Overcoming implementation barriers of scientific simulation models in regional development: the functions of participatory modeling [thesis]

Ruth Dorothea Förster, Kay W. Axhausen, Willy A. Schmid
2009
In my thesis I address the following questions: What happens when scientists and practitioners collaborate with the aim of producing a complex computer simulation to deliver scientific knowledge and provide support for regional planning decisions? How does "participatory modeling" affect the computer simulation, the gathering of scientific knowledge and the chances of successful implementation? Here I was motivated by the facts that firstly, there exists a demand for scientifically sound
more » ... ge and decision support in regional planning; secondly, computer simulations are thought to be particularly appropriate in this context because they capture the current state of a region and model its development options by manipulating scenarios both integratively and quantitatively; and thirdly, hardly any of the few computer simulation models so far available are in operational use for regional planning. This general lack of practical application for computer-based planning and decision support tools is obvious when the literature is examined. My literature review shows that a main reason for this is that computer-based support tools do not align well with the specific practical application contexts: the results delivered are too generic, the models do not match tasks or activities in planning processes, and they are not adaptable to practitioners' capabilities. One way of ensuring better alignment of science-based computer simulations with their practical application is to involve practitioners in the modeling process. Benefits of this "participatory modeling" approach have been reported in literature for various model types, process designs and applications. In particular, the approach supports knowledge exchange and mutual learning among scientists and practitioners, thus improving both the model and its resulting credibility for the practitioners involved. However, participatory modeling is also a challenge: coping with the exchange and integration of the heterogeneous knowledge, interests and demands of scientists and practitioners while modeling is a difficult task. So far, empirical investigations into the effects of participatory modeling on the production or implementation of computer simulations in regional planning have been lacking. My thesis fills this gap by investigating the practice of participatory modeling. The questions I address include: What are its characteristics? What functions does participation fulfill in producing computer simulations and compiling scientific knowledge in the context of regional development problems? What improves or impedes its implementation chances? In answering these questions, I focus on the communicative interactions between the two main actor groups -scientists and practitioners -in four dimensions: (1) the cognitive dimension, which concerns the production of knowledge; (2) the normative dimension, which involves interests, values and priorities; (3) the contextual dimension, related to the specific demands of the application context; and (4) the social dimension, which covers the relationship between the actor groups. The investigation's findings point to the factors which increase or limit the chances of implementation success. I analyze complementary case studies (ALPS, URBAN and REGIONAL) using qualitative and explorative social research techniques in the tradition of ethnographic studies and discourse analysis. Data is collected through participant observation and interviews and complemented by document analysis. Empirical findings are compared with theoretical concepts, literature or context information throughout the research process. I take a constructivist perspective on knowledge production:
doi:10.3929/ethz-a-006018320 fatcat:gl67atbnubhy3iendk7g5o7rce