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Project "ACCESS"

Analysing social context complexity of environmental simulations

This project of the cluster of excellence “Simulation Technologies” (SimTech) at the University of Stuttgart deals with methods to integrate political, social and economical contexts into environmental simulations.

Environmental simulations are important instruments to analyze environmental change, to analyse its causes and effects on regional and global levels and to test and to evaluate policies. These simulations are relevant tools for science itself as well as for policy advice.

The results of environmental simulation depend on their assumptions regarding (future) social contexts, such as population growth, consumer behaviour, technological development and diffusion, regulation and policies. Today’s environmental simulations do not always meet the complexity, the uncertainty as well as the qualitative nature of these social dimensions and their interactions. Often, there is an imbalance between in depth and state of the art environmental modelling and less profound and less elaborated approaches to social dimensions (which are e.g. integrated via single external parameters or via intuitive scenarios).

Interdisciplinary approaches are required to deal with the complex interrelations between environment and society more adequately. Such approaches need to link ‘hard’ scientific knowledge (e.g. physics, biology, chemistry) with knowledge of the social sciences (e.g. sociology, political and economical sciences). For that purpose, integrated assessment models (IAM) are developed to model and simulate environment and society as integrated systems. But these approaches have their own difficulties: knowledge from the natural sciences is simplified and social dimensions are represented only to the extent that they are quantifiable.

In this project, CIB is used as a method to integrate social contexts in environmental simulations. Via case studies, we analyse demand, potentials and pitfalls of this interdisciplinary approach and develop procedures and routines for its application in the field of environmental simulations.

Project duration: 2009 - 2012


Hannah Kosow, Dipl.-Soz.Wiss.

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