Land Use models in complex societal problem solving: Plug and play or networking?

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37 Citations (Scopus)


Land use systems research addresses issues, such as agricultural policy making, land use planning and integrated water management, that often involve multiple stakeholders. Several potential roles for land use models in multi-stakeholder situations have been identified, such as: a heuristic role, improving understanding; a symbolic role, putting an issue on the political agenda; and a relational role, creating a community. This paper addresses the question: ¿Which kind of arrangements, conditions, model qualities or other factors harness land use modelling to perform those roles?¿ Our approach consisted of two components: the development of a conceptual framework of the interactions between scientist, model, other non-human entities and societal stakeholders; and the analysis of three cases of linking land use modelling to problem solving in a multi-stakeholder context. The conceptual framework suggests that a land use model can only perform a role in problem solving when it is enrolled in the interactions by one or more of the stakeholders. It then gets a different status because it becomes part of the interactions, is contextualized and its role is being defined. Here, contextualization encompasses the explication of values and aspirations of the modeller(s), fitting to a local context and interpretation of model work in relation to other knowledge sources. Based on this understanding, our case analysis addressed three questions. The first question was: ¿What role(s) did the model play in the course of the interactions?¿ The analysis revealed that the studied land use models performed heuristic roles in combination with at least one other role. In two cases, the model had a symbolic role in addition to its heuristic role. Also in two cases a relational role was found, i.e. the model fostered network building around the land use issue at stake. The second question was: ¿How did the model become part of the interactions in the network?¿ We found that in all three cases substantial investments were made to enrol and contextualize the land use model concerned and maintain relations with relevant stakeholders. The third question was: ¿Which model qualities contributed to the actual role(s) of the model?¿ The comparative analysis of the case studies suggests that land use models were appreciated for their characteristic system research features, i.e. the study of interactions between components and their integrative capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-172
JournalEnvironmental Modelling & Software
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • natural-resource management
  • decision-support
  • european-community
  • science
  • options
  • systems
  • tools
  • agriculture
  • knowledge
  • dynamics


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