Socio-technical scales in socio-environmental modeling: Managing a system-of-systems modeling approach

Takuya Iwanaga, Hsiao Hsuan Wang, Serena H. Hamilton, Volker Grimm, Tomasz E. Koralewski, Alejandro Salado, Sondoss Elsawah, Saman Razavi, Jing Yang, Pierre Glynn, Jennifer Badham, Alexey Voinov, Min Chen, William E. Grant, Tarla Rai Peterson, Karin Frank, Gary Shenk, C. Michael Barton, Anthony J. Jakeman, John C. Little

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


System-of-systems approaches for integrated assessments have become prevalent in recent years. Such approaches integrate a variety of models from different disciplines and modeling paradigms to represent a socio-environmental (or social-ecological) system aiming to holistically inform policy and decision-making processes. Central to the system-of-systems approaches is the representation of systems in a multi-tier framework with nested scales. Current modeling paradigms, however, have disciplinary-specific lineage, leading to inconsistencies in the conceptualization and integration of socio-environmental systems. In this paper, a multidisciplinary team of researchers, from engineering, natural and social sciences, have come together to detail socio-technical practices and challenges that arise in the consideration of scale throughout the socio-environmental modeling process. We identify key paths forward, focused on explicit consideration of scale and uncertainty, strengthening interdisciplinary communication, and improvement of the documentation process. We call for a grand vision (and commensurate funding) for holistic system-of-systems research that engages researchers, stakeholders, and policy makers in a multi-tiered process for the co-creation of knowledge and solutions to major socio-environmental problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104885
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Integrated modeling
  • Interdisciplinary modeling
  • Scale issues
  • Social-ecological modeling
  • System-of-systems approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Ecological Modeling


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