What it takes to make different approaches work together
Researchers invite readers “behind the scenes” to share their experiences combining agent-based modelling and controlled behavioural experiments
• Four researchers reflect on more than a decade of collaboration and combining of approaches
• Though still unconventional, agent-based modelling is an extremely enabling combination partner
• Learning from others’ experiences is just as important as learning about their insights to advance our understanding about the complex (social) worlds we live in
COLLECTIVE LEARNING IN SCIENCE: Process learnings from applying different research approaches can be just as important as the description of their (successful) outcomes.
This is the main conclusion from a paper published in International Journal of Social Research Methodology, written by centre researchers Nanda Wijermans, Caroline Schill, Therese Lindahl and Maja Schlüter.
Shared interest, different approaches
In their paper, the four researchers reflect on their collaboration which started back in 2012: what worked and what did not? How did it differ from other similar collaborations?
All four shared a scientific interest in understanding how people can manage their resources sustainably’ but they approached the topic with different methods.
Wijermans and Schlüter use agent-based modelling (ABM) as their main method, while Schill and Lindahl use controlled behavioural experiments (bExp).
ABM is a computer simulation approach where researchers can analyse how a variety of actors interact with each other and with the environment they are part of. The approach can reveal intricate interactions among stakeholders and help prevent unintended policy outcomes.
Trust and tension
Controlled behavioural experiments are primarily used to test hypotheses about human behaviour, the cause and effect of certain actions, usually conducted by students in a lab.
Can these two approaches be combined?
Yes, argue Wijermans and her colleagues, even in more ways than one, but it is not a straightforward process. Apart from the time investment, certain non-negotiable aspects needed to be clarified.
We benefited from a robust collaboration and the trust we developed for each other.
Nanda Wijermans lead author
Tension was kept at a minimum by maintaining a high tolerance for speaking up, and high curiosity in listening to others view points, and finding solutions in congruence with the rigour needed for both approaches.
Furthermore, using ABM influenced their research profoundly. “It created a space for curiosity-driven learning that helped us understand better the phenomena we sought to study.”
Exploring new terrain
Wijermans and her colleagues hope their ‘behind-the-scenes’ paper can encourage others to share their own challenges when exploring and mapping new, methodological ground.
“Learning from others’ experiences is just as important as learning about their successful expeditions. To advance our understanding about the complex worlds we live in we need to actively engage in collective learning about research processes,” Wijermans and her colleagues conclude.
Wijermans, N., Schill, C., Lindahl, T., & Schlüter, M. 2022. Combining approaches: Looking behind the scenes of integrating multiple types of evidence from controlled behavioural experiments through agent-based modelling, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 25:4, 569-581, DOI: 10.1080/13645579.2022.2050120
General news | 2023-02-06
With Will Steffen, Earth system science has lost its father
Centre director Line Gordon and chair of the board Carl Folke look back on their time with cherished colleague Will Steffen, who recently passed away
General news | 2023-02-02
Three quick questions for Marcus Lundstedt, our new head of communications
We welcome Marcus Lundstedt, the centre's new head of communications, and have a quick chat with him about his new role
Research news | 2023-01-30
The best way to deal with shocks is by combining diverse responses
Humankind’s best chance to deal with looming turbulences and crises is by diversifying response strategies
Research news | 2023-01-30
Policymakers need to work more closely with researchers to fight the global food crisis
We are facing the worst food crisis in modern history – Sweden and the EU need to take action to shift how food is produced and consumed. That was the message from researchers to policymakers during a high-level meeting for the Swedish government at Stockholm Resilience Centre
Research news | 2023-01-19
Time for an "IPCC for the ocean"
Leading ocean experts propose a new International Panel for Ocean Sustainability (IPOS) to build consensus and inform policy
Research news | 2023-01-13
Going beyond dichotomies of local versus global food systems
Food systems are becoming increasingly stressed, but whether they are local or global is not the big issue