PM CoP April 2021 Newsletter

Dear PM CoP members! 

It’s been quite some time since our last Newsletter. All of us were adjusting to the ‘new normal’ reality of COVID19 world. We hope that you and your families stay safe and healthy! In 2021 we gradually revive our PM CoP activities.

Firstly, we are returning to the practice of sending quarterly Newsletters and we really want to make it useful for you! Hence your contributions are welcomed. Please share your news, achievements and upcoming events through sending an email to

We also re-start the activities of the Working Groups (see full list here). Let us know if you are interested in contributing to any of the existing groups or, perhaps, creating new ones


  • Elena Bakhanova is replacing Emily Bondank as CoP leader

After so many years of excellent service to our community Emily has decided to retire from her leadership activities and has handed over the torch to Elena. Our many thanks to Emily and cheers to ElenaElena Bakhanova_photoGreetings everyone! I’m glad to step into this role. Few words about myself. I’m a final-year PhD candidate at the University of Technology Sydney. My main fields of expertise are participatory modeling, gamification and system dynamics. I know that COVID19 has influenced our lives in many ways and PM CoP activity is not an exclusion. I see my role in helping the community to evolve in a way that fit the interests of the members.

  • Special issue of SUSTAINABILITY on Modelling and Simulation of Human-Environment Interactions

Deadline May 31 2021

Theme: Modelling and Simulation of Human-Environment Interactions

Papers can be reviews, syntheses, viewpoints, meta-analyses, or original research. Theoretical and applied contributions may include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

    • Simulation models and techniques (e.g., Agent-Based Model, Cellular Automata, Fuzzy Cognitive Maps, System Dynamics) for human-environment interactions.
    • Using Artificial Intelligence techniques and systems to model human-environment interactions (e.g., case-based reasoning systems, machine learning, data mining).
    • Software or implementations covering issues of scalability, usability, or integration.
    • Methodologies for parts of the modelling process (e.g., design, analysis).
    • Engagement of participants (i.e. participatory modelling) in building or using models.

See details here

  • MODSIM2021 (Sydney, Australia)

28 November – 2 December 2021

Theme: Modelling for action with a flood of data and a cloud of uncertainty

With the increase in data availability and recognition of uncertainty, MODSIM2021 will focus on how modelling and simulation can be used to translate data into action. Building on the traditional modelling and simulation papers in diverse areas, papers will explore the conference theme from a wide spectrum of disciplinary perspectives organised in different streams. Papers can approach the theme from different angles, including quantitative and qualitative modelling, and stakeholder engagement techniques. We encourage innovative approaches using novel modelling objectives. Special themes of the conference will include methods that take advantage of large datasets, scenario modelling of uncertain futures under climate change, resource constraints, and conflicting objectivesThere is a whole Stream on Participatory decision making and modelling social systems, so lots of relevant sessions can be expected.

 Registration starts in April/May, check updates here.

One in particular will continue the tradition of our IEMSS sessions: Promoting participatory modelling among common stakeholders: Methods, case studies, tools and their simplification (with linked workshop) – Sondoss Elsawah, Nagesh Kolagani, Alexey Voinov.

  • Virtual Participatory Modeling Field School at Michigan State University (USA)

16-19 August 2021

The Participatory Modeling Field School features 3 ½ days of keynote addresses by leaders in the participatory modeling field and hands-on workshops on qualitative, semi-quantitative, and quantitative participatory modeling (PM) methods. Workshops are facilitated by faculty and community partners with extensive experience in community-based research and PM.

Register for the Field School here.

  • MISS-ABMS 2021

04-15 October 2021, Cirad, Montpellier (France)

Multi-platform International Summer School on Agent-Based Modelling & Simulation for Renewable Resources Management. By taking part in this course, you will gain a modelling culture and learn the different skills required for building agent-based models (ABMs) applied to sociological, ecological, or socio-ecological systems.

For registration check updates here.

Our Achievements

Working Groups
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the PM CoP has decided to be closer to the community by organizing a set of webinars and online workshops. Specialists and experts of different tools, approaches and from disciplines that relate to PM will provide hands-on training and showcase practical examples of the use of PM in environmental science and for sustainable and inclusive development. Follow updates at our website.

Recent Articles & Books

Advances in related fields

Featured Projects

We are adding a new rubric, where we will be presenting some of the on-going research and activities in our community.

Co-creating business road maps and policy guidelines for coastal-rural development (COASTAL Project)

Existing policy research still addresses coastal and rural development from either a land- or sea-based perspective, making policies based on that research ill-adapted to fully benefit from opportunities which could otherwise foster synergistic economic development. The aim of the H2020 project COASTAL[1], which started in May 2018, is to identify these opportunities by improved understanding of the social-ecological land-sea interactions. To this end, coastal and rural stakeholders interacted with local experts in six Multi-Actor Labs throughout the EU Territory.

Causal-loop diagrams and System Dynamics (SD) models are being used to support the design of evidence-based business road maps and policy guidelines. SD modelling[2] arose in the late 1950s to examine problems from the underlying feedback structure of systems. It can be used, for example, to explain why certain start-up businesses fail, whereas other incentives do not under similar circumstances, or why the short-term and long-term impacts of strategic decisions can be different. Although the human brain is capable of providing part of the answer this becomes more difficult when multiple factors interact, and linear extrapolation of historic patterns is inadequate. This is certainly true for complex social-environmental systems which are densely used and rapidly developing, with economic activities competing for resources such as space, water, energy and skilled labor.

While causal loops and narrative scenarios are useful for conceptual analysis of problems and solutions, SD models have an added value for sensitivity testing of different policy actions. Typical strengths, as compared to other types of models, are the holistic perspective, consideration for systemic limits, tipping points and non-linearities, the graphical interface of models allowing interactive design and high computing speeds. Nevertheless, the design and calibration of SD models can be challenging, particularly when stakeholder engagements result in overly complex or ill-balanced causal loop diagrams or modellers are less familiar with SD modelling. The main challenges faced are: (1) to properly align qualitative and quantitative analyses, (2) to ensure coordination with existing and planned development strategies, and (3) to engage stakeholders directly throughout all phases of the project. The stakeholders, actor and research partners collaborated intensely to finalize their SD models and collect the supporting data. In November 2020, the COASTAL coordination team discussed complementary aspects in methodology, as well as opportunities for joint dissemination with the coordination team of the ROBUST sister project, focusing on rural-urban interactions.

All six Multi-Actor Labs completed a second round of stakeholder engagements by the end of February 2021. Currently, the project teams are completing their pilot SD models. These will be combined with quantified scenarios to address system uncertainties and used to visualize business road maps and policy actions. This will help make policy and business recommendations evidence-based and allow comparison of proposed strategies for coastal-rural development, including best practices and system tipping points. Topics range from fish farming, sustainable water management, eco farming and rural tourism to renewable energy, and are being examined in the context of the EU Green Deal.

Some important methodological lessons can be drawn from the modelling exercise. Model complexity should be tuned to the purpose of holistic policy analysis with sufficient consideration for cross-thematic aspects. Stakeholders are best engaged in the co-creation process by focusing on the policy implications rather than the underlying modelling, even if their feedback on models is constructive and useful. And a step-by-step design strategy, supported with system archetypes and concrete examples is essential for facilitating the translation of causal loop diagrams into operational policy models.

Results and practical lessons to be drawn are being collected in practice abstracts, to be found online on the website of EIP-AGRI and newsletters on the project website.

Further information:

Jean-Luc De Kok ( )

Bastiaan Notebaert (

Unit Environmental Modelling

Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO NV)

2400 Mol (Belgium)

[1] COASTAL has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N° 773782
[2] Sterman John D. Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modelling for a Complex World, McGraw Hill, 2000.

NAIAD (Nature Insurance value: Assessment and Demonstration) aims to operationalise the insurance value of ecosystems to reduce the human and economic cost of risks associated with water (floods and drought) by developing and testing – with key insurers and municipalities – the concepts, tools, applications and instruments (business models) necessary for its mainstreaming. We will do this in detail for 8 demonstration sites (DEMOs) throughout Europe and develop tools and methods applicable and transferable across all of Europe. The assumption is that Natural Assurance Schemes can reduce risk, especially to drought and flooding, and this risk reduction can be assessed and incorporated within insurance schemes.

NBS fit for purpose, co-design with stakeholders to capture all benefits

In terms of social assessment, participation and adaptive planning, a series of methods and tools were developed and tested in project demos together with the stakeholders. The first is a tool to consider the portfolio of NBS with different criteria for their selection, the second is a participatory modelling tool by CNR-IRSA to involve stakeholders in an inclusive and equitable design process, and third is a structured modular stakeholder engagement protocol to guide the whole process. Finally, an integrated collaborative modelling tool allows to co-design solutions based on an adaptive planning approach, as tested in the Medina aquifer with the Duero River Basin Agency as end user.

In terms of economic assessment, the project developed an integrated cost-benefit framework that incorporates avoided damages. Phillipe Le Coent of project partner BRGM, the French geological survey, comments: “Demonstrations showed that NBS implementation costs are lower than those of grey solutions. However, investment and maintenance costs are not recouped with flood damage reduction. Therefore, co-benefits are critical for the funding and financing of NBS.” Thus, the Financing Framework for Water Security tool developed by DELTARES can help by supporting the infrastructure financing community and NBS proponents to develop tailor-made finance arrangements for green-grey projects.

In addition, the Nature Assurance Schemes canvas developed by ICATALIST can help identify feasible business models to demonstrate that this set of related benefits could justify investments, and also where smart regulation (including of the insurance sector) can mobilise collective action for risk mitigation through NBS. López Gunn concludes: “Through financially viable and technically sound natural assurance schemes, NAIAD captures the value of healthy and fully functioning ecosystems, contributing to the mitigation of water risks while helping to increase the resilience of society in a context of climate change, thus helping to increase the resilience and response capacity to water-related hazards through NBS”.

For more information see the website of NAIAD Project and Handbook on the use of participatory modelling for maintaining NBS for DRR.

Thank you from the Editors

Elena Bakhanova_photoElena Bakhanova is a PhD candidate in PERSWADE Centre at University of Technology Sydney, Australia.

Emily Bondank_photoEmily Bondank, PhD is an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at USAID.

Alexey Voinov_photoAlexey Voinov is a Distinguished Professor at the School of Information, Systems and Modeling at Faculty of Engineering and IT University of Technology Sydney.

Philippe Giabbanelli_photoDr. Philippe J. Giabbanelli is an associate professor at Miami University (Ohio).

Laura Basco Carrera_photoDr. Laura Basco-Carrera is a Water Resources Management Expert at Deltares (The Netherlands).