Ten Heuristics for Interdisciplinary Modeling Projects Author(s): Craig R. Nicolson, Anthony M. Starfield, Gary P.

Kofinas and John A. Kruse Source: Ecosystems, Vol. 5, No. 4 (Jun., 2002), pp. 376-384 Published by: Springer Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3658975 . Accessed: 23/09/2013 01:42
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Many of the importantissues in society simply cannot be addressedadequatelyby a single disciplinary perspective. Dartmouth College. Within IA. Key Words: interdisciplinary. Integrated system models offer three extremely 376 INTRODUCTION In the past 100 years. negotiating a consensus view of the research problem. and 4Institute of Social and Economic Research. Hanover.l* Interdisciplin Projects Anthony M. Kofinas. This is particularlyapparentfor issues with an environmental component. the work on modeling marine ecosystems by Riley 1947).sustainability.These heuristics arose from a comparison of our experiences with several interdisciplinary modeling projects.umass. USA. Likens 1998). USA. University of Minnesota.159.132 on Mon. 2Department of Ecology. and local residents came together to investigate the sustainabilityof small indigenous communitiesin the Arctic-to illustratethe heuristics. There is. Amherst. interdisciplinary efforts.2 Gary P. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . University of Massachusetts.Ecosystems (2002) 5: 376-384 DOI: 10.206. Alaska 99508. 3211 Providence Drive. they are essentially systemsprob- lems. Nicolson.We use one such experience-a projectin which natural scientists. Kruse4 'Department of Natural Resources Conservation. the role of sensitivityanalysis. Evolution and Behavior. and climate change. we offer a set of heuristics (rules of thumb) that addressa range of challenges associatedwith this enterprise. and the importanceof team communication. for example. assessment. University of Alaska-Anchorage. such as watershed protection. Parson 1995) and deal with complex interactingprocesses that operate at differenttemporal and spatialscales (Holling 1995. A common approach to integrating disciplinaryperspectives on these problems is to develop simulation models in which the linkages between system components are explicitly represented. prototyping and refining models. and since the early 1970s. however. These issues demand that we take an integrated view.teamwork.integrated tem. the emerging field of integrated assessment (IA) attempts to accomplish this goal (Risbeyand others 1996).edu *Corresponding This content downloaded from 148. USA ABSTRACT Complex environmental and ecological problems require collaborative. In this paper. This specialization has resulted in tremendous intellectual and technological gains. ecosysArctic.including the selection of team members. author. Massachusetts 01003-4210. Starfield.1007/s10021-001-0081-5 ECOSYSTEMSI © 2002 Springer-Verlag ORIGINAL ARTICLES Ten Heuristics for Modeling Craig R. the results of such models have often been made accessible to the general public as well (for example. collaboration. simulation models are commonly used for synthesizing disciplinaryknowledge. 1987 Upper Buford Circle. e-mail: craign@forwild. Anchorage. By integratingand synthesizing knowledge from disparatedomains. see the much-publicized Limits to Growth study by Meadows and others for the Clubof Rome in 1972).3'4 and John A. To address systems problems effectively reReceived 27 April 2001. They are by no means new tools for scientists (see. New Hampshire 03755. Box 34210. sustainable development. 6214 Fairchild. Minnesota 55018. accepted 12 November 2001. 3Institute of Arctic Studies. quires us to bridge perspectives and disciplines (Gunderson and others 1995. knowledge has become increasingly specialized. social scientists.modeling. little guidance in the literature on how such models should be developed through collaborative teamwork. but it has also led to increasingfragmentation in the modern research enterprise (Nissani 1997). St Paul. USA.

Different practitioners processtheir experiences in different ways.206. These goals included (a) maintaining a strong relationshipwith the land and the animals. we also hope to stimulate thinking. Their expertise covered the fields of vegetation ecology.132 on Mon. In other words. cariboubehavior.ecosystem managers.respect for community elders. the word is used in the sense defined by Starfieldand others (1994): "a heuristic is a plausible or reasonableapproachthat has often proved to be useful. although examples will be drawn from that project to illustrate our heuristics. Developing simulationmodels is part science and part craft. Third. The primary audience we have in mind is people who are not presently engaged in interdisciplinary researchbut are interestedin moving in this direction in the future. political. tourism.Kofinas and others unpublished) offers heuristics for researcher-stakeholder interactions and for synthesizing local knowledge and science. Gray 1985. 1.159. systems models provide a way to codify knowledge from differentdisciplinesinto a unified and coherent framework.The SAC Project not only served to bringscientiststogether. However. However. An integrated approach was in any case implicit in the framingof the originalproject proposal and in the range of disciplinaryscientists included in the research team. The emphasis of this paper is not on the SAC Project itself. infalliblerules. cariboubiology. oil development. 1991 or Kofinas and Griggs 1996) but on the process of the collaborativedevelopment of synthesis models. and spending time on the land). and government funding could affect the sustainabilityof our partnercommunities. although we discuss various aspectsof teamwork and collaboration. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . (d) educating their young people in both traditional knowledge and Western science while also educating outsidersabout their way of life. social anthropology. useful advantagesfor interdisciplinary First. system models can only achieve these advantagesif they are developed and used deliberately and thoughtfully.and we believe that our emphasis on rapidprototyping and sensitivity analysis will be of interest to them. This project involved a team of 25 scientists (representing eight different disciplines in both the natural and the social sciences) and residents from four indigenous Arctic communities in the Yukon Territory. a subsistence harvesting economy in parallel with a cash economy). household economies. Second.Researchteam memberscame from several universities and from government agencies. A companion paper to this one (G. this is a paper in which the findings have been generatedinductively from our collective experiences on a range of interdisciplinary projects rather than a deductive literature review that investigates the success or failure of other projectsbased on whether they did or did not use these heuristics. Indeed. for example. (b) developing healthy mixed economies (that is. The goal of the project was to investigate how changes 377 in climate. In this paper. discussing. they allow researchers.Heuristicsfor Interdisciplinary Modelers researchers. the communities saw sustainability not simply in terms of sustainable resource use. they encourage focused and disciplined thinking about the causal relationships in a system. Finally.Kofinasand others unpublished). and Alaska.P. cultural ecology. but also in economic.by the use of indigenous language. and sociocultural terms. and (e) maintaining a thriving native culture (evidenced. and natural resource modeling.we offer 10 heuristicsfor interdisciplinary modeling that we have developed over a period of several years through our experiences in a variety of integrated research projects. Arctic tourism." However. To illustrateour 10 heuristics.The communities themselves defined their goals for sustainabilityin the early part of the project (G.P. the heuristics given here relate primarilyto scientists working with other scientists on interdisciplinary projectsratherthan to scientistsworking with stakeholding.our focus is not on collaborationgenerally (as in. Knowwhatskillsto lookfor when recruitHeuristic team. but also involved residents of indigenous Arctic communities." In other words. for example. Also. What do we mean by "heuristic"? Polya (1945) defined this term as "the name of a certain branch of study"whose aim is "to understandthe methods and rules of discoveryand invention. (c) exercising local control over land use and resource use in their homelands. there are many challenges and obstacles that must be addressed This content downloaded from 148. Northwest Territories. a rule of thumb. it was obviously essential to take an interdisciplinaryview of the system. in this essay. To address this holistic set of community goals.there are no general.policy analysis.and writing about methodology among currentmodeling practitioners.we give examples of lessons we have learned from developing intemodels for a recent project grated interdisciplinary the of ArcticCommuniinvestigating Sustainability ties (SAC).and stakeholdersto explore how their system may respond to a variety of scenarios so that responses can be formulated and management actions can be implemented. It is not a foregone ing an interdisciplinary conclusion that any given team of specialists will work together effectively to produce a tightly integrated view of a system.

the problem needs to be thoughtfully and clearly defined from the outset. Another key attribute of a good interdisciplinary team member is the ability to simplify what is known and. These activities call for people with a deep grasp of their own disciplines: Weak or insecure disciplinary minds can frustrate team progress by refusing to explore linkages. scientific training is essentially an induction into the methods and norms of the science of parts. In contrast. A major obstacle to interdisciplinary work is that scientists are trained and socialized from their graduate school days to focus on narrow. and publishing their work may not be easy. all the parties (disciplinary researchers. or to guess at unknown factors. In addition. In other words. but they are often not the types of activities that their own disciplinary peers This content downloaded from 148. To foster good communication among prospective team members even at the recruitment stage. The problem of communication will be addressed in heuristic 9. Young scientists are particularly at risk because they have not yet established their reputation and because the reward systems of academia bend to favor disciplinary specialists. All team members who embark on interdisciplinary projects need to be made aware of these kinds of problems in advance so that they join the team with realistic expectations. To address this challenge. Until you define the problem. Among these obstacles is the problem of cross-discipline communication. Different stakeholders often have different perceptions of the problem. you cannot really define the problem. and they need at least some bigpicture researchers who will creatively explore the linkages and interfaces between their own discipline and other fields of inquiry in which they may themselves have no special expertise. Not only are these activities necessary to make an interdisciplinary study a success. For this reason. projects that involve complex systems with many interacting components lend themselves to multiple focuses. since specialists are used to interacting with peers from within their fields who share a common view of the issues and a common language for discussing them. R. (This is why we promoted the idea of developing a prototype conceptual model.) The ideal situation is one in which a small group has the before a variety of scientists can work together effectively in an interdisciplinary mode. guess at the unknown (see heuristic 8). stakeholders. and a willingness to work at cross-disciplinary communication. In the absence of strong leadership. For a project leader to know if someone is right for the team.132 on Mon. thereby sharpening their understanding of their own disciplines. Heuristics 1 and 2 are obviously interrelated. and they learn appropriate methods for solving these problems. tractable problems within clearly defined boundaries. and funding agencies) must be given opportunities to exchange perspectives and must be aware of each other's priorities. This is never a straightforward exercise. Interdisciplinary projects are intellectually demanding in a different way from classic reductionist science. In the science of parts. By their very nature. each disciplinary expert has a vested professional interest in defining the problem so as to give his or her discipline a prominent role with a bias toward the researcher's particular expertise within the discipline. an adventurous attitude.206. They are taught how to identify problems that lie on the cutting edge of their discipline. when necessary.159. and until you have a team. the science of the integrationof parts calls for people who are committed to studying a complex system by focusing not so much on the individual components of the system as on the interrelationships among its components. it is essential to develop a prototype conceptual model of the system (see heuristic 3). 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . who are good listeners. Heuristic2. even at the stage of recruiting team members. using Holling's (1996) distinction between the science of parts and the science of the integration of parts. and whose interest in a problem outweighs their concern for career advancement! How can such people be motivated to participate? One incentive may simply be an appeal the intellectual satisfaction of seeing how their disciplinary interests fit within a larger framework. to simplify their field. he or she should look for scholars who can see the big picture. the best disciplinary minds are not necessarily the best interdisciplinary team members. you cannot assemble a team. Investstronglyin problemdefinitionearly in the project. it is far easier to end up doing multidisciplinary research (where experts work in parallel with each other without much meaningful integration) than it is to do truly interdisciplinary research. Although it is often true that outstanding interdisciplinarians also have very high reputations within a specialist field. investigators within a discipline focus on a narrowly defined question with the goal of reducing uncertainty to the point of consensus.378 C. but it is also relevant here because it can be a stumbling block when choosing and recruiting team members. Nicolson and others will recognize as valuable contributions to the scholarship of their field. whose track record shows an ability to work with people outside their own discipline. even when there are compelling reasons for the study. The parties involved in problem definition need to understand that choosing the focus of an IA project is fundamentally a negotiated process.

In hindsight. The stakeholder communities joined the project in the 1st year and provided an importantreality check on our understanding of the issues (G. the problem and the model will be further refined through successive prototypes (see Schrage2000 for a number of case studiesfrom the business world in which prototyping and successive refinement consistentlyled to superiorfinal products). This kind of opportunity requires either project development funding or an infrastructure that brings the small group together.132 on Mon. We also learned from the initial modeling exercise that as long as the caribou herd size is above a certain threshold (estimatedto be about 60% of its present level). In the Sustainability of Arctic Communities study.Kofinas and others unpublished). and that Arctic communities. in the process of developing and testing the model. in turn. However. To promote clarity of thought and allow the group members to see whether the initial problem definition is correct. within a 40year time horizon. annual cariboumigrationpatternsaffectharvest success far more than a decline or increase in This content downloaded from 148. On the basis of the preliminary problem definition. even though several group scientists had worked with indigenous communities for many years and therefore had a good graspof the issues involved.Furthermore.we recommend the following structured procedures: 1. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . during the early part of the SAC project. the High Latitude Ecosystems Directorate (HLED)of the US Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program provided an opportunity for a group of natural and social scientists to interact with each other across disciplines and to formulate a rough and preliminaryprojectdefinition. One of the originalhypotheses was that climate change would lead to changes in summer vegetation biomass and plant community composition. The discipline of having to articulate the problem definition to an audiencebeyond the team itself helps to get the ideas clear.159. and seasonal caribou harvest.P. Use rapid prototyping for all modeling efforts.At this initial stage. As new people were recruited.The HLED group of six individualsstarteddiscussions 2 years before the funding opportunityarose and decided to focus on the combined effects of future climate change and oil development on barren ground caribou and the indigenous communities tarandus) (Rangifer that depend on caribouas a subsistenceresource. Moreover. modeling. We designed a synthesis model that would address the problemas it had been defined. Not only is it hard to define the problem correctly on the first attempt. On the basis of this definition of the problem.'caribou herd size.the participants should recognize that the first year will be devoted to the development of a prototype model aimed at clarifyingthe objectives of the study.rapidprototypingof models is essential. The revised proposal (with added emphasis on the Arctic communities) defined a time horizon of 40 years.it is only when a prototype model is up and running that the relative importanceof the various components of the system or weaknesses in the framing of the original hypotheses graduallybegin to emerge.and the process of negotiating a common focus continued. It is only when project participantssee actualoutput from the model that they can begin to graspthe big picture and gain an understandingof the system dynamics as a whole. hunters' time-on-the-land. the team ought to have built more structureinto the negotiation process to ensure convergence on the problem definition.Heuristicsfor Interdisciplinary Modelers opportunityto make an initial attemptto define the problem and then go on to recruit the additional expertise necessary. It is extremely difficultto anticipatethe appropriate problem definition at the outset of a project. This understanding allows them to place their own contributionsin perspective. This was a mistake. the stakeholdercommunities were not directly involved.206. Cooperate on the development of first prototype "straw" system simulation models. a set of sustainabilityindicators was developed. and 2. 379 Heuristic 3. in subsequent years. would be impacted by the caribou. it is also extremely difficultat the start of a new project to discern the relative importance of each of the components. we discoveredthat there are time lags of 50-100 years before any substantialsimulated effects of climate change are apparentat a plant community or biomass level (Epsteinand others 2000). In fact. Therefore. Submit the current understandingof the system to a "peer review" by stakeholders. the participatingscientists felt that the target was forever shifting. and caribou biology. that caribou herds would be affected by these changes. climate-related vegetation changes were therefore almost insignificant. Instead of trying to specify at the outset of the projectpreciselywhat the final model will look like and what questions it will address.they brought new perspectives on the problem. these included plant biomass. For example. the original proposal for the SAC Project envisioned a model time horizon of 100200 years. the group obtainedpermissionfrom the US MAB committee to advertise position descriptionsfor additional HLED members with expertise in cultural ecology.

The solution is not to recruit only model-oriented scientists (which would limit the scope and breadth of the synthesis). In both of these examples. Ban all models or model componentsthat are inscrutable.206. but rather to work at drawing nonmodelers into the process. Thus. multi-investigator projects.380 C. The user is required to take the output on faith. An "inscrutable" model is a black box in which the inner workings are inaccessible to all but the original developers. This suggests that the initial emphasis on herd population dynamics may have been somewhat misplaced. a complex model of caribou energetics (Hovey and others 1989. Until we developed a much simpler caribou population model.159. If all the funds are committed up front for the full duration of the study. However. given the current policy of multiyear. but a commitment had already been made to this energetics model. has shown that it is more fruitful to begin with the system itself and to look outward to the components rather than to look piecemeal at the system from within the perspective of the individual components. Even when the problem is apparently well defined. The problem with inscrutable models is that people have no incentive to engage with them intellectually. Nicolson and others through the development of a first prototype model) and then funded the remainder of the project only when it was demonstrated that the correct mix of scientists was working together effectively and attacking a well-defined problem. Holling 1978. It is also important to make sure that the linkages among different parts of the system are strong and that the system behavior is not dominated by a single component (in which case the problem does not necessarily call for an interdisciplinary approach). A top-down. the project leadership has no flexibility to add new people as their expertise becomes necessary or to reallocate funds from a component of the work that offers little to the integrated effort. Graphical "box and arrow" representations of the system (Jorgensen 1986.132 on Mon. it is extremely hard to assess a priori which components determine the system dynamics most strongly until a first prototype of the synthesis work has been constructed. people cannot access the logic that led to those results. We realized later that what we really needed were models of herd distribution and movement. the project depended on output from a black box model that only a few people understood and used. Heuristic6. the project's funds had been allocated and could not easily be shifted to address newly evolving hypotheses. programmed using software that is easily accessible to all team members (such as spreadsheets). One danger in interdisciplinary modeling work is that people who are not fluent in systems modeling may not engage properly with the task. Walters 1986) combined with the simplest possible component models. but it is impossible to know how deeply to involve specific team members until the problem has been defined. By the time we discovered that this apparently central hypothesis was not a main driver of change. allow a team of scientists from different disciplinary backgrounds to understand and engage with the key relationships of the model. synthesis of models. but meshing existing submodels together can be a difficult and time-consuming ex- herd size. our problem definition led us to believe that certain factors were more important than they turned out to be. We have already alluded to the initial hypothesis of climate change -> vegetation change -> caribou herd dynamics -> caribou availability to human communities. Heuristic5. Insteadof concentrating on one all-purpose invest in a suite model. The problem cannot be defined until a working team is in place. a chicken-and-egg situation arises. each with a This heuristic well-definedobjective. It is likely that the relative importance of the various components will only emerge during the study. and that of other practitioners (for example. applies particularly to the collaborative development stage of a project. Prototype models that are simple enough to demonstrate and explain to all team members are an essential step in the education of nonmodelers. It is not surprising then that their usual reaction is to lose trust in the model rather than ask about the intermediate relationships that led to those final results. for the 1st year or This content downloaded from 148. It might be better if funding agencies awarded preliminary planning funds (say. Walters 1986). Kremsater 1991. If the model produces any counterintuitive results. Daniel 1993) was initially thought to be essential at the interface between vegetation change and caribou population dynamics. It allows participants from a subset of disciplines to engage with models that focus on the interfaces between those subsets. This is a luxury seldom available to research scientists. In the SAC Project. one of the inherent difficulties with interdisciplinary research is that defining the problem often represents a major part of the project. R. The idea of building a suite of models may seem to go against the very idea of interdisciplinary synthesis modeling. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Allow the project'sfocus to evolve by not allocating allfunds up front. Heuristic4. Our experience. rapid-prototyping approach could have helped avoid this situation.

but relatively little about herd migration patterns. They are often skeptical of simplificationand even more uncomfortablewith the idea of making educated guesses. if this is done properly.modeling can be particularlyuseful for ranking the relative importanceof the partsand processesin the model. However. A further argument for a suite of models is that few users of the overall synthesis model will be interested in all of its components. even though there may be a clear and obvious link between cariboumigrationand household economic production. the village economy model we developed for the SACProjectcontained over 90 differin terms of its ent job categories. In addition to providing a fresh viewpoint. All system models are balancing acts between what one knows and understands and what one does not know. Similarvariablesin two submodels may be represented at different levels of detail from one another. Most people have an interest in only three or four of the outcomes of the model. This is not surprising. for quality-controlpurposes. For example. users will not readily recognize that they are seeing an integratedview of the system. as a consequence. and whether men or women were more likely to be found in that position. Furthermore. as well as making a rapid assessment of the value This content downloaded from 148.given the way in which the scientific enterprise tends to favor specialists. However. If no such interface exists. Maintainingthe balancebetween the known and the unknown requiresstrongproject leadership. the model contained the implicit assumption that social norms such as gender preferencesfor job types would not change during two generations. or at least a coordinatingmechanism and a common language for communicatingacrossboundaries. A suite of models allows users to examine the components with which they are familiar and to see how these results fit with the outcomes they expect.However. The probabilisticoutcomes produced by one stochastic submodel may not translate easily into hard-and-fastinput values for other deterministic submodels in the system.These qualitiesmay well be present in one of the disciplinaryspecialistsif he or she is also a good big-picturescholar. Submodels may operate at different time scales because of the nature of the underlying processes. the economists on our team were reluctant to speculate on how these definitions might evolve over the next 40 years. These definitions were firmlygroundedin survey data.each characterized required education level. The two most importantqualificationsare an abilityto see the big picture and the earned trust and respect of other team members. but know relatively little about the factors that account for the successful harvest and production of caribou meat on the land itself."One way to achieve such coordinationwould be to bring in an outside modeling consultant who could facilitate key workshops. An economist may have a good understandingof the factorsthat influence people's decisions to take wage employment.Modelers Heuristicsfor Interdisciplinary ercise. This process helps to determine which details are not essential and allows the development of a "boiled down" whole system model at a level of abstractismthat may initially have been unacceptableto some team members. its seasonal availability. based on their knowledge and experience of that part of the system. In fact. The temptation is to put too much emphasis on those parts of the system where understanding and data are good and to ignore or gloss over the areaswhere little is known. Parson (1995) observed: "Since researchersworking within their fields do not normally attend to borders of other fields. for nonscientific users.159. a caribou biologist might know a great deal about caribou activities 381 and energetics. achieving this attention shift requires some form of authority in an assessment project.it may not be necessary to have one model that runs each submodel "supersynthesis" within the same overall programmingframework. This allows the results of each submodel to be assessed and the quality of its conclusions evaluated. Modelersare certainlynot the only people who could fulfill this role. Maintaina healthybalancebetweenthe Heuristic well-understood andthepoorly understood components of the system.scientistsare socializedinto an epistemologicalframeworkthat places a high value on detailedquantitativehard facts and tends to take a dim view of uncertainty (even when the uncertainty involves an educated guess in an important area where little else is known). For example.In a review of IA projects. In particular.206. it is probably good to have some kind of human interface between submodels. and much of the benefit of the exercise will be lost. so it can be determined how best to include the insights gained from each model in the next submodel.132 on Mon. it is helpful to have a seamless interfacethat allows them to explore whichever part of the system they are most interested in. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . through rapidprototypingand sensitivityanalysis.people like to concentrate on the details they know about and understand (Likens 1998). Although it is essential to represent adequately the logic and the results of each submodel in all the other relevant submodelsto which it links. 7. an outsider who has the trust of the team could also provide the kind of authority that Parsonrefersto.

so as to ensure that the models are understandableto everyone on the team.Funding agencies need to be willing to support the outreach and extension part of inresearch. Sensitivitytests are essentiallymini-experiments. and then view the results within a minute or two.159. Sensitivity analysis is the only availablemeans of determiningwhat goes into the model and what level of detail is necessary. was principally responsiblefor most advances in developing model relationshipsthat crossed disciplinaryboundaries. small faceto-face work groups. The results need to be put into everydayterms. Work Heuristic hardat communication and budget lies Effective communication forface-to-face meetings. stripped of its technical scientific terminology. weeks. Each communication medium serves a different purpose.206. Sensitivity analysisis vital at all stagesof the modelingeffort. Waiting days. he or she is thus likely to run different experiments and uncover different problems. We found that the ability to work as a group to set up a model simulation. C++. the models supporting the mini-experiments need to run virtually in real time.The goal is to work continually toward a culture of transparentand accessible models. Also. communication can take many forms.and scientistsneed the help terdisciplinary of communicationspecialiststo get their resultsinto public discoursein a form that can be digested and discussed. and it is crucialto spell out both the practicalimplicationsof the findings and the areas of uncertainty. In fact. Most scientists are familiarwith the spreadsheet environment and its basic concepts.Interdisciplinary lives must be ple's directly explained to them in accessible language. a task that is vastly underrepresented in many scientific researchthat affectspeoprojects. phone calls. or months for model results is too long. Team members need to make an effort to become more familiarwith each other's mental frameworksand to be cognizant of what specificpeople mean when they use certain words or concepts. a second area requiringcareful considerationis how the integratedwork of the team will be communicated to the stakeholdersand the public. such as spreadsheets. In this regard.382 C. for example. at the heart of interdisciplinary research. 9. To be effective in shaping the prototype modeling process.that's not guage and enablesparticipants what I have in mind. In additionto communicationwithin the team. Because each person on the team brings a differentperspective to the problem.scientists often appeared to have reached a point of understanding in their discussions.The SACProject'sefforts at outreach include the development of a simplified interactive and differences between alternative conjectures about the unknowns." really One way to foster better communication is by developing simulation models in easily accessible modeling environments. Starfieldand others 1995. not just the modeler. team efforts are essential both for identifying implicit assumptions (social norms do not change during two generations. their findings must also be explained clearly to stakeholdersand to the public.It leads quickly to a product that provides a common lanto say "No. spreadsheetsallow us to quickly and easily develop straw models as part of the dialogue among the participants. The synthesis modelers should be encouraged and empowered to use their skills to help resolve the tensions between simplicity and detail that are inherent to any modeling project (Costanzaand Sklar1985. and public meetings. Finally. they are powerful tools for sensitivity analysis.so we can constantly point to something tangible and ask. R. people from different disciplinary will automaticallycommunicateeffecbackgrounds tively with each other.or gramminglanguages such as FORTRAN. only to find out later that in fact they had two rather different things in mind (sometimes as the result of using the same words but meaning differentthings by them). Starfieldand Bleloch 1991). but rather an importantpart of the culture of modeling that is used for the thoughtful exploration of alternative assumptions. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . In the SACProject. In the Internet era. Nicolson and others assume that simply because we have these tools at our disposal. Sensitivity analysisshould not simply be thought of as an automated process that tests all parameters. "Is this what you mean?" The built-in graphingfunctions of spreadsheetsenable graphical model output with very little programmingeffort.It follows that the work of sensitivityanalysisshould be done by most (ideally. including list-servermemos. Thorough sensitivity analysis involves testing not only differentparametervalues but also the assumptions and the effect of alternative educated guesses at the underlying processes (see. This is one reasonwhy rapidprototypingis so valuable. for example) and for developing plausiblealternativescenariosas part of the sensitivity analysis. and it is dangerous to This content downloaded from 148. It is an essential tool for estimating the likely effects of alternative hypotheses for system processes.all) of the project team. e-mails.Not only is it necessary for scientists to engage with one another to produce an integrated view of a system. plenary team meetings.132 on Mon.we have found that spreadsheets have several advantagesover traditionalproBASIC.because spreadsheetsperform calculationseach time a cell is changed. Starfield and Bleloch 1991). Heuristic 8.

but the challenge of bringing disparateperspectives together is a formidable one.WalkerM. Whitehorse. In fact. Fort McPherson. 593 p. common assumptions. 1993. All team members must take the time to probe and query each other's approaches.Hum Rel 38(10):911-36. Synthesis modelers bear the brunt of the responsibility of ensuring. E-mail is not an effective medium for planning and for the creative generation of ideas.P. thereby affecting people's lives.206. London: Wiley. meetings with component researchersare also criticalto the work of the synthesis modeler. Integrated assessment is a very complicated business. a willingness to be challengedby team members outside one's own area.and ArcticVillage in our collaborative effortto build a sharedunderstandingof a complex system.. collabGrayB.Yukon. Collaborating: tipartyproblems. second. Adaptiveenvironmentalassessmentand management. Daft RL.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. that robustconclusionsare shown to be robusteven in the face of uncertainty. and methods. Approachthe projectwith humility. 1985.132 on Mon. applications.first. 1978. Not only are the dynamics of large complex systems hard to understand. simulationmodels for the Porcupine Daniel CJ. 23 Sep 2013 01:42:59 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Computer CaribouHerd:user's guide. editors. ChapinFS.Sociol Org 5:1-36.Heuristicsfor Interdisciplinary Modelers Web-basedmodel interfacethat we call the "Possible Futures Model" (G. in the hope of doing it better the next time around. 1991.The excitement and challenge of interdisciplinary research lies in uncover- This content downloaded from 148. it is still in the early stages of development. More important. finding common ground for mulGrayB.159. Articulation. since laypeople often have a deep and holistic understandingof their local environment. Because face-to-face meetings are so much richer in communicative content and because they allow trust to be built more easily than can be done in a series of written messages (Daftand Huber 1987). Written exchanges work best once there is a common understandingof the problem. Even though the scientists on the team may be world-class experts in their respective component fields. A transient. hypertext documentation. face-to-face meetings are indispensable for these groundwork decisions. 2000. StarfieldAM. SklarFH. The proposal did include funds for annual projectmeetings of the entire team. RichmondHill: (Ontario):ESSA Ltd. nutrient-basedmodel of arctic plant community response to climaticwarming. considerablemomentum was gained. Barriers and bridges to the renewal of ecosystems and institutions.HollingCS. for Canadian Wildlife Service. the behavior of the system. How organizations learn:a communication framework. Conditionsfacilitating inter-organizational oration. accuracyand effectivemodels:a review of freshwaterwetland ness of mathematical Ecol Model 27:45-68. 1985. 1995. HollingCS.HuberGP. REFERENCES Costanza R. GundersonLH. and as a form of inquiry.they must be willing to have their own assumptions and statements probed by others. we acknowledge that the 10 heuristicspresented here are obviously not exhaustive. New York:ColumbiaUniversityPress. Face-to-facecontact should be a nonnegotiable part of any IAbudget. The model demonstrates our attempts at ongoing innovation in all areas of the interface between model and user: ease of use. even though their knowledge is not necessarily scientific. This requires humility. they are all likely to be amateurs when it comes to the system as a whole. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Financialsupportwas providedby the National Science Foundation (NSF OPP-95-21459). and an openness to learning from such transactions. We acknowledge the role played by members of the Sustainability of Arctic Communities research team and the communities of Old Crow. Environment Canada. EpsteinHE. It is worth remembering that a distinguished group of component experts does not guarantee a distinguished system team. When we began to hold these meetings.these were of some value. An importantlesson from the SACProjectis that the budget for face-to-face meetings was inadequate (both for meetings among researchers and meetings between researchers and community partners).and a negotiated set of task assignments. 1987. LightSS. Heuristic10.particularly when team members are geographicallydispersed.assumptions. and built-in features for explainingmodel resultsand documenting users' feedback comments. we scientists may be no more "expert" than they 383 ing together the unknown-namely. graphicaloutput. but we found it far more profitable to hold work sessions involving small numbers of researchers from the various components to develop specific component linkages. Kofinas and others unpublished). In the spiritof humility. Humility and caution are especially important when scientistswork on projectsthat are intended to inform policy. 17 p. Aklavik. are.that the assumptionsbehind the models are carefully spelled out and. We offer these principlessimply because we believe it is importantfor synthesis modelers and interdisciplinarians alike to reflect on what they have done.Ecol Appl 10:824-41. Ann Kinzig and an anonymous reviewer offered helpful comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

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