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FRIAS Research Focus 2019/20 has been selected

The FRIAS scientific advisory board has selected a new Research Focus. A group of researchers from the University of Freiburg will investigate modelling cultures and their distinct goals in the environmental sciences as part of the 2019/20 FRIAS Research Focus “Environmental Forecasting”.
FRIAS Research Focus 2019/20 has been selected

© IPPC 2013*


Environmental models are the main scientific instruments through which we analyse and understand long-term and large-scale dynamical human-environment systems. They are also an important tool to transfer academic expertise into daily practices and guide the work of decision makers, while informing the general public. Examples include models that predict landslides and flood warnings, calculate the carbon balances of forests, or the weather forecast, a service used by many on a daily basis. Yet, the intended audience can have crucial implications for the way a model is developed and for the predictions and explanations it produces.

Carsten Dormann, Kerstin Stahl, and Stefan Baumgärtner, all Professors of the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Freiburg will bring together a team of scientists from across the university and international collaborators to investigate the strikingly divergent modelling cultures along with their different scientific credibility, that have evolved in environmental disciplines.

Key factors for modelling, and hence for differences in modelling cultures, include model purpose (explanation or forecasting), target audience (decision maker, peers, public), impact (academic, social, economic, policy), size of the scientific community (large research field, niche group), education (physicist, computer scientist, environmental scientist), and perceived societal importance (relevance, legitimacy, credibility). This variety impedes comparison and assessment of model results across academic disciplines and their practical application.


The researchers will examine models from various disciplines including ecosystem ecology, economics, forestry, geology, history, and methodology of science, hydrology, informatics, industrial ecology, and meteorology. The focus’ aim is to distil a best practice from different disciplinary experiences to allow for environmental forecasts that are widely credible, and to formulate a research agenda to address existing deficits.

Researchers from abroad (early-stage and established academics) who are interested in collaborating with the research team can apply for the Marie S. Curie FRIAS COFUND Fellowship Programme (FCFP), co-financed by the European Union and the State of Baden-Württemberg.

Further information about the call

For more detailed information, please read the project proposal or contact Carsten Dormann.



*Reference: Flato, G., J. Marotzke, B. Abiodun, et. al. (2013): Evaluation of Climate Models, p. 790. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.