in hybrid form in the World Heritage Site of Salamanca.
SPECIAL CONFERENCE TRACKS
In addition to the main conference track, six special sessions are also planned to enable insights into economics, decisionmaking, cognitive sciences, and related subjects. They will represent further highlights of the sixth edition of Decision Economics by connecting a dynamic and interdisciplinary group of researchers to the Conference:
(i) “AIdriven Decision Making” (AIDM) is an immersive session organised and coordinated by Stefano Za and Marco Smacchia (University of ChietiPescara, Italy), and Michele Cipriano (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart  Piacenza). One of the interests of this special track is related to the design and evaluation of AIdriven decision making. At the same time, this track also raises the question of whether and how relatively more rational and mindful decisionmaking could depend on humandriven and AIdriven policy influence.
(ii) “Ethics of DecisionMaking in Economics” (EDME) is a consolidated session organised and coordinated by Tony E. Persico (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, United States), Tony Guidotti (Harvard University), and Elizabeth Garlow (New America Foundation). The session aims to discuss and understand today’s ethical challenges in political economy and economic policy, focusing on economic methodology and the philosophy of science and economics.
(iii) “Smart Heuristics for Civil Servants” (SMAHCS), launched by Rino Rumiati (University of Padua) and Davide Pietroni (University of ChietiPescara), is a thoughtprovoking conference session that explores various topics related to effectively engaging with the complexity and uncertainty inherent in the issues the civil service and public administration institutions face.
(iv) “Economics, Law and Psychology in Taxation: Perspectives and Critical Issues of Behavioral Taxation” (BETA) by Salvatore Villani and Loredana Strianese (University of Naples Federico II) is a novel conference session aimed at disseminating recent advancements and emerging trends in the psychological analysis of economic behaviour pioneered by scholars such as George Katona.
(v) “SocioBehavioural Research and HumanCentred Design” (SOCBER) by Ionut Virgil Serban (University of Craiova) and Gianmarco Cifaldi (University of ChietiPescara) is a novel conference session intended to highlight behavioural science on decisionmaking and design research, understanding the stakeholders’ perspectives to help policies and programmes respond properly to human evolving needs.
(vi) “DecisionMaking for Public Sector Recovery” (DEPSER) by Simone Cifolelli and Lorenzo Fabiani (University of ChietiPescara) is a novel session that aims to broaden perspectives and inspire action to reaffirm the strategic role of the State, regulation, local government, and public finance in the economy of uncertainty.
For further insights, see https://www.decisioneconomics.net/tracks
Format
All papers must be formatted according to the SSDC template, with a maximum length of 10 pages (minimun 4 pages) including figures and references:
Submission
All proposed papers must be submitted in electronic form (PDF format) using the DECON conference management system.
Review process
DECON welcomes submissions with a preference for topics listed in the Call for Papers. All submitted papers will undergo a rigorous peer review process; each paper will be referred by at least three experts in the field, and be selected based on originality, quality, soundness, and relevance.
** Indexing: The books of this series are submitted to DBLP, INSPEC, Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals and Series, SCImago, SCOPUS, WTI Frankfurt eG, zbMATH, Google Scholar, Springerlink. **
Special Issues
Authors of papers selected from DECON will be invited to submit an extended version to special issues featured across several journals:
Authors of selected papers from PAAMS and Colocated Events will be invited to submit an extended and improved version to a Special Issue “Advancements in Practical Applications of Agents, MultiAgent Systems and Digital Twins” published in MDPI Systems Journal (ISSN: 20798954, JCR (2022): 1.9 (Q2))
Authors of selected papers from DECON and Colocated Events will be invited to submit an extended and improved version to a Special Issue published in ADCAIJ (ISSN: 22552863, JCR (2022): 1.4, JCI (2022): 0.09 (Q4)) indexed in DOAJ, ProQuest, Scholar, WorldCat, Dialnet, Sherpa ROMEO, Dulcinea, UlrichWeb, Emerging Sources Citation Index of Thomson Reuters, BASE y Academic Journals Database.
To Be Updated
General deadlines

Submissions
10th June, 2024

Notification of acceptance
14th June, 2024

Conference Celebration
26th28th June, 2024
Chairmen of the steering and organising committee
Edgardo Bucciarelli, University of ChietiPescara (Italy)
ShuHeng Chen, National Chengchi University, Taipei (Taiwan)
Juan Manuel Corchado, University of Salamanca (Spain)
Javier Parra, University of Salamanca (Spain)
DECON conference