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  • 2016-02: Deliberative processes for comprehensive evaluation of agroecological models. A review

MACSUR science pick of the month: Deliberative processes for comprehensive evaluation of agroecological models. A review.

Bellocchi, G., Rivington, M., Matthews, K., Acutis, M., 2015,  Agronomy for Sustainable Development 35, 589-605.

Science pick 2016 02The credibility of model results depends not only on state-of-the art numerical analysis but also on less tangible factors like expectations, preferences and perceptions of the users (stakeholders) of the model results. The authors designed a comprehensive approach to integrate users in the evaluation of simulation models (for instance, of impact models used in climate change studies) beyond conventional numerical analyses. The approach focused on two themes: (1) the importance of collaborating with stakeholders (co-construction) for model evaluation, and (2) the role played by information technology in these processes.

The authors conclude that

  1. models and their results are more likely to be accepted later on in practice when their generation has been monitored by stakeholders,
  2. the credibility of models hinges not only on the results of a numerical evaluation but also on less tangible factors that can be considered using a co-construction process,
  3. simulation models can evaluated more fully by taking into account the expectations, preferences and perceptions of stakeholders,
  4. questionnaire surveys may help understanding the challenges posed by the co-construction process, and
  5. model evaluation is improved further when the process is designed with a decision-making perspective in mind and each step in model improvement is reviewed by stakeholder feedback.

Joining researchers and stakeholders across different areas (trans-disciplinarity) is essential for advancing good modeling practices. This activity is often dropped in the limited time of framework research programs. Stakeholders of modelling studies can express their expectations and, to some extent, influence and take some responsibility for the content of models. Therefore, moving from purely academic model evaluation towards a participatory process helps increasing the credibility of simulation models and thus legitimising their use in decision-making. Good decision-making based on simulation models requires looking at model evaluation from a new angle and stronger implementation of co-construction modelling. 

[Edited by M. Köchy]