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Beyond Evidence-Based Decision Support : Exploring the Multi-Dimensional Functionality of Environmental Modelling Tools. Comparative Analysis of Tool

Abstract : As the sun sets on the age of unlimited growth and consumption, the call for progressively robust, adaptive and integrated solutions to address ‘wicked’ environmental problems has ushered in a new paradigm that has fundamentally changed the practices of both science and management. Emphasis on collaborative, integrative and participative approaches has given rise to burgeoning science-practice-policy arrangements while necessitating new tools to support the implementation of increasingly demanding regulation. In the context of water resources, models have emerged as fundamental tools favoured by scientists and practitioners alike, owing to their ability to advance scientific understanding of water systems functioning, while at the same time supporting key decisions in the management, policy and planning of river basins. A wide range of modelling tools have been developed to study the numerous physical, chemical, and biological processes at work, on different spatial and temporal scales, with varying levels of complexity. At the same time, models provide practitioners with a practical tool for supporting ‘evidence-based’ policy by transposing complex problems into technical, ‘manageable’ solutions. Yet, their application in practice has proven far from proportional to the amount of time and resources that have been invested in their development.This thesis aims to elucidate the enduring divide between science, practice and policy in the context of a new paradigm of science and management through the lens of modelling tools and their role at the science-practice-policy interface. Using a qualitative approach, we draw from two empirical examples: the PIREN-Seine in France and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities in Australia. While both share similar challenges, methods and objectives, the fundamental difference in their strategies and approaches offers a rich foundation for comparison. In doing so, we explore the driving forces, implications and potential consequences of the parallel paradigm shifts in science and management, focusing on three main aspects: 1/ the use and utility of modelling tools to support water management, policy and planning; 2/ the different modalities of addressing uncertainty in model-based decision support, and; 3/ the role of new science-practice-policy arrangements. By first retracing the history of production and use of modelling tools in both examples, we seek to understand the nuanced relationship between ‘use’ and ‘utility’, offering insight into influencing factors. Next, we turn to the question of uncertainty by analysing how researchers and practitioners reconcile the fundamental challenge of uncertainty in model-based decision support. Delving deeper into the complex, negotiated social process that comprises the decision-making context, we focus on the social construction of ignorance and its role in decision-making. Finally, we examine the macro-level changes brought about by the paradigm shift in science and management. Amidst these changes, we seek to understand the emergence and functions of ‘boundary organisations’ in this new epoch, and their role in the quest for robust, adaptive and sustainable solutions.
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Submitted on : Friday, May 15, 2020 - 10:33:53 AM
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Natalie Chong. Beyond Evidence-Based Decision Support : Exploring the Multi-Dimensional Functionality of Environmental Modelling Tools. Comparative Analysis of Tool. Ecology, environment. Université Paris-Est, 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019PESC1005⟩. ⟨tel-02520580v2⟩



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