Type of practice:
Voinov, Alexey/Seppelt, Ralf/Reis, Stefan/Nabel, Julia E.M.S./Shokravi, Samaneh (2014), Values in Socio-environmental Modelling: Persuasion for Action or Excuse for Inaction. In: Environmental Modelling and Software 53.
Science in general and modelling in particular provide in-depth understanding of environmental processes and clearly demonstrate the present unsustainable use of resources on a global scale. The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for instance, shows that climate is changing and with a 95% certainty it is the humans have caused the change. The future climatic conditions are shown to be largely adversely affecting human wellbeing on this planet. Yet we see in numerous examples that societies are very slow in reacting to this rapid depletion of natural resources. What still seems lacking is the translation of scientific reports and the results of analysis and modelling into corrective actions.
We argue that one of the reasons for this is the traditional workflow of environmental modelling, which starts with the purpose, the goal formulation, and ends with problem solutions or decision support tools. Instead, modelling, and applied science in general, has to enhance its scope beyond the problem solving stage, to do more on the problem definition and solution implementation phases. Modelling can be also used for identification of societal values and for setting purposes by appropriate communication of the modelling process and results.
We believe this new approach for modelling can impact and bring the social values to the forefront of socio-environmental debate and hence turn scientific results into actions sooner rather than later. Instead of being separated from the modelling process, the translation of results should be an intrinsic part of it.
We discuss several challenges for recent socio-environmental modelling and conclude with ten propositions that modellers and scientists in general can follow to improve their communication with the society and produce results that can be understood and used to improve awareness and education and spur action.