OR/14/042 NERC IEM Strategy

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Royse, K R, and Hughes, A G (editors). 2014. Meeting Report: NERC Integrated Environmental Modelling Workshop (Held at the British Geological Survey, Keyworth, 4–5 February). British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/14/042.

The environment is too complex for us to reason through the needs of policy without models. To answer the deceptively simple ‘what if’ questions, such as how could a tsunami affect transport and energy infrastructure? We need to be able to improve our predictive modelling capabilities. These questions are often the result of complex interactions between the natural and managed environment, engineered structures and humans. It is increasingly recognised that different sectors are interlinked; thus energy policy interacts with the water, land use (and hence food production), climate mitigation and industrial policies. To make evidence based and holistic assessments for risk assessment, policy and development we need an integration of our models within an Integrated Environmental Modelling (IEM) framework.

Integrated Environmental Modelling provides a means of achieving this by making models more easily interoperable, increasing access and allowing for the formation of a consultative infrastructure. These advances enable the application of multi-disciplinary knowledge to explain, explore and predict the Earth’s response to natural and human induced stressors and provide the answer to the ‘what if’ questions facing policy-makers today.

IEM provides a science based structure to assimilate and organise multidisciplinary knowledge and information. It provides a way of applying this knowledge to explain, explore and predict an environmental system response to natural and human induced stressors. Its structure serves as a unifying vehicle of communication among stakeholders’ diverse perspectives, values and priorities. IEM serves decision-makers’ needs to understand the dynamic coupled systems involving socio-economic and environmental components, compare impacts of several scenarios, analyse trade-offs and adapt strategies based on ongoing monitoring and observation of the system and respond to possible unintended consequences.

The NERC IEM strategy addresses these challenges by creating a community that prioritises modelling needs and a modelling framework to facilitate greater sharing and linking of data and models. The overall objective is to promote a change in culture towards greater collaborative working, improved accessibility and effective use of existing models and tools developed over many years and also to encourage a move away from ‘silo management’ where each problem is addressed in isolation.

The key challenges to be addressed within IEM are:

  • Development of workable standards that define model input and output unambiguously and provide a description of the model and the assumptions it is based on.
  • Understand and quantify uncertainty, so that we can understand how uncertainty is propagated within a linked modelled system and adopt user specific communication methods.
  • Provide long term support for infrastructure, which is future proofed and supported by the IEM modelling community
  • Develop easy to use model integration platforms appropriate to the scale of the problem being addressed, with defined standards for the interaction between models and their data.
  • Understand the impact of temporal and spatial scales on model operation and processing. Design tools that can explore and mitigate the impacts of changing scales on linked model systems.
  • Develop framework independent model libraries, which would facilitate the exposure of models and data as web-services.
  • Develop our capabilities within Integrated Environmental Modelling through a set of real world case studies and problem solving by developing generic solutions.

These will be addressed by:

  • To address this, a programme of work will be developed through four exemplar projects which will highlight the breadth and depth of scientific interdisciplinary research which can be achieved through integrated modelling methods (see Figure 1). The infrastructure programme will develop the supporting technology to sustain the IEM modelling communities and enable the science user to be able to find linkable components and use them. The exemplar projects will address one or more real-world problems and have been chosen to take IEM from being a concept to an operational reality.
Figure 1    Diagram showing relationship between different activities within any programme.

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