An IT perspective on integrated environmental modelling: The SIAT case

P.J.F.M. Verweij, M.J.R. Knapen, W.P. de Winter, J.J.F. Wien, J.A. te Roller, S. Sieber, J.M.L. Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Policy makers have a growing interest in integrated assessments of policies. The Integrated Assessment Modelling (IAM) community is reacting to this interest by extending the application of model development from pure scientific analysis towards application in decision making or policy context by giving tools a higher capability for analysis targeted at non-experts, but intelligent users. Many parties are involved in the construction of such tools including modellers, domain experts and tool users, resulting in as many views on the proposed tool. During tool development research continues which leads to advanced understanding of the system and may alter early specifications. Accumulation of changes to the initial design obscures the design, usually vastly increasing the number of defects in the software. The software engineering community uses concepts, methods and practices to deal with ambiguous specifications, changing requirements and incompletely conceived visions, and to design and develop maintainable/extensible quality software. The aim of this paper is to introduce modellers to software engineering concepts and methods which have the potential to improve model and tool development using experiences from the development of the Sustainability Impact Assessment Tool. These range from choosing a software development methodology for planning activities and coordinating people, technical design principles impacting maintainability, quality and reusability of the software to prototyping and user involvement. It is argued that adaptive development methods seem to best fit research projects, that typically have unclear upfront and changing requirements. The break-down of a system into elements that overlap as little as possible in features and behaviour helps to divide the work across teams and to achieve a modular and flexible system. However, this must be accompanied by proper automated testing methods and automated continuous integration of the elements. Prototypes, screen sketches and mock-ups are useful to align the different views, build a shared vision of required functionality and to match expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2167-2176
JournalEcological Modelling
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • decision-support-systems
  • management
  • methodology
  • interface
  • issues
  • tools

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