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TIAS Quarterly

December 2021
The Newsletter of
The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS)

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In this Issue

Feature:  Water, indigenous rights and narratives in research
IA News

Photo: U. Meissner

The Society

The Integrated Assessment Society is a not-for-profit entity created to promote the community of inter-disciplinary and disciplinary scientists, analysts and practitioners who develop and use Integrated Assessment (IA). The goals of the society are to nurture this community, to promote the development of IA and to encourage its wise application.

We define Integrated Assessment as the interdisciplinary process of integrating knowledge from various disciplines and stakeholder groups in order to evaluate a problem situation from a variety of perspectives and provide support for its solution. IA supports learning and decision processes and helps to identify desirable and possible options for addressing the problem. It therefore builds on two major methodological pillars: approaches to integrating knowledge about a problem domain, and understanding policy and decision making processes. IA has been developed to address issues of acid rain, climate change, land degradation, water and air quality management, forest and fisheries management and public health.



Water infrastructure, indigenous rights and the narratives underlying collaborative Euro-African research

By Fritz Kleinschroth, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
A recently-released article in Sustainability Science calls for narrative pluralism in collaborative research jointly conducted between European and African organisations. This is illustrated by the complex case of hydropower and irrigation development and associated indigenous rights in the remote Omo-Turkana basins in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The struggles for the rights of indigenous peoples around the world are now reaching a global audience. Yet, despite the widespread recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, they continue to be affected by both conservation measures and large-scale infrastructure development. With this in mind, I entered the EU-funded DAFNE research project* on the water-energy-food nexus in the Omo-Turkana basins in Ethiopia and Kenya. Here, the construction of the large hydropower dam Gibe III which started in 2006 led to a world-wide outcry by NGOs like Survival International and Human Rights Watch, due to the risks posed to pastoralist peoples who live in the lower Omo valley and whose livelihoods depend on the seasonal floods of the river, which were at risk to be reduced by the dam and associated irrigation projects.

I soon learned about the range of lenses through which the Omo region is seen, depending on scale and interest group. The eminent anthropologist, David Turton, who worked in the region since the 1960’s, framed the different views of the land as contrasting narratives. For local communities the land is their home, and the river provides water year-round in an area that is otherwise characterized by long periods of drought and more recently flood events. At the same time, conservationists see this remote region as a wilderness in need of protection, given the high levels of biodiversity and the presence of extensive unfragmented habitats. Finally, state developers tend to view the area as a wasteland in need of economic development. Ethiopia as a country is currently following a “Climate-Resilient Green Economy” strategy, investing widely in infrastructure, including hydropower dams to support the country’s modernization strategy and to become a net exporter of energy. In addition to the Nile River, the Omo has been identified as having high potential for energy production and large irrigation projects.

The narrative of the water-energy-food nexus tries to bring different narratives together. This nexus approach to river basins explores the contested resource distribution issues through integrated pathways with consideration given to multiple interests in the landscape for optimal resource allocation and thus avoid “lose-lose scenarios”. Yet, during many discussions with our project partners, Caroline Lumosi and Caroline van Bers of Osnabrueck University, we realized the limitations of technically-driven approaches that aim at integrating interests in water, land, and ecosystems. In the course of our collaborative work in the project, we recognized the high level of importance of cultural and historical aspects, tied to specific geographical areas, to the people in those area.

Yet, culture is among the most difficult aspects to capture in short-term research projects, especially given a legacy of prior European-led research that has been carried out in Africa in a neo-colonial way, which has undermined trust. I was shocked when I first heard the claim by someone working in the Ethiopian public sector that Western researchers and NGO’s want to conserve Africa as a “living museum”. It seems that this “living museum narrative” is widely used within Ethiopia in the context of research in the Lower Omo region. The background to this is that tourist visits to the tribes along the Omo have been marketed to international tourists as an opportunity to take photographs, which has turned into a source of cash income for local communities. This kind of objectification of people for photography purposes shines a bad light on all Westerners who come to the region, be they tourists, scientists or NGOs and it opens the door for actors at the national level who are in favor of modernization, to use the living museums narrative to discredit the arguments of those who advocate indigenous rights.

Narratives reflect worldviews and as such are much more than the sum of their parts when it comes to finding common ground for decision-making. We identified the living museum narrative as an elephant in the room of nexus-based decision-making, reflecting neglected cultural and historical contexts, missing voices of local peoples and intransparent power relationships. While the possibilities to integrate all narratives may be limited, we conclude that collaborative research, especially between European and African partners, needs to work towards narrative pluralism based on fairness, respect, care, and honesty throughout the research proce

Drawing by Helena Mühlhaus

Our jointly developed article, Kleinschroth et al. 2021) tries to disentangle contrasting narratives in a contested and highly politicized struggle for resource allocation, while being fully transparent about our own positionality related to our backgrounds as African and European researchers. We hope that the lessons we learned in the project and during the writing process will be valuable for the wider sustainability science community, or anyone else grappling with multiple narrative dimensions, especially in transboundary and intercultural research settings.
* Decision Analytic Framework to explore the water-energy-food Nexus in complex transboundary water resource systems of fast developing countries (, Horizon 2020 programme WATER 2015 of the European Union, GA no. 690268.


Amos, S., Mengistu, S., & Kleinschroth, F. (2021). Three decades of pastoralist settlement dynamics in the Ethiopian Omo Delta based on remote sensing data. Human Ecology.

Ghazoul, J., & Kleinschroth, F. (2018). A global perspective is needed to protect environmental defenders. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2, 1340–1342.

Kleinschroth, F., Lumosi, C., Bantider, A., Anteneh, Y., & van Bers, C. (2021). Narratives underlying research in African river basin management. Sustainability Science.

Turton, D. (2011). Wilderness, wasteland or home? three ways of imagining the lower Omo valley. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 5(1), 158–176.


 Contact: Dr. Fritz Kleinschroth,


Two new members join TIAS as treasurer and advisory board member

At the end of October, TIAS held its Annual General Meeting. One important agenda item was the election of a new president,  treasurer and member of the Advisory Board. On behalf of the association, we are happy to welcome Caroline van Bers to the executive board in her new role as president, replacing Klaus Jacob who has been at our helm for six years. We also extend a warm welcome to our newest members, Christelle Rocoffort de Vinnière, who takes on the role of honorary treasurer and Pedro Jacobi who lends his extensive experience and a Latin American perspective to our Advisory Board.
Caroline van Bers needs no introduction to TIAS members. She has been with TIAS since 2004 initially as secretary and, until recently, the treasurer. She is editor of the newsletter and oversees the website, organises many of the association’s webinars and other communication activities. Caroline is a research associate with the Institute of Environmental Systems Research at Osnabrueck University. She joins Jan Bakkes and Marcela Brugnach in the executive board.
We wish to express our sincere gratitude to Klaus Jacob, as outgoing president, for his leadership and commitment and for steering a steady course for TIAS over the last six years. He guided TIAS in, among other activities, the implementation of a new working group on IA  principles, the launch of the Learning Community, the establishment of the regional group, TIAS-Latin America, overseeing an ongoing and successful webinar series and expanding our network. We wish him continued success in his future endeavours as Research Director of the Environmental Policy Research Centre at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Christelle Rocoffort de Vinnière joins us as the new treasurer of TIAS. She is working in corporate social responsibility at the ALDI SOUTH Group in Austria. Her work involves addressing social and environmental topics in high-risk food supply chains as well as conducting human rights impact assessments. She has a background in social anthropology from the London School of Economics and a masters in environmental science, policy and management from the Central European University, now based in Vienna, Austria.
Pedro Jacobi of the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo was introduced to the Advisory Board in May 2021 and his role as a member of the board was formalised at the AGM in October.  Professor Jacobi’s research focuses on water governance, urban environmental governance and social participation, social learning and education for sustainability, and cities and climate change.


Letter from the president: Catalysts for Sustainability

Dear members of TIAS,

In December 2016, Klaus Jacob, former president of TIAS published a letter to members in this newsletter entitled, Turbulent times for Sustainability, referring to the prevalent trends: nationalism, protectionism, climate change denial, and the increasing division of many societies along ethnic and cultural lines, that are undermining the basic principles of sustainable development. He ended by expressing his confidence in the catalysts that will bring about greater progress towards sustainability.

And indeed the past five years have seen the emergence or strengthening of catalysts that are spurring, and in many cases forcing, wide-spread transformation mostly in response to new and unexpected signals. Among the most notable of these catalysts is world-wide activism sparked by the young heirs of our collective legacy together with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climate events, that have finally broken the inertia slowing down climate action as well as the restoration of land and biodiversity. Backed by the strong evidence base built up over decades we are now witnessing a race among governments and industry to become carbon-neutral. The pandemic with its associated lockdowns and global trade disruptions has also triggered new initiatives to reform urban life in particular and shift to circular economies.  

However, catalysts are still lacking in many other areas. Sustainable development urgently demands widespread planning and implementation of safe and legal routes for migrants and refugees and their eventual settlement in other regions and countries. The list of priorites, especially in the global south, is long, and the SDGs serve as a beacon for what has to be achieved.

For the IA community, the pandemic together with the changing climate have also demonstrated that in a post-truth era, the challenge to science of providing credible inputs to evidence-based interventions in practice and policy remains. This needs to tackled by practioners and scholars themselves and then in open dialogue with government, business and civil society. How this can potentially be addressed will be the subject of a TIAS webcast in 2022 and eventually, we hope, a workshop.

The IA community is diverse in the scope of socio-environmental challenges it addresses. There are so many areas in which it can and has been helping to catalyze positive transformational changes. A few examples:
  • Providing guidance on strategies for contributing to the SDGs and raise awareness of them by integrating them into our research and education programmes, and promoting their mainstreaming into national, regional and especially local plans and policies;
  • Providing education which is problem-oriented and project-oriented merging disciplines and approaches to assess problems and develop solutions, and at the same time promoting the development of leadership skills and autonomous thinking among students and early career researchers;
  • Building innovation components into our research projects to attract entrepreneuers and make them active partners in these solution-oriented projects, and thus also contributing to new employment opportunities. 
Looking through the TIAS portfolio of activities in 2021, the society has contributed to the summer school on ‘Analysing Transformative Processes for the Management of the WEF nexus and the Advancement of the SDGs in Sub-Saharan Africa’ attended online by 40 students and early career researchers and practitioners mainly from subsaharan Africa (led by Osnabrueck University together with three South African universities). The Learning Community held a webcast on ‘Narratives for engagement, learning and action-taking in support of environmental management‘ which explored ways of integrating narrative and learning theories and approaches in environmental management. The Grand Challenges in Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling series of webcasts (described below) cohosted by SESYNC, SESMO and TIAS highlighted the current challenges and ways forward for practitioners and scholars who commission, sponsor, or use SES models for addressing problems and developing solutions at the human-nature interface. TIAS was also one of the coordinating partners in the now completed Dutch-German MEDUWA Project which, through the involvement of 27 partners including 16 SMEs, developed solutions (13 innovations) to pharmaceuticals and antiobiotic resistence in the environment.

The IA community has a considerable track record in contributing directly or indirectly to the solutions towards restoring and protecting both natural and social capital. More than ever before, the community of IA practitioners and researchers need to strengthen collaboration among multiple disciplines and segments of society from government, business, civil society to address these complex global phenomena. The role of this community in strengthening and sharing approaches and tools that facilitate this has never been so clear, from faciliating public-private-civic partnerships, to bringing together north-south perspectives in coping with change. Efforts to actively engage younger generations in the development of solutions needs to remain high on the IA agenda too.

TIAS is on this path. Let us continue to reflect on our agenda in this era of rapid change on how to effectively contribute at all levels from education to the policy.

On behalf of TIAS we wish you a healthy, happy and successful 2022!

Caroline van Bers
“What we all need at this point in human evolution is
to learn what it takes  to learn what we should learn - and learn it.”

Aurelio Peccei, in “No Limits to Learning” (1979)


Webcast Series on Grand Challenges of SES Modelling continues

The joint webcast series by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), the journal, Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling and TIAS on expanding the development and use of socio-environmental system (SES) models continues

A webcast on June 28 (29 in eastern Asia, AU, NZ) explored issues of scale in SES Modeling based on the 2021 article “Socio-technical scales in socio-environmental modeling: Managing a system-of-systems modeling approach.” It was led by co-author, Hsiao-Hsuan Wang,  Senior Research Scientist, Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology and Conservation Biology, Texas A&M University, and followed by insightful comments from three panelists, Val Snow, Agroecosystem Modeler and Senior Scientist, AgResearch Ltd., New Zealand, Derek T. Robinson, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada, and Volker Grimm, Researcher, Department of Ecological Modelling, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig and Professor at the University of Potsdam, Germany. The webinar recording is now available for viewing.


A subsequent webcast on Creating Socio-Environmental Scenarios took place on October 20th and explored the present status and futures of creating socio-environmental scenarios. Presentations were provided by Vanessa Schweizer, Associate Professor, University of Waterloo and Director, Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, Canada and Hannah Kosow, Research Associate, Center for Interdisciplinary Risk and Innovation Studies, University of Stuttgart, Germany.This was followed by a panel session with responses from Sondoss El Sawah, Associate Professor, University of New South Wales, Australia,  Martin Cenek, Associate Professor, University of Portland, USA, and Rebecca Kariuki, Carson Fellow, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Germany and African Institute of Mathematical Sciences Fellow in Climate Change Science, Rwanda. The two presentations can be viewed on the SESYNC site. See also the SESYNC tutorial on creating Socioenvironmental Scenarios.

The organisers are discussing themes for 2022 webcasts.

IA News

Modelling for Policy Support:
Reflections on the EU’s recent conference

By Jan Bakkes, TIAS and Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

The Modelling Competence Centre of the European Commission held its 2021 conference on Modelling for Policy Support in late November. Unlike the first conference (Brussels, 2019) this edition was exclusively online. It was large and diverse and included lively, smaller-scale workshops. See the book of abstracts and session recordings.

Apart from the breadth of topics and the many papers presented, three things struck me to highlight during the concluding panel.
Many cases of complex modelling work conducted under significant time pressure were presented, for example, time pressure associated with the preparation of the ambitious and broad ‘Fit for 55’ EU policy package, and the need to advise on economic interventions at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But however great the time pressure, each of the presenters of these cases mentioned how necessary and useful a short, slower phase been, devote to interaction between modellers, users and any co-designers. I find that advice very recognizable and a good thing to keep in mind, for example when proposing or reviewing an EU- sponsored project on modelling or assessment.

In the conference there was an interesting variation in the degree of confidence with which modelling efforts for policy support were presented. One end of the scale – the immodest end – featured the conference opening keynote, on behalf of the Club of Rome, of the Earth4All modelling endeavour, with results due for presentation at the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference mid-2022. At the other end of the scale – explicit modesty – examples such as the Commission’s modelling of potential climate mitigation action, notably presented in the very same opening session as the Earth4All . Another example of explicit modesty was the presentation of modelling the economic impact of Covid-19 developments by the European Centre for Disease Control together with European Commission’s Directorate for Economic and Financial Affairs. In my view, overly ambitious or overly confident policy claims by high-visibilty modellers can easily backfire and affect the policy climate for other modellers too.

As in the 2019 conference, the review of models and of assessments emerged as a topic of interest. It is a bit of a niche topic, but important. The Modelling Competence Centre now devotes one of its five lines of work to the review of models. With the 2019 conference in mind, progress was very visible in the form of a draft set of questions – admirably fitted into a single page --- that every policy user of model-based results could use to interrogate the findings of a model-based assessment. The set of questions was tabled for discussion, in one of those lively workshops, in collaboration with Sense about Science EU. The latter adds a flavour of human-health related science and that worked well, even in times of Covid. For TIAS, an exchange of practices and experiences in reviewing large models or large model-based assessments seems a sensible topic to keep in mind – a webinar, perhaps?


Adapted from photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash


Recent Publications of TIAS members

Bellaubi F. (2021) Exploring the Relevance of the Spiritual Dimension of Noosphere in Geoethics. In: Bohle M., Marone E. (eds) Geo-societal Narratives. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Bellaubi, F. (2021). Shaping the Noosphere: Geoethical values and spiritual resistance in Terres de l'Ebre, Catalonia, Spain. Resistances. Journal of the Philosophy of History, 2(3).

Bremer, S., B. Glavovic, S. Meisch, P. Schneider, A. Wardekker (2021). Beyond rules: How institutional cultures and climate governance interact. WIREs Climate Change, 12 (6), e739.

Kleinschroth, F., Lumosi, C., Bantider, A., Anteneh, Y., & van Bers, C. (2021). Narratives underlying research in African river basin management. Sustainability Science.

Turnhout, E., Duncan, J., Candel, J., Maas, T.Y., Roodhof, A.M., DeClerck, F. and Watson, R.T., (2021). Do we need a new science-policy interface for food systems?  Science, 373(6559), pp.1093-1095.

Wardekker, A. (2021). Contrasting the framing of urban climate resilience. Sustainable Cities and Society, 75, 103258.


Other Recent Publications
Lee, J. Y., & Waddock, S. (2021). How Transformation Catalysts Take Catalytic Action. Sustainability, 13(17), 9813.

Some reading for reflection at the outset of 2022 by the Club of Rome:

Sandrine-Dixson-Declève (2021). Anchoring Transformation: Policy Anchors for Ensuring a new European Social-Economic Paradigm. Club of Rome

Carlos Alvarez Pereira (2021). Learning new ways of becoming human. A discussion paper in the context of the Emerging New Civilisations Initiative (ENCI). Club of Rome

David Korten, (2021). Ecological Civilization: From Emergency to Emergence. Club of Rome



23–25 May 2022, The fourth Dresden Nexus Conference 2022:  Biodiversity – Stewardship for Vital Resources. Online. View Preliminary programme, Keynote Speakers and Sessions. Abstracts by 10 February 2022. Early bird registration by 15 April 2022.
21-23 October 2022. The 2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance, Toronto, Canada. This year’s conference theme is: Governing accelerated transitions: justice, creativity, and power in a transforming world. The conference is hosted by the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo together with the Earth System Governance Project. Deadlines: Paper and full session abstracts: 1 February 2022 and Innovative Sessions: 15 February 2022

Job Openings
Integrated Natural Resource Management Strategy Development Engineer - National Consultant. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Damascus (Syria). Deadline for applications: 07 January 2022
Officer: Governance & Social Innovation, ICLEI, Freiburg, Germany
Deadline for applications: 10 January 2022

(Senior) Lecturer in Water Governance, Water and urbanization and Water Rights and Justice, IHE-Delft, Netherlands. Deadline for applications: 17 January 2022

IISD Geneva Internship Program (Spring/Summer 2022 – 3 months), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). For Masters or PhD level candidates. Home-based or Geneva (office-based), Switzerland. Deadline for applications: 01 March 2022.



TIAS Quarterly Newsletter

TIAS Quarterly is the newsletter of The Integrated Assessment Society.

ISSN: 2077-2130

Editor: Caroline van Bers
Editorial Assistant: Johanna Heimrich
Photos: Ulli Meissner © ( (unless otherwise indicated)
Layout: Worldshaper design - Fabian Heitmann, Caroline van Bers

TIAS President: Caroline van Bers
TIAS Vice-presidents: Jan Bakkes, Marcela Brugnach

TIAS Secretariat, Germany

E-Mail: info[at]

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