Communicating complex ecological models to non-scientist end users

Cartwright, Samantha J., Bowgen, Katharine M., Collop, Catherine, Hyder, Kieran ORCID:, Nabe-Nielsen, Jacob, Stafford, Richard, Stillman, Richard A., Thorpe, Robert B. and Sibly, Richard M. (2016) Communicating complex ecological models to non-scientist end users. Ecological Modelling, 338. pp. 51-59. ISSN 0304-3800

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Complex computer models are used to predict how ecological systems respond to changing environmental conditions or management actions. Communicating these complex models to non-scientists is challenging, but necessary, because decision-makers and other end users need to understand, accept, and use the models and their predictions. Despite the importance of communicating effectively with end users, there is little guidance available as to how this may be achieved. Here, we review the challenges typically encountered by modellers attempting to communicate complex models and their outputs to managers and other non-scientist end users. We discuss the implications of failing to communicate effectively in each case. We then suggest a general approach for communicating with non-scientist end users. We detail the specific elements to be communicated using the example of individual-based models, which are widely used in ecology. We demonstrate that despite their complexity, individual-based models have characteristics that can facilitate communication with non-scientists. The approach we propose is based on our experiences and methods used in other fields, but which until now have not been synthesised or made broadly available to ecologists. Our aim is to facilitate the process of communicating with end users of complex models and encourage more modellers to engage in it by providing a structured approach to the communication process. We argue that developing measures of the effectiveness of communication with end users will help increase the impact of complex models in ecology.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: This paper arose as a result of modellers’ responses to a survey and discussion about the challenges, experiences and requirements for communicating complex ecological models to non-scientists, organised by S.J.C., R.M.S. and R.A.S. All authors were involved in the discussions and in drafting this manuscript. We thank S.F Railsback and V. Grimm for useful comments during the survey and on earlier drafts, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on this Review. The contributions of K.H. and R.B.T. were supported by Cefas (VISION − DP376 ), Defra (Developing Ecosystem Modelling Capability in the UK − ME5428 ) and the European Commission (OCEAN-CERTAIN, FP7-ENV-2013-6.1-1; no: 603773 ). The contribution of J.N.N. was part of the DEPONS project ( ) funded by the offshore wind developers Vattenfall, Forewind, SMart Wind, ENECO Luchterduinen and East Anglia Offshore Wind . At the time of organising, S.J.C. was a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the University of Reading, UK. Publisher Copyright: © 2016
Uncontrolled Keywords: communication,environmental management,impact,individual-based model,non-expert,stakeholder,ecological modelling ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2300/2302
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE)
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2023 03:23
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2024 02:14
DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2016.07.012

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