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Topic ICT May Enrich the Modelling Process by Expanding the Boundaries of Agreement
Participants | Roger Harnden | Alfonso Reyes | Clas-Otto Wene | Roberto Zarama |
Critics | David Best | Raul Espejo | Keith Pheby | Barnaby Sheppard |

Meeting 1 Notes

Meeting 2 NotesMeeting 3 NotesOutcome Resolve

Co-ordinator = Alfonso Reyes


  • Modelling for strategic decision-making involves three streams:

  • Modelling here is a very specific process that involves the use of fairly complex mathematical models
  • In this process, people in the policy making do not have the capacity to understand the complexity of the modelling itself. To close this gap we use scenarios as a sort of a transducer between the modelling and the policy making
  • By taking these three elements, the modelling process can be seen as a learning process with a typical feedback loop as represented in this figure:

  • The outcome of the process, in this modelling, is the policy that will affect the “clients” of the system-in-focus. Hopefully this outcome will meet the expectations of the clients regarding the issues being subject to the policy process.
  • With the increase in the capacity of computers to handle more variables and to solve more complicated problems, the modelling capacity has also increases. Now days it is possible to have very complex models representing the external world in a more precise way.
  • The development of ICT also has allowed a better way to amplify the outcome of the modelling to a larger community of clients and to get a quicker feedback from them.
  • There have been many instances of real applications of this sort of modelling and policy making, however, there is still a lack of formal investigation in the effectiveness of the policy making process itself as depicted in the diagram. How is it that actually these three streams come together in a particular situation? This is a question that have to be addressed. There are also some ethical questions that have to be explored as well.
  • The modelling here has to use information from the past in order to allow for the building of suitable scenarios for the future.
  • Modelling, however, is not also about building better (i.e., more precise) representations of possible futures but also developing an understanding of itself.
  • This last point of developing an awareness of the modelling itself points to the importance of the process of modelling rather than to the model resulted as an outcome of this process.
  • The importance of widening the modelling process is the ethical concerns related, those of participation and transparency.
  • This widening, however, may has as an implication a huge increase in the number of options (possible scenarios) that can overwhelmed people if they are asked to choose. Let us think, for instance, on the use of this sort of modelling for policy making in the social realm (i.e., a referendum with multiple choices).
  • This widening may imply, also, the capacity of the modelling process to questioning itself, to make explicit its assumptions, values and norms in a critical way. This means that, in terms of a learning process, the modelling has to acknowledge a double-loop learning built in itself.


  • We need, in the process of policy making, to balance between the informational and the operational domain, that is, the modelling of the “here and now” has to be connected to the bodyhood of the system that produces the modelling.
  • Another important point to be aware of is that the modelling process does not refers exclusively to the quality of the models being produced but also to the quality of the communications being carried out in this process between the modellers (i.e., “scientists”) the politicians and the other stakeholders, this also points to the issue of structure.
  • The widening of the modelling by the use of ICT is connected to the meaning creation process of the policy making but this is just one the sides of the coin. The other one refers to the structure needed to carry out the policies. So, a question arises, what is the connection between meaning creation and structure?
  • The ethical issues related to the widening of the modelling by the use of ICT should not be left out, specially the issues regarding participation and transparency.
  • Can we bring forth into the model of modelling some meta-modelling to account to the different models that people, in the modelling process, may have?


  • We can use ICT to improve the variety of a model
  • One of the responsibilities of modelling may be to enable me to recognise a richer “reality” at any particular moment. This implies a greater responsibility of the modellers as well because it may be the case that by widening the here and now with the use of current technology, some “truths’ that previously went unchallenged can now be confronted (refuted) by ICTs.
  • It seems that this widening implies a movement from the “professional modeller” to a community of (self-aware) modellers participating in (facilitating? restricting?) their own modelling (i.e., learning). This implies the need to sharing the responsibility of the modelling process with checks and balances. Here we are combining what we may call a 1st and 2nd order modelling.
  • We may depict a more general understanding of the modelling process by realising that through a model we are building an understanding. This understanding builds a form of relations which, in turn, creates a new (different) body which is itself the base for a new model and so on. We can appreciate this in the following figure:

  • Another interesting aspect of the widening of the here and now has to do with our understanding of “nature”. The question is: if the use of ICT increases the variety of the modelling, does this imply that we will have a more unitary (i.e., more precise) view of nature? Or does this increase in variety means that we will have a more diversity in the constitution of nature? (in a sense, many possible natures?, a less unitary understanding of nature).
  • With regard to the previous point, it seems that the original problem of this group was not to understand nature itself but to understand it in relation to an agreed policy.