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Start of the FRIAS Research Focus 2019/20 Environmental Forecasting

Kick-off workshop with German and international researchers

Weather reports, predictions for flooding and landslides, or models to calculate the carbon balance of woodlands are all key scientific instruments that allow analysis and understanding of complex, dynamic human-environmental systems in the long term. These environmental models enable the transfer of scientific knowledge into daily life and guide the work of decision-makers. Yet the audience and purpose for which the predictions are intended can have a decisive influence on the forecasts and explanations generated. The new research focus at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies is dedicated to this issue. For the next ten months Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner, Prof. Dr. Carsten Dormann and Prof. Dr. Kerstin Stahl, all of the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources of the University of Freiburg, will cooperate with international researchers in investigating different methodological approaches used for models in the environmental sciences. They will also assess their scientific credibility and pursue the question of how environmental models can serve as a basis of information for the general public.

The team will examine models from disciplines such as ecosystem ecology, economics, forestry, geology, the history and methodology of science, as well as hydrology, information science, industrial ecology, and meteorology. The project is opening with a four-day workshop attended by German and international researchers. Together they will discuss aspects that influence the generation of environmental models. One of the questions addressed is if and how scientists’ own attitudes and world-views consciously or unconsciously influence the generation of models.

The FRIAS research focus aims to advance interdisciplinary exchanges on models in the environmental sciences. The researchers assume that the broad range of traditions, methods, and techniques can impede the comparison and evaluation of model results and their practical applications beyond academic disciplines, leading to misunderstandings and doubts about the credibility of environmental forecasts. Their goal is thus to shape best practices from the experiences of varied disciplines in order to make credible environmental forecasting possible as well as to set a research agenda that aims to resolve existing deficits.


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