Networks of action situations: a systematic review of empirical research

Christian Kimmich, Elizabeth Baldwin, Elke Kellner, Christoph Oberlack, Sergio Villamayor-Tomas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


“Action situations”—events, venues, or physically interdependent instances of decision-making—have become a central unit of analysis in the social–environmental sciences, particularly among scholars interested in bridging the social with the biophysical or ecological side of interdependent decisions. A growing body of empirical studies in social–ecological systems research has recently used case and comparative studies to analyse multiple interdependent action situations, structured into networks. In this article, we take stock of this body of empirical research, synthesize the diverse approaches that scholars have taken to assess “networks of action situations”, and identify fruitful paths forward. We conduct a systematic review of the empirical literature in the field, reviewing and summarizing the key characteristics of the empirical studies, including network features, topologies, methods, and data sources used in each case. We summarize and discuss the conceptualizations, methods, diagnostic procedures, and conclusions used in this body of work in a narrative framework synthesis. The review indicates that an increasingly coherent approach is taking shape, but a systematic, protocol-driven, or formalized approach is only partly emerging. We derive future research needs that could help accumulate knowledge from empirical research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-26
Number of pages16
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Action situation
  • Ecology of games
  • Environmental governance
  • Institutional analysis
  • Polycentricity
  • Situation-centred networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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