Models as narratives

By Alison Singer

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Alison Singer (biography)

I don’t see the world in pictures. I mean, I see the world in all its beautiful shapes and colors and shadings, but I don’t interpret the world that way. I interpret the world through the stories I create. My interpretations of these stories are my own mental models of how I view the world. What I can do then, to share this mental model, is create a more formalized model, whether it is a simple picture (in my case a very badly drawn one), or a system dynamics model, or an agent-based model. People think of models as images, as representations, as visualizations, as simulations. As tools to represent, to simplify, to teach, and to share. And they are all these things, and we need them to function as these things, but they are also stories, and can be interpreted and shared as such.

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What is translational ecology?

By the Translational Ecology Group

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Translational Ecology Group (participants)

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Four related blog posts on translational ecology:

Introduction to translational ecology (this post)

What makes a translational ecologist – Part 1: Knowledge  / Part 2: Skills / Part 3: Dispositional attributes

The term ‘translational ecology’ was coined by eminent natural scientist William Schlesinger in a 2010 editorial in Science magazine. He wrote, “Just as physicians use ‘translational medicine’ to connect the patient to new basic research, ‘translational ecology’ should connect end-users of environmental science to the field research carried out by scientists who study the basis of environmental problems.”

Further, Schlesinger posited that without such communication, ecological discoveries “will remain quietly archived while the biosphere degrades.” The editorial chafed some ecologists whose work is motivated by increasing our understanding of natural systems. Others, however, were inspired by this call to action and sought ways to (re)orient their careers from inquiry toward impact.

Our group, which includes natural and social scientists, educators, and practitioners from both academic and non-academic institutions, expanded Schlesinger’s vision of “two-way communication between stakeholders and scientists.”

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Serious gaming: Helping stakeholders address community problems

By Nagesh Kolagani

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Nagesh Kolagani (biography)

Citizens are increasingly coming together to solve problems that affect their communities. Participatory modeling is a method that helps them to share their implicit and explicit knowledge of these problems with each other and to plan and implement mutually acceptable and sustainable solutions.

While using this method, stakeholders need to understand large amounts of information relating to these problems. Various interactive visualization tools are being developed for this purpose. One such tool is ‘serious gaming’ which combines technologies from the video game industry – mystery, appealing graphics, etc., – with a purpose other than pure entertainment, a serious, problem driven, educational purpose.

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Playing Around with PARTICIPOLOGY

By Alister Scott

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Alister Scott (biography)

Have you ever wanted a new way to engage with stakeholders that is more engaging, fun and effective? PARTICIPOLOGY is a set of open-access web resources and associated guidance that sets out to achieve these aims. It uses a board game format where players encounter questions and challenges as a dice throw dictates. The board, questions and rules of the game can be designed from scratch or existing templates can be adapted to the specific goals you have in mind. The game was designed to be used in participatory forums about land use options, but the principles can be more widely applied to all kinds of participatory processes.

There are five key findings from developing and using these resources.

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Choosing a model: If all you have is a hammer…

By Jen Badham

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Jen Badham (biography)

As a modeller, I often get requests from research or policy colleagues along the lines of ‘we want a model of the health system’. It’s relatively easy to recognise that ‘health system’ is too vague and needs explicit discussion about the specific issue to be modelled. It is much less obvious that the term ‘model’ also needs to be refined. In practice, different modelling methods are more or less appropriate for different questions. So how is the modelling method chosen?

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Eight institutional practices to support interdisciplinary research

By Margaret Palmer, Jonathan Kramer, James Boyd, and David Hawthorne

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Margaret Palmer (biography)

How can institutions help enhance interdisciplinary team success? We share eight practices we have developed at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) which was launched in 2011 with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

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Jonathan Kramer (biography)

The center supports newly formed research teams from anywhere in the world to work collaboratively at its facility. The teams synthesize existing theories and data to advance understanding of socio-environmental systems and the ability to solve environmental problems.

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Virtues and vices of real world co-creation

By Quassim Cassam

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Quassim Cassam (biography)

I approach this topic as an analytic philosopher rather than a specialist in co-creation. It’s clear that co-creation is thought to offer a promising response to real world problems and it connects in interesting ways with my own work on epistemic virtues and vices.

What is ‘co-creation’ and what are its benefits, real or imagined? To ‘create’ something is to bring it into existence. Co-creation, as I understand it, is the creation of a product by two or more people or agencies with particular characteristics working together in a particular way.

The key questions are: (a) what is the ‘product’ of co-creation? (b) What are the particular characteristics of those involved in co-creation? (c) What is the particular ‘way’ of working together that distinguishes co-creation from other collaborative activities?

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Integrating disciplines / Integrando disciplinas

By Marcel Bursztyn, Gabriela Litre and Stéphanie Nasuti

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Marcel Bursztyn (biography)

An English version of this post is available

Como conseguir que um grupo multidisciplinar integrado por economistas, climatologistas, geógrafos, antropólogos, biólogos, sociólogos, jornalistas, engenheiros químicos, engenheiros ambientais e advogados trabalhe de maneira mais interdisciplinar?

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Gabriela Litre (biography)

Esse foi o desafio encarado por um projeto de pesquisa sobre as percepções de agricultores familiares de quatro biomas brasileiros (a Amazônia, o Cerrado, o Pantanal e o Semiárido) sobre os impactos que as mudanças climáticas estão tendo nos seus modos de vida. Esse pequenos produtores, com baixa disponibilidade de capital, estão expostos a riscos naturais e socioeconômicos, e são extremadamente vulneráveis aos eventos climáticos extremos.

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Stéphanie Nasuti (biography)

Um fator chave foi a demarcação do marco teórico do projeto, que incluiu a hipótese de que o sucesso das politicas de adaptação aumenta consideravelmente quando essas políticas se baseiam em um conhecimento de primeira mão das realidades cotidianas e das percepções das populações envolvidas.

O desenho da pesquisa foi guiado por três elementos básicos:

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Five steps for managing diversity to create synergy

By Doug Easterling

doug-easterling
Doug Easterling (biography)

How can we address social, environmental, political and health problems that are too big and too complex for any single person, organization or institution to solve, or even to budge? How can we pool our wisdom and work collaboratively toward purposes that are larger than ourselves?

In theory at least, co-creation generates innovative solutions that transcend what would otherwise be produced by the participants acting on their own. In other words, co-creation can foster synergy.

To maximize synergy, a co-creative group should include participants who understand the problem from all the relevant perspectives. The more complex the problem, the greater the number and diversity of stakeholders who should be included in the process. A broader range of perspectives and ways of thinking allows for a richer and more comprehensive analysis of the problem, as well as more innovative solutions that address more of the underlying factors.

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Facilitating multidisciplinary decision making

By Bob Dick

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Bob Dick (biography)

Imagine this scenario. You are confronted by a wicked problem, such as the obesity epidemic. You know it’s a wicked problem – many previous attempts to resolve it have failed.

Suppose that you wish to develop a plan to remedy obesity. You have identified as many relevant areas of expertise and experience as you can and approached appropriate people – researchers, health practitioners, people with political influence, and so on.

You bring them together to pool their expertise—only to find that you now have another problem. Encouraging them to work collaboratively is more difficult than you expected. They talk in jargon. Their understanding is narrow. Their commitment is to their own discipline. Some of their understanding is tacit. Some of them are argumentative. And more. What are you to do?

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Eight strategies for co-creation

By Arnim Wiek

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Arnim Wiek (biography)

Co-creation aims at genuine and meaningful interaction among researchers, service providers, policy makers, consumers, and other key stakeholders. It is also known as co-production, co-design and co-construction. Co-creation is often a buzzword with fuzzy meanings of who collaborates with whom, when and how (processes) and to what end (outcomes) in addressing sustainability and other complex problems. Yet there is emerging evidence on best practices of co-creation. Although this evidence is mostly based on individual case studies or comparisons of small sets of cases, the following eight strategies provide valuable guidance for researchers and practitioners.

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Six types of unknowns in interdisciplinary research

By Gabriele Bammer

gabriele-bammer
Gabriele Bammer (biography)

What types of unknowns are tackled in interdisciplinary research?  I draw on my experience directing a program of research on the feasibility of prescribing pharmaceutical heroin as a treatment for heroin dependence. Analysis of this case revealed six different types of unknowns:

  1. Disciplinary unknowns
  2. Unknowns of concern to stakeholders
  3. Unknowns marginalised by power imbalances
  4. Unknowns in the overlap between disciplines
  5. New problem-based unknowns
  6. Intractable unknowns.

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