The modelling spiral for solving “wicked” environmental problems: Guidance for stakeholder involvement and collaborative model development

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Parrott, Lael
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1.Many problems in environmental management and sustainability have no single, optimal solution. Such problems are called “wicked problems”. Any solution to a wicked problem will significantly affect a wide range of stakeholders, and cannot be separated from human ethics, values and social equity. Experience with participatory approaches that include stakeholders shows that ecological modelling can lead to applied outcomes that may inform environmental management and policy, thus helping to solve wicked problems. However, many ecological models fail to meet this goal. 2.The key ways in which scientists and ecological modellers can contribute to the search for solutions to wicked problems in collaboration with stakeholders are described. Modelling is identified as a tool that scientists can bring into the deliberative process to facilitate dialogue and evidence-based decision-making within a stakeholder forum. 3.A modelling spiral is proposed as a framework for describing the stages of the modelling process leading to positive change in collaboration with stakeholders. 4.By following the recommendations of the modelling spiral, ecological modellers can accomplish socially relevant research that contributes to the collective search for sustainable solutions to wicked environmental problems.


Parrott, Lael. 2017. “The Modelling Spiral for Solving ‘Wicked’ Environmental Problems: Guidance for Stakeholder Involvement and Collaborative Model Development.” Methods in Ecology and Evolution, February, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.12757.