TIAS Quarterly Newsletter
TIAS Quarterly

No. 03/2018 (September)
The Newsletter of
The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS)

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In this Issue

          Photo: J. Newig ©

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.

Integrated Assessment can be defined 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.


Storylines from research to practice: Five points to keep in mind

by Juliette Cortes, RiverCare Programme, Postdoctoral researcher, Communication Project, Water Engineering and Management Group, University of Twente

The changing and uncertain world that we live in requires clear communication and joint efforts between multiple disciplines particularly in the field of environmental management. Professionals working for consultancies and government organizations are interested in how management practices could be more sustainable and what the consequences of human interventions on the environment are. Some inspiration can be gained from the methods, tools and approaches developed by the research community in order to aid understanding of the complexity of the problem and potential solutions. However, the knowledge gained by research and its potential contribution to practice often remains elusive or abstract for a professional outside the field of expertise.

Research is often communicated via scientific publications and reports presenting the content and structure in a form that is essential for peer review. However, these publications do not necessarily highlight the new aspects or implications for practice. The large temporal or spatial scale of problems or their consequences make it difficult to imagine or provide visual examples to demonstrate the practical contributions of the research and the assumptions behind or limitations to them.  There is a need to diversify communication practices but also to understand what the information needs and goals of the intended audience are.

What can storylines add? The RiverCare initiative

In the era of the internet and social media, everyone has the chance to tell their own story or personal narrative. News, blogs, media and visual accounts are increasingly shared by professionals individually or as a joint initiative. Visual storytelling is a new trend in influencing others or sharing our understanding of the world, and science communication is no exception (Moezzi, Janda, & Rotmann, 2017). However, the storyline or overarching elements (for either a personal story or a scientific publication) are often implicit but are still necessary to make the meaning clear and aid interpretation.
This was the basis for the RiverCare storyline initiative. In this article I share insights from our exploratory study, ‘What a storyline needs to be useful’ as part of the RiverCare Programme’ (Cortes Arevalo et al., 2018). With a practitioner audience in mind, a storyline is an online visual and scrollable overview of about 1000 words that is based on a scientific publication or report. The storylines style, level of detail, necessary components and user interaction were not fixed at the outset of this storyline initiative.  It was RiverCare, a Dutch research programme running from 2014 to 2019, that gave me the opportunity to set up and explore what a storyline needs to be useful (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: RiverCare Knowledge Dissemination Days, October 31st, 2017 in Utrecht, Netherlands 
RiverCare studies the effects on the river system of recent interventions in the Netherlands that are intended to reduce flooding while improving conditions for biodiversity and navigation. I am one of the 20 researchers in a diverse group of hydraulic engineers, ecologists and environmental scientists who work together with partners from government, consultancies and other stakeholder organizations. Through a process of running interviews, the preparation of a storyline example and a workshop, we gained initial insights into how storylines can be potentially useful to a practitioner audience (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Schematic representation of the storyline used in the interviews (left) and snapshot of the preliminary example of a storyline on the first RiverCare publications discussed in the workshop (right) (Source: Cortes Arevalo et al., 2018)

Using the schematic representation in Figure 2, I first discussed the storyline approach with 20 representatives of partner organizations from research and practice. For example, researchers mentioned that they could use the storylines to engage stakeholders of a particular project, and a participant from a government organization was interested in learning more about the results.  For the workshop, which involved 14 participants, we prepared a sample storyline about an environmental management publication and asked participants to identify the useful aspects and needs for improvement in this example.

Important considerations for (online) storylines

In the RiverCare programme, we identified five considerations to keep in mind when presenting a storyline for a practitioner audience:

Select your audience: Defining whether your audience is the general public, policy makers or practitioners and their respective interests is an initial important step in determining what to focus on. The general public is concerned with developments that directly affect everyday life and policy makers may be looking for specific policy-relevant recommendations, while practitioners may need examples of innovative approaches to tackle management challenges. RiverCare storylines are focused on the latter group: often project managers or advisors who are not necessarily familiar with specific scientific terms and concepts and need to understand research results within the context of everyday practice.
Define the storyline purpose and content: Storylines are intended to assist online visitors in identifying what might be useful to their work while inspiring them to share them with colleagues. They can also contact the authors to share experiences or pose questions and re-visit them online. To help the visitor to identify the importance and purpose of the study presented, the storyline is divided into parts each with a short text and a visual aid.
Pay attention to the structure and framing of the storyline:
 Triggering headings or questions can assist readers in distinguishing between the parts of the storyline but should be consistent with the study presented so as not to raise false expectations. In addition, when presenting research to a specific audience, it should be acknowledged that some simplification may be needed and therefore it is important to communicate both the benefits and limitations of the outcomes. For visitors to better relate to the context, it is important to make explicit the actors and dilemmas involved while providing examples about the means and implications of findings.
Use visuals that are consistent with the text: Images to reflect the context, maps to show locations and figures providing examples of methods and findings should complement the text. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect when creating storylines. Researchers are often not aware of the importance of creating balance in the amount of text and details while including appealing visuals. Creating appealing visuals requires keeping the audience in mind and some design skills that are in any case useful to learn.
Provide the opportunity for feedback: Despite the importance of dialogue, online discussions should have a clear goal and a specific output to be of value to visitors/participants. Therefore, online storylines focus on a framing and structure that makes the study being presented more accessible and it provides the opportunity for feedback and contacting the authors. Specific events or online seminars can be organized from time to time to show feedback compiled and further discussions.


Next steps: From potentially useful to effective storylines

The storyline initiative started as main component of an online knowledge base that is under development in the Rivercare programme.  The knowledge base is made available via a website that collects and shows the relationship between the knowledge collected in the RiverCare programme (projects, storylines, publications and news). It is intended for professionals interested in learning more about the programme. In addition to the development of potentially useful storylines, it was also necessary to evaluate their effectiveness by scaling up this initiative (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Latest RiverCare storyline about the biodiversity of flood risk adaptation at delta scale.
(Other storylines are available here)

The next steps involved the creation of storylines that focused on the various disciplines involved in the research of the RiverCare programme, and a discussion of these storylines with representatives of the intended audiences from diverse organizations in the Netherlands and abroad.  As with the participants’ feedback in the exploratory study, participants involved in the review of this later stage of the storylines initiative were positive but critical. They suggested limiting the use of jargon, watching out for the consistency of the images used with the text, and making explicit the contribution to practice even through imaginary examples while clearly stating what the development status for day-to-day practice is. We are now compiling recommendations into guidelines useful not only for RiverCare but also for researchers working in other environmental fields. Guidelines will be soon available in a follow-up publication.


Cortes Arevalo, V. J., Verbrugge, L. N. H., Haan, R.-J. den, Baart, F., van der Voort, M. C., & Hulscher, S. J. M. H. (2018). Users’ Perspectives About the Potential Usefulness of Online Storylines to Communicate River Research to a Multi-disciplinary Audience. Environmental Communication, 1–17.

Moezzi, M., Janda, K. B., & Rotmann, S. (2017). Using stories, narratives, and storytelling in energy and climate change research. Energy Research & Social Science, 31, 1–10.

RiverCare storylines for river research: available at



TIAS biannual elections in October 2018

TIAS members have been invited to nominate and vote for members of the extended executive board which includes the secretary, treasurer and assistant to the executive, as well as the advisory board (see current board). These elections take place on a biannual basis and will take place online in the week of October 22nd. For more information contact

TIAS workshop on participatory modelling and ambiguity at 2018 iEMSs conference in Boulder

In June 2018, TIAS hosted a workshop on participatory modelling and ambiguity at the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society (iEMSs) Conference in Boulder, Colorado. Organised and led by TIAS Advisory Board member, Marcela Brugnach of the Civil Engineering Department at Twente University and Raffaele Giordano of the Water Research Institute of the Italian National Research Council. The workshop attracted a variety of presentations that explored methodological approaches and practical applications for coping with ambiguity in participatory modelling exercises. Participatory modelling goes beyond prediction to include processes designed with stakeholders. It brings multiple forms of knowledge together through the engagement of these stakeholders but also entails ambiguity, a type of uncertainty that often stems from confusion or different interpretations among the actors involved over the issues in question and possible solutions. This is a reflection of the many interpretations that these diverse actors bring to the modelling exercise. Ambiguity can lead to conflict but can also be a source of creativity. How ambiguity is resolved or embraced often determines the quality of the participatory process. It influences what is being modeled as well as the resulting model. More information on iEMSs workshops

Sustainability platforms to facilitate deliberative policy learning

In September 2018, TIAS member, Martin Kowarsch (Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change - MCC, Berlin) and TIAS Vice-president, Claudia Pahl-Wostl (Univ. of Osnabrück), organized an expert workshop in Berlin on multi-stakeholder platforms to facilitate deliberative policy learning. The workshop was funded by the MCC.

Participants of the workshop, Berlin

The guiding question for this small, interdisciplinary workshop was: Under which conditions – including power constellations and political contexts – can science-informed, deliberative multi-stakeholder platforms promote substantive policy learning (even when positions have hardened)? And how can long-term institutionalization of such processes be achieved? A particular focus was on environmental policy issues.

The main goal was to jointly reflect on the (learning and democratic) prospects as well as the limitations, problems and challenges of these platforms. This was based on a review of the current literature and recent debates in this field in order to take stock of what we already know about these platforms.This interdisciplinary workshop brought together experts from various fields: (1) political and learning theory; (2) related applied and empirical research; (3) and organizers of learning platforms. For the proceedings of this event, see the workshop report.


TIAS offers webinar service

TIAS now offers to host webinars for interested organisations on topics related to Integrated Assessment. For a modest fee the service includes:
  • an orientation of the online software and test runs with speakers
  • a template for the webinar announcement and related information
  • a registration page
  • technical assistance during the event
For more information contact

IA News

IPBES call for nominations of experts in the assessment of invasive alien species

Nominees should have expertise related to the themes and skills required for the chapters of the assessment as set out in its scoping document (available here). They should be experts on invasive alien species within one or more of the following disciplines: natural sciences; social sciences; or the humanities; be indigenous and local knowledge experts or have expertise in indigenous and local knowledge systems; or be policy experts and practitioners. More information.


Members Publications

Bellaubi, F. and Bustamante, R., 2018. Towards a New Paradigm in Water Management: Cochabamba’s Water Agenda from an Ethical Approach. Geosciences, 8(5), p.177.

Bodde, M., K. van der Wel, P. Driessen, A. Wardekker, H. Runhaar (2018). "Strategies for dealing with uncertainties in Strategic Environmental Assessment: An analytical framework illustrated with case studies from the Netherlands". Sustainability, 10 (7), 2463.


Call for Submissions: Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling Journal

The open-access journal, Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling, will launch its inaugural issue in November 2018. The aim of the journal is to advance our understanding of and decision making for major socio-environmental issues using advances in model-grounded processes that consider institutional and governance contexts, cross-sectoral and scale challenges, and stakeholder perspectives.

The journal invites submissions for subsequent issues. Proposed themes for manuscripts can be sent to Tony Jakeman, editor-in-chief:   Professor Jakeman will also consider topics and guest editor proposals for future special issues. More information about the journal:


Other publications

Global Warming of 1.5 °C: An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty, IPCC SR 15, has been published in Korea.

IRP Think Piece on Climate Change and Resource efficiency: An International Resource Panel thinkpiece, prepared at the request of Argentina, holder of the G20 Presidency in 2018, was presented to the G20 nations at their Resource Efficiency Dialogue held in Iguazu on August 27th. The paper served as scientific input for the discussions and draws upon research by the International Resource Panel, including its assessment report entitled “Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications”, and provides a summary of the latest scientific information on resource efficiency, its economic potential and the connections it has with climate change. 

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Educational Programmes and Courses


Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands offers a wide range of online courses, accessible to all and free of charge. Participants study at their own pace from any location with an internet connection. The MOOCs are developed by professors at Wageningen University & Research and are based on the latest scientific research. The courses allows learners to update or expand their knowledge on topics relevant to Integrated Assessment such as:
  • Soil4life: Sustainable Soil Management
  • Sustainable Food Security (Crop Production, The Value of Systems Thinking)
  • Sustainable Tourism: Rethinking the future
  • Sustainable Tourism: Society & Environmental Aspects
  • Co-Creating Sustainable Cities
  • Sustainable Urban Development: Discover Advanced Metropolitan Solutions

Conference and Symposia


Symposium on “The contribution of scenario analysis to policy-making”
PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency

November 9th, 2018, 13:30-19:00 in The Hague, Netherlands
To mark the retirement of Tom Kram, deputy head of the ‘Climate, Energy and Air Pollution’ department of PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. Tom Kram will retire fall 2018, after a lifetime of work on and dedication to advising governments on future global change. To mark this occasion, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency will host a symposium reflecting on the history of energy modelling and its impact on policy-making. The event will also draw lessons for the future.
The symposium will include keynotes by:
  • Tom Kram – PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)
  • Jae Edmonds – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)
  • Keywan Riahi – International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
  • Dolf Gielen – International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
  • Rob Dellink - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Registration here by October 31, 2018


AR+ Transformations Gathering 

March 7-10, 2019, hosted by Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden
AR+ Transformations Gathering is a community organizing space, designed by and for those committed to action-oriented transformations research. The gathering convenes a new global community in creative collaboration around the question of how to undertake learning/science with stakeholders. This transdisciplinary work is seen as an alternative, as well as a complement, to the conventional ways of doing "objective" science. Like-hearted scholars/practitioners and activists are invited to take part in the next experiments in a global learning community. Registration here

Hilary Bradbury – AR+ Convener & Jubilee Professor for "Research Utilization" at Chalmers University
Steve Waddell – Transformations Forum, Lead.
Derk Loorbach – Director - Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) at Erasmus University, Netherlands.
Jean Hartmann – new PhD, Social work entrepreneur, Adjunct at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Maria Elmquist – Dean, Technology, Management Economics (TME), Chalmers U. Sweden.
Million Belay – t-learning transformative knowledge network of Africa.


Other important events

22 - 24 October 2018, World Circular Economy Forum 2018, Yokohama, Japan

27 - 28 November 2018, 4th European Resources Forum, Berlin.


TIAS Quarterly

TIAS Quarterly is the newsletter of The Integrated Assessment Society.
ISSN: 2077-2130
Editor: Caroline van Bers
Associate editors: Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf, Caroline Lumosi, Anna-Lena Guske
Photos: Ulli Meissner 
© (, Jens Newig ©
Layout: Worldshaper design - Fabian Heitmann, Caroline van Bers

TIAS Secretariat, Germany

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