, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 376-384

Ten Heuristics for Interdisciplinary Modeling Projects

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Abstract

Complex environmental and ecological problems require collaborative, interdisciplinary efforts. A common approach to integrating disciplinary perspectives on these problems is to develop simulation models in which the linkages between system components are explicitly represented. There is, however, little guidance in the literature on how such models should be developed through collaborative teamwork. In this paper, we offer a set of heuristics (rules of thumb) that address a range of challenges associated with this enterprise, including the selection of team members, negotiating a consensus view of the research problem, prototyping and refining models, the role of sensitivity analysis, and the importance of team communication. These heuristics arose from a comparison of our experiences with several interdisciplinary modeling projects. We use one such experience—a project in which natural scientists, social scientists, and local residents came together to investigate the sustainability of small indigenous communities in the Arctic—to illustrate the heuristics.

Received 27 April 2001; accepted 12 November 2001.