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Summer School 2015

by Niklas Hase

The Summer School on how to model human decision making in social-ecological agent-based models took place from 5 July to 10 July 2015 in Kohren-Sahlis (near Leipzig, Germany), and local coordination was heavily supported by POLISES. Four members of our research group were involved: Birgit and Gunnar were part of the international team of organizers, along with colleagues from Stockholm Resilience Centre, Arizona State University, Groningen University, CSIRO (Australia), and the UFZ. They prepared and supported the project work and gave lectures; David managed the application procedure and logistics; and Niklas helped as a tutor during group work sessions. The group of participants consisted of 18 PhD students mainly from Europe, with one young researcher coming from Vietnam.

Faced with heat waves and temperature highs above 35 degrees centigrade, we had inspiring lectures in the mornings and intense group work sessions in the afternoons. The lectures gave insights into dominant theories of human behavior and how to model them. One speaker presented her PhD work in modelling a social-ecological system, where she had to find trade-offs between data collection and model exploration due to a lack of time. The relevance of social and political networks for fostering cooperation and managing natural resources was also pointed out. Finally, a unifying framework as a guideline for modelers with respect to the topic of this summer school was discussed.

During the afternoon sessions, the participants split up into pairs to implement theories of human decision making (e.g. Theory of Planned Behavior) in one out of three social-ecological models: fishery, rangeland, or ecosystem services in an abstract model (Daisy World). Games of pantomime, higher philosophy, tales from our youth, chilled drinks, and a barbecue at the fireplace refreshed our minds and sweetened the get-togethers in the evenings.

Thanks to very positive feedback, the summer school is now scheduled to be repeated about two years from now in Arizona. But in this case it will change to a winter school, since nobody wants to be in Arizona during the summer.

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