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Integrated Modeling with Stakeholders

A utility of simulation we will highlight because of its role in our work is its ability to facilitate incorporating stakeholder and local knowledge into a research and modeling effort. Residents of the systems of interest may be interviewed or join in focal groups or meetings to share information. That information may then be used to parameterize integrated models. A suite of methods are now used that formalize gathering of local knowledge, including participatory role games, participatory geographic information science and participatory simulation. When creating rules that describe decision making by people managing or competing for resources, model builders or facilitators gather stakeholders and have them play games that help inform researchers about the decision making process stakeholders use in an area (e.g., Janssen and Ostrom 2006). For example, participants may be asked to role-play as managers of a local fishery, and the decisions made by participants may be emulated in rules used in simulation. Participatory GIS entails meetings with residents to discuss the spatial location and timing of events, the location of entities, their spatial attributes, decision making in using spatial resources, etc. (e.g., Talen 2000). Landscape representations used in these efforts may be on computer screens, printed paper maps, topographic paper mâché models, or simple sketches in the sand. In participatory modeling (e.g., Becu et al. 2008), stakeholders are involved directly in developing computer simulations, either in the model used in discovery or in some simplified version. This work can be challenging, ensuring that concepts such as simulation and scenario analyses are conveyed to participants well, but can be effective. Reid et al. (2009) emphasizes that work intended to involve, educate, and empower local people should encourage frequent sharing of information.

An undervalued use of the products from integrated assessments that we have seen is that they can provide a common starting point in discussions. Meetings between stakeholders can be more focused by demonstrating simulation results. Results from “what if” questions they had proposed are presented and discussed. Participants then have a common starting point, or even a common antagonist, from which to build discussions. Models sometimes influence decision making – often not to the degree that modelers would prefer – but at least relationships that may be forgotten about or ignored in causal considerations are included in discussions that have as their starting point results from comprehensive computer simulations.

 
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