Under the lead of doctoral researcher Anja Klein, the Situated Modelling Working Group of IRI THESys published their joint open access paper “From situated knowledges to situated modelling: a relational framework for simulation modelling”. In this paper the authors extend the use of a relational approach to simulation modelling, a widely used knowledge practice in sustainability science.

How modelling practices are situated and could be done differently

Among modellers, there is awareness that model results can only be interpreted in view of the assumptions that inform model construction and analysis, but less systematic questioning of those assumptions. Moreover, current methodological discussions tend to focus on integrating social and ecological dynamics or diverse knowledges and data within a model. Yet choices regarding types of modelling, model structure, data handling, interpretation of results and model validation are not purely epistemic. They are entangled with values, contexts of production and use, power relations, and pragmatic considerations.

Situated Modelling extends a relational understanding of the world to scientific knowledge production and with that to modelling itself in order to enable a systematic interrogation of these choices and to research social-ecological transformations relationally. To make tangible the situatedness of simulation modelling, the authors build on existing practices and describe the situatedness of three distinct modelling approaches. They then suggest four guiding principles for Situated Modelling:

  1. attending to the apparatus of knowledge production that is socially and materially embedded and produced by e.g. research infrastructures, power relations, and ways of thinking;
  2. considering how agency is distributed between model, world, data, modeller in model construction;
  3. creating heterogenous collectives which together occupy the formerly individualised subject position; and
  4. using agonism as an epistemic virtue to retain and work with significant differentiations of social-ecological dynamics throughout the modelling process.


Klein, Anja; Unverzagt, Krystin; Alba, Rossella; Donges, Jonathan; Hertz, Tilman; Krueger, Tobias; Lindkvist, Emilie; Martin, Romina; Niewöhner, Jörg; Prawitz, Hannah; Schlüter, Maja; Schwarz, Luana; Wijermans, Nanda (2024): From situated knowledges to situated modelling: a relational framework for simulation modelling. In: Ecosystems and People 20 (1), Artikel 2361706. DOI: 10.1080/26395916.2024.2361706.

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