• SENSE Research Cluster XIV: Integrated Assessment of Global Environmental Change

    Global challenges ask for sophisticated solutions from global, to regional, to local scales. Therefore, it is necessary to have high quality decision making for e.g. integrated pollution and/or ecosystem management, water management, land use planning, and sustainable development. It is advisable to involve stakeholders in policy preparation. Building on the concept of integrated assessment, participants in this cluster explore possibilities and pitfalls of integrated policies. They perform and critically assess integrated assessments for a variety of case studies. Also, they are actively involved in further developing integrated methods and tools.

    This research field is fully embedded in societal developments. Participants in this cluster develop methods like integrated modeling, scenario and uncertainty analysis, decision support systems, integrated monitoring and participatory methods. These methods combine a high scientific complexity with a high societal relevance. Participants in this SENSE Research Cluster strive for scientific excellence, combined with clear societal communication.

    Featuring subjects, mechanisms and methods that are being developed and applied in this SENSE Research Cluster are, for example:

    • the measurement of sustainable development in a integrated, holistic way
    • the synergy of adaptation to climate change and sustainable development
    • the optimal role of stakeholder participation in sustainability plans
    • support systems for decision makers to take uncertainty and risks in to account
    • scenario analysis for exploring possible environmental futures
    • integrated modeling of environment-society systems

    We welcome experts in the field of integrated assessment of global environmental change to participate in this research cluster to exchange knowledge and stimulate new innovative developments (if you are not a member of the SENSE Research School but involved with this subject, then you are still welcome to enroll and participate in this research cluster).

    To read more about the SENSE research clusters in general, click HERE.

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    Coordinators and experts


    SENSE key experts:
    • Prof. Rik Leemans (WU-ESA)
    • Prof. Carolien Kroeze (WU-ESA & OU)
    • Prof. Ekko van Ierland (WU-ENR)
    • Prof. Henk Moll (RUG-IVEM)
    • Prof. Frans Berkhout (VU-IVM)
    • Prof. Jeroen van der Sluijs (COP-UU)
    • Prof. A. (Anne) van der Veen (UT-ITC)

    Contact information:

    For more information about this research cluster, please contact Dr. Monique Gulickx (

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      To illustrate the urgency and relevance of new developments in this field, below we present some of the emerging research questions that are currently challenging both science and society in the research domain of SENSE Research Cluster XIV:

      1. What are the key interactions of climate change with its broader socio-economic context?
        Scientific and societal relevance: What are interactions with other effects such as globalization, poverty and institutional developments on climate change? What is the synergy between sustainable development and adaptation to climate change? Uncertainties about possible trends in societal, economic and technological change with or without climate change. How can a better understanding of the socio-economic consequences of climate change for different European regions with different adaptive capacity be created? Most of the past research has addressed impacts on a single sector (e.g., health, transportation, unmanaged ecosystems). Few studies address the interacting responses of diverse sectors impacted by climate change, making it very difficult to evaluate the extent to which multi-sector responses limit options or push situations toward tipping points.
      2. How to improve our methods for managing uncertainty and risk, for example in relation to appreciation?
        Scientific and societal relevance: A variety of methods for uncertainty management currently exist, yet, they can be improved to be of better use to for decision-making. Specific questions are: How do we use social and scientific uncertainty in decision making? What methods can be developed to support decision makers? What are the best strategies to cope with uncertainty? How should a policy maker take uncertainty and irreversibility into account? How to incorporate uncertainty on future scientific results obtained for long time scales in policy options? Also, risk acceptance and risk perception have a relation to appreciation. So, how do you incorporate this in methods such as MKBA (social cost-benefit analysis) when making policies?
      3. How to improve stakeholder participation by combining analytical and participatory methods?
        Scientific and societal relevance: How can civilians be best informed and involved in environmental policy? What is the extra value of civilian participation, based on an analysis of experiences in the Netherlands and other countries? What is the optimal equilibrium between analytical methods (fact finding) and participatory methods (priority finding)? Which role can interactive simulation games / policy exercises play in communicating the key trade-offs in the economy-energy-climate system, in national and international context? How can analytical and participatory methods be combined to enable effective participatory policy and decision making dialogues?
      4. How to apply current knowledge to improve governance for sustainable development?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Although relevant knowledge is developed, it remains a major challenge to apply that knowledge to improve the governance for sustainable development. Although the well-known 'tragedy of the commons' concept is well understood, it remains often unclear (through awareness, regulation, knowledge) how this tragedy might be overcome? An important theme is monitoring sustainable development. In Dutch spatial policy, for example, challenges are to develop a shared understanding of what sustainable spatial development really is, how to judge the sustainability of spatial (or regional) developments, and how to make those insights operational. This leads to questions like: How can we measure sustainable development in a holistic, integrated way that provides answers regarding the sustainability potential and current situation of a system (local, regional, national or global)? And: How can the development of participatory sustainability indicators help to sharpen the boundary between subjectivity and objectivity in sustainable development?
      5. How to improve our understanding of human-environment interaction through a better integration of the environmental and social sciences?
        Scientific and societal relevance: There natural sciences and the social sciences that study global environmental change differ strongly in paradigms, methods and time horizons. Initiatives like ecological-economic modeling brought some steps forward, but left many questions open. Sustainability science and integrated policy making demand a more sophisticated integration of natural and social sciences. Challenging questions are: How do coupled climate-ecosystems interact with social systems? How may actor perspectives change, and how to create adaptive policies that react to these developments? Can models be adapted so that adaptive responses and changes in human attitudes and behaviors can be incorporated?
      6. How to improve methods for economic and social valuation, taking into account their spatial and temporal distribution, and stakeholder perspectives?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Methods for economic and social valuation have been applied in specific areas for specific stakeholders.  Integrated assessment of global change includes long time periods and involves various stakeholders groups. The question arises what valuation methods are most appropriate in integrated assessment. In addition, it is necessary to develop protocols on how to combine and/or weight valuation by various stakeholder groups. Key questions include: What are the most appropriate economic and social valuation methods for ecosystem and landscape services, including the role and perceptions of stakeholders? How can values be captured spatially (eg. through mapping) to address scaling issues?  How can potential costs and benefits of climate change be measured, with and without adaptation and mitigation measures, and how can these costs be translated into policy?
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        Here you will be able to find interesting articles, links to books that are worth reading, presentations that caught your attention, etc. To suggest items that should be placed here, please follow the instructions mentioned below
        or send an email to the (technical) coordinators.

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          Add a document to the Library

          Do you have any interesting articles, reports or other documents that you want to share within this research cluster? You can add the by clicking on Upload Documents below. Please note that your document will not be visible in the library immediately, because it first has to be approved by the coordinator. You can also contact him if you would like your suggested document to be brought under our attention in a different way or if you would like the document to appear differently in the library (there are some options available for that).

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            Discussion forum

            In this forum topics related to cluster I can be discussed, varying from scientific issues to organizational matters. The forum is very easy to use.

            To enter the forum, click on Forum RC XIV below. You will go to the overview page of the forum, where you can see all existing discussions. If you click on a discussion title, you will enter the discussion. You can read all posts and you can also respond to them, by clicking Reply.

            To add a new discussion topic, you can click on Add a new discussion topic on top of the overview page. Please make sure that your new discussion is really new and does not overlap with existing discussions, otherwise the forum will get messy.

            The forum is maintained by the technical coordinator of the research cluster, who will remove any inappropriate contributions to the discussions.

            Please note the following!

            Everyone who enrolls in this course, is automatically subscribed to this forum and will receive e-mail notifications of every post on the forum. If you do not wish to be subscribed to the forum, you can click Unsubscribe from this forum in the top right corner of the forum overview page.

            If you do not want to receive too many notifications, you can adapt the forum settings for your account. To do so, follow these steps:
            a. Click on your username, which is always visible in blue in the bottom left corner of the page. You will go to your personal profile.
            b. Click Edit profile.
            c. Click Show advanced.
            d. In the field E-mail digest type you can now choose one of the three options: standard - notification of every post; daily an e-mail of all posts in full text; daily one e-mail with the titles of all posts. If there are no posts at all, you won’t get a summary e-mail either.
            e. You can also adapt other settings if you like.
            f. Scroll down and choose Update profile to activate your new settings.

            If you want to give feedback on the functioning of the forum or group page in general, then you are most welcome to leave a post in the discussion Technical feedback. The SENSE team will keep an eye on this discussion and will try to process your feedback as good as possible.

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              Section 6