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TIAS Quarterly

No. 03/2020 (December)
The Newsletter of
The Integrated Assessment Society (TIAS)

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In this Issue

Feature:  New technologies for a new kind of assessment, by Pauline Riousset
IA News

Photo: U. Meissnr


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.



New technologies for a new kind of assessment

Pauline Riousset, Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag and TIAS Advisory Board member 

Learning across assessment communities to share insights and improve practice has been the mission of TIAS for quite a while. In this  newsletter feature, we seek to foster learning among researchers working on technology, sustainability, impact, and risk assessments as well as foresight concerning possible technological futures of undertaking these assessments. This article is based on an ongoing exercise undertaken by the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, an independent scientific organisation created in 1990 to advise the lower house of the German Parliament and its committees on matters related to research and technology. The exercise consists in identifying digital innovations that were born in assessment fields and research communities beyond technology assessment (TA), which could support the core tasks of TA in the future.

The innovations we shed light on and the lessons that we draw should be relevant across assessment communities. Indeed, many (AI-supported) software and internet applications have been developed to support assessments and even used in assessment-making to some extent. The tasks to be supported range from the collection of scientific evidence and stakeholders’ knowledge to the synthesis of evidence itself. For each of these three core tasks of TA, we identify interesting technological and software developments.

A lot of effort has been focused on making the neutral description of the state of knowledge of scientific and technological developments more efficient and systematic. The knowledge to be collected in TA ranges from findings published in peer-reviewed scientific journals to anecdotal evidence from case studies, as long as they are flagged as such. The systematic and comprehensive collection of evidence from a large variety of sources involves screening abstracts of scientific studies, sorting them and evaluating their relevance for the issue at stake. To make this process more efficient, three innovations seem particularly interesting. First, software systems have been designed to support collaborative screening processes, in particular the distribution of tasks, steering and monitoring of progress. Such systems are used in the preparation of clinical reviews  in medicine for instance (e.g., Cochrane reviews).

In addition, crowdsourcing techniques, the practice of collecting information or input by enlisting the services of a large number of people typically via the internet, has come to play a key role in assessment-making as well. For instance, the Cochrane Foundation runs weekly screening challenges as well as topic-related crowdsourcing actions, the most recent one being the identification of studies for Cochrane’s COVID-19 register.

A further development is the use of artificial intelligence based on text mining and machine learning to reduce the time required to screen the abstracts of scientific studies. Such systems have been developed in order to process the rapidly growing amount of scientific knowledge in the field of climate research (Fisch-Romito et al. 2020; Sethi et al. 2020). Yet, despite their availability on the market, Westgate et al. (2018) point at significant challenges such as handling the linguistic variability or the various types of data and visualisation forms. 

Lastly, systematic evidence mapping has emerged as one way to tackle the growing amount of scientific literature (Haddaway et al. 2016). It consists of producing queryable evidence databases by coding relevant studies and their meta-data in a given thematic field. In addition to the database, a report on the collected evidence is produced as well as a geographic information system where appropriate (Haddaway et al. 2016, p. 613). Such databases can be regularly updated and used to answer a large variety of questions about the evidence base in a broad thematic field. As such, the EviAtlas (Haddaway et al. 2019), an open access and open source tool, which is based on the R programming language, supports the production of interactive tables and graphics to visualize the state of research on a given topic. Similar approaches – also known as “living bibliography” – have emerged in the field of global and existential risks (Shackelford et al. 2020) as well as in the field of nature conservation (Sutherland et al. 2019).

Conducting Technology Assessment is also about identifying and integrating a large variety of stakeholder perspectives. In a project that the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag has been conducting on the digitalization of critical infrastucture, evidence from practitioners has been collected with a software program called 4D-Tool, developed by the Technical University of Berlin, which is based on network analysis. The software helps to identify conflicts between evidence strands, which need to be resolved.

Yet, the positions of stakeholders in TA studies themselves do not always need to be surveyed but rather the public discourse held in the media or online has to be traced and analysed. Some software can support the systematic and comprehensive collection and structuration of documents for the analysis of socio-technical discourses. Web-based applications such as the Issue Crawler (Marres 2015) or Hyphe (Tournay et al. 2020) can assist in characterizing a corpus of websites including the relationships between them (“web crawling”). A platform like Penelope (Willaert et al. 2020) provides online services for identifying and evaluating debates in social media. Such systems can support researchers and synthesists in systematically collecting the statements and positions of social actors and comprehensively identifying contentious topics, controversial positions and conflicting opinions.

Furthermore, some research projects and web-based systems specifically focus on the analysis of arguments from a large number of documents. Argument maps have been used to support discussions about scientific and technical developments for quite some time (Gokhberg 2020; Reed et al. 2017; Voigt 2014). Yet, their automation is rather recent - and still challenging. The web-based application “ArgumenText” uses a neural network and deep learning to identify arguments and counter-arguments from large document collections (Stab et al. 2018). One of the possible future areas of application is the identification of opportunities and risks associated with emerging technologies (Daxenberger et al. 2020), which could be used as a starting point for any kind of assessment.

As far as the synthesis of information is concerned, it is worth looking at research projects on artificial intelligence for automatic text production. Even though the expectations, which were raised in the eighties, that artificial intelligence would eventually lead to scientific discoveries (Collins 1989) have not been met, there has recently been a development boost in automatic text summarization. In 2019, Springer Nature published the first textbook generated by a machine (Writer 2019). One year later, the algorithm GPT-3 of the firm OpenAI was able to produce different text types in an apparently coherent manner, which almost could not to be distinguished from human-generated text. A closer look at the products of these algorithms shows however that numerous iterations between the editors and the engineers over the ad hoc parametrization of the algorithm were necessary to obtain a satisfactory result. In addition, the final book still contains many inaccuracies, the full identification and correction of which requires significant human power and makes a manual check of all contents inevitable. Likewise, the texts produced by GTP-3 were compositions from several drafts and/or the product of editorial adjustments.

Looking at the rapid evolution in the field, one notices that the new technologies primarily promise noteworthy efficiency gains. Yet, these prospects are counterbalanced by the high costs and the high personnel expenditures associated with software development. Over the last thirty years, the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag has worked on a large array of issues as diverse as biodiversity, health, labour and transport. Thus, in this context, efficiency gains are only possible provided that a software already exists and/or is usable in various projects, without too much adaptation. This, in turn, may be less of a problem for recurring assessments, such as those focused on climate issues or biodiversity. Beyond that, producing scientific policy advice for policy-makers and legislators requires high levels of transparency, which may possibly decrease with increasing automation.

To conclude, available algorithms and software are not (yet) fully able to reproduce the creative processes of framing issues and judging the relevance of evidence for policy and society. Assessments are the product of the interplay between various tasks, which happens to be less than easy to automate (Brassey et al. 2019). It seems that asking the right questions will actually remain in the realm of human interactions and human intelligence – at least for the medium-term. Nevertheless, the maturity that some technologies have reached raises questions and will inevitably continue to continue to raise questions on the division of labour between humans and machines in the years to come. Yet, as some experts in the field argue (Nakagawa et al. 2020), the future of assessments probably does not only lie in better technology, but in better infrastructure and innovative forms of collaboration between synthesists and researchers.

Photo Credits:


Brassey, Jon; Price, Christopher; Edwards, Jonny; Zlabinger, Markus; Bampoulidis, Alexandros; Hanbury, Allan (2019): Developing a fully automated evidence synthesis tool for identifying, assessing and collating the evidence. In: BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. DOI: 10.1136/bmjebm-2018-111126.

Collins, H. M. (1989): Computers and the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge1. In: Soc Stud Sci 19 (4), S. 613–624. DOI: 10.1177/030631289019004003.

Daxenberger, Johannes; Schiller, Benjamin; Stahlhut, Chris; Kaiser, Erik; Gurevych, Iryna (2020): ArgumenText: Argument Classification and Clustering in a Generalized Search Scenario. In: Datenbank Spektrum 20 (2), S. 115–121. DOI: 10.1007/s13222-020-00347-7.

Fisch-Romito; Vivien; Guivarch, Céline; Creutzig, Felix; Minx, Jan C.; Callaghan, Max W. (2020): Systematic map of the literature on carbon lock-in induced by long-lived capital. In: Environ. Res. Lett. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aba660.

Gokhberg, Leonid (2020): Use AI to mine literature for policymaking. In: Nature (583). DOI: 10.1038/d41586-020-02086-x.
Haddaway, Neal R.; Bernes, Claes; Jonsson, Bengt-Gunnar; Hedlund, Katarina (2016): The benefits of systematic mapping to evidence-based environmental management. In: Ambio 45 (5), S. 613–620. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-016-0773-x.

Haddaway, Neal R.; Feierman, Andrew; Grainger, Matthew J.; Gray, Charles T.; Tanriver-Ayder, Ezgi; Dhaubanjar, Sanita; Westgate, Martin J. (2019): EviAtlas: a tool for visualising evidence synthesis databases. In: Environ Evid 8 (1), S. 1–10. DOI: 10.1186/s13750-019-0167-1.

Marres, Noortje (2015): Why Map Issues? On Controversy Analysis as a Digital Method. In: Science, technology & human values 40 (5), S. 655–686. DOI: 10.1177/0162243915574602.

Nakagawa, Shinichi; Dunn, Adam G.; Lagisz, Malgorzata; Bannach-Brown, Alexandra; Grames, Eliza M.; Sánchez-Tójar, Alfredo et al. (2020): A new ecosystem for evidence synthesis. In: Nat Ecol Evol 4 (4), S. 498–501. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-020-1153-2.

Reed, Chris; Budzynska, Katarzyna; Duthie, Rory; Janier, Mathilde; Konat, Barbara; Lawrence, John et al. (2017): The Argument Web: an Online Ecosystem of Tools, Systems and Services for Argumentation. In: Philos. Technol. 30 (2), S. 137–160. DOI: 10.1007/s13347-017-0260-8.

Sethi, M.; Felix Creutzig; William F. Lamb; Jan C Minx (2020): Climate change mitigation in cities: a systematic scoping of case studies. In: Environ. Res. Lett. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab99ff.

Shackelford, Gorm E.; Kemp, Luke; Rhodes, Catherine; Sundaram, Lalitha; ÓhÉigeartaigh, Seán S.; Beard, Simon et al. (2020): Accumulating evidence using crowdsourcing and machine learning: A living bibliography about existential risk and global catastrophic risk. In: Futures 116, S. 102508. DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2019.102508.

Stab, Christian; Daxenberger, Johannes; Stahlhut, Chris; Miller, Tristan (2018): ArgumenText: Searching for Arguments in Heterogeneous Sources. In: Association for Computational Linguistics (Hg.): Proceedings ofNAACL-HLT 2018: Demonstrations. New Orleans, Lousinia, S. 21–25.

Sutherland, William J.; Taylor, Nigel G.; MacFarlane, Douglas; Amano, Tatsuya; Christie, Alec P.; Dicks, Lynn V. et al. (2019): Building a tool to overcome barriers in research-implementation spaces: The Conservation Evidence database. In: Biological Conservation 238, S. 108199. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108199.

Tournay, Virginie; Jacomy, Mathieu; Necula, Andra; Leibing, Annette; Blasimme, Alessandro (2020): A New Web-Based Big Data Analytics for Dynamic Public Opinion Mapping in Digital Networks on Contested Biotechnology Fields. In: Omics : a journal of integrative biology 24 (1), S. 29–42. DOI: 10.1089/omi.2019.0130.

Voigt, C. (2014): Using argument maps for debate moderation. Online verfügbar unter, zuletzt aktualisiert am 13.10.2014, zuletzt geprüft am 21.12.2020.

Westgate, Martin J.; Haddaway, Neal R.; Cheng, Samantha H.; McIntosh, Emma J.; Marshall, Chris; Lindenmayer, David B. (2018): Software support for environmental evidence synthesis. In: Nat Ecol Evol 2 (4), S. 588–590. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0502-x.

Willaert, Tom; van Eecke, Paul; Beuls, Katrien; Steels, Luc (2020): Building Social Media Observatories for Monitoring Online Opinion Dynamics. In: Social Media + Society 6 (2), 205630511989877. DOI: 10.1177/2056305119898778.

Writer, Beta (2019): Lithium-Ion Batteries. A Machine-Generated Summary of Current Research. Heidelberg, Deutschland: Springer. Online verfügbar unter, zuletzt geprüft am 08.09.2020.



Election results from TIAS Annual General Meeting
As a result of biannual elections at the Annual General Meeting which took place in mid-November, TIAS is happy to welcome several new advisory board members as well as welcoming back several returning members.
New to the board are:

Timo Maas, PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, NL and Forest & Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands

Jiahua Pan, Director General of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS), China

Pauline Riousset, Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, Germany (Dr. Riousset kindly provided the feature for this issue on Technology Assessment)

Returning members are:

Bas Arts, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands

Anthony Jakeman, Fenner School of Environment and Society, and the Integrated Catchment Assessment and Management Centre, Australian National University, Australia

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrück, Germany

Laszlo Pinter, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University, Austria
Senior Fellow, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg, Canada

Peter Viebahn, Division Future Energy and Industry Systems, Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH, Germany

Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf, Department of Civil Engineering and Management, University of Twente, Netherlands

We are also happy to welcome Caroline Lumosi who was formerly Assistant to the Board and now takes on the role of honorary Secretary, Caroline van Bers returns as honorary treasurer.


Latest from TIAS Learning Community

The Learning Community has been active this with the following activities:
  • Publication of a Special Issue on Learning in Transitions in the Journal of Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions.
  • A follow-up of the special issue, a dialogue session at the International Sustainability Transitions conference was organised in August 2020.
  • A TIAS webinar on Narratives took place in in October 2020.  
  • An initial exchange on learning and unlearning from the Covid crisis to draw lessons for a more sustainable future took place with a follow-up planned for 2021.
Plans for 2021 will be further refined early in the new year.

Non-profit status in the Netherlands

TIAS now has Public Benefit Organization (“ANBI”) status in the Netherlands meaning it has non-profit status.

IA News


The Commission modelling inventory MIDAS goes public

As of December 2020, the Commission for Modelling Inventory and Knowledge Management System MIDAS allows everyone to explore the models used to support evidence-informed policymaking in the EU. The opening of MIDAS is aimed at promoting a better understanding of the evidence used by the European Commission when designing impact assessments. The initial version includes 35 models used for impact assessments since 2017. All models supporting future impact assessments will also be included.

MIDAS explains how each model supported the analysis - indicating the leading Commission departmen, that runs the model, and which impacts it has helped to assess. For each model, MIDAS also provides information on:
  • Structure: details of the modelling approach, data inputs and outputs, spatial and temporal extent and resolution;
  • Transparency: the extent to which underlying data, model results, code and documentation are available and accessible;
  • Quality: if and how uncertainties are quantified and accounted for, if sensitivity analysis has been done, if the model has been peer reviewed or validated, and if results are published in peer-reviewed journals.
The system also includes useful references and documentation. Developed by the Commission Competence Centre on Modelling, MIDAS has already been available to the European Parliament since 2019.

The European Commission makes extensive use of models to support policymaking throughout the policy cycle. Directly contributing to Better Regulation, MIDAS encourages scrutiny of the quality of evidence and the exchange of good practices in model use.

Further reading:

Acs, S., Ostlaender, N., Listorti, G., Hradec, J., Hardy, M., Smits, P., Hordijk, L., Modelling for EU Policy support: Impact Assessments, EUR 29832 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2019, ISBN 978-92-76-09671-9, doi:10.2760/748720, JRC117250

Ostlaender, N., Acs, S., Listorti, G., Hardy, M., Ghirimoldi, G., Hradec, J. and Smits, P., Modelling Inventory and Knowledge Management System of the European Commission (MIDAS), EUR 29729 EN, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2019, ISBN 978-92-76-02852-9, doi:10.2760/900056, JRC116242

Adapted from photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash


Recent Publications of TIAS members

Bellaubi, F., Lagunov, A. A Value-Based Approach in Managing the Human-Geosphere Relationship: the Case of Lake Turgoyak (Southern Urals, Russia). Hum Ecol 48, 599–608 (2020). URL:

Herzog, L. M. J. 2020. Micro-Pollutant Regulation in the River Rhine. Cooperation in a Common-Pool Resource Problem Setting. Bern, Switzerland. URL:
Lucas, P., T. Maas and M. Kok. 2020. Insights from Global Environmental Assessments: Lessons for the Netherlands.  PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, The Hague. URL:

Van Beek, L., T. Metze, E. Kunseler, H. Huitzing, F. de Blois, A. Wardekker (2020). “Environmental visualizations: Framing and reframing between science, policy and society”. Environmental Science & Policy, 114, 497-505. URL:

Recent Doctoral Dissertations of TIAS members

Heitmann, F. 2020. Environmental System-of-Systems Engineering for integrated Nexus design - Developing participatory approaches to design decision making processes in complex human-nature-technology systems. Osnabrück, Germany. [online] URL:

Lumosi, C. K. 2020. Shaping Transboundary Water Governance - How Learning Spaces Shape Transboundary River Basin Management Practices and Processes in the Omo-Turkana and Zambezi River Basins. Osnabrück, Germany. [online] URL:


2-4 February, 2021, Global Symposium on Soil Biodiversity (GSOBI20) hosted by FAO in Rome, Italy.

8-12 February 2021. 8th Africa Water Week. Windhoek, Namibia.

23 Jun - 26 Jun 2021. 26th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, EAERE 2021, Berlin, Germany (Hybrid event) . Proposals are now invited for THEMATIC SESSIONS intended to highlight current research on a subject in environmental and resource economics. Thematic sessions will consist of three to four papers connected by a unifying theme. The Programme Committee will select a limited number of proposed Thematic Sessions based on scientific quality and originality. The deadline is January 31, 2021

1 – 12 November 2021, The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Information on ways of getting involved can be found here:

Preannouncement: In September 2021, the UN will convene a Food Systems Summit as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The Summit will launch new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems. Anyone with in interest in food systems at all levels is encouraged to also visit the recently launched online Summit Community, a collaborative space to guide the science, solutions, concepts and outcomes of the Summit.
Call for sessions for MODSIM 2021

The 24th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM2021)  is now accepting session proposals. These can be sent via email to and coped to the Stream Leader of the stream that the session best fits into. A list of streams and corresponding email addresses can be found at where all of the information about the upcoming conference can also be found.

Those who submit a session proposal are asked to include the following information:
1.    Title of your proposed session
2.    Contact details for the chair and session co-chairs
3.    Short (no more than 300 word) description of your session
4.    Three or four keywords that best describe your session

Note that sessions can also be framed as workshops and longer workshops can be planned for Friday 3 December 2021, which is the “workshop” day of the conference.

As with MODSIM2019, a submission of expressions of interest (EOI) is no longer needed. Delegates will be able to upload their extended abstract or full paper.

The call for sessions closes on 26 February 2021. Organisers recommend not submitting on the final days as this is a hard deadline with registration in March 2021, Full papers and extended abstracts will close on 16 August 2021 and revised papers are due by 4 October 2021. The conference itself will run from 28 November to 3 December 2021 at the Sydney International Convention Centre.

The organisers are looking forward to making MODSIM2021 a roaring success after all the global struggles in 2020!

For questions, please contact the conference conveners, Willem Vervoort, Lucy Marshall, Alexey Voinov and Jason Evans at


The Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in the Department of Environmental Economics of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Osnabrück is seeking to appoint a  Research Assistant (m/f/d) (salary scale E 13 TV-L, 50%)  This is a two year position. Research focuses on the theme of sustainable consumption decisions in the context of telecoupling. This includes development, implementation and analysis of economic experiments for better understanding consumption decisions, based on the example of cocoa/chocolate. Closing date: 30 Jan. 2021.
Chair of Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Wageningen University. Closing Date: Friday, 15 January 2021.
Research Fellow in Complex Systems Modelling, University of Leeds School of Civil Engineering. Closing Date: Friday, 08 January 2021


TIAS Quarterly Newsletter

TIAS Quarterly is the newsletter of The Integrated Assessment Society.
ISSN: 2077-2130
Editor: Caroline van Bers
Associate editors: Caroline Lumosi
Photos: Ulli Meissner 
© ( (unless otherwise indicated)
Layout: Worldshaper design - Fabian Heitmann, Caroline van Bers
TIAS President: Klaus Jacob
TIAS Vice-presidents: Jan Bakkes, Marcela Brugnach

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