no other integrated assessment papers

integrated assessment: a birds eye view : Jan Rotmans

contents | aims and strengths of IA | problems | methods of IA | scenarios | IA models participatory process | integrated water assessment | quo vadis IA | what has to be done?


Integrated Assessment is an interdisciplinary process. It combines, interprets and communicates pieces of knowledge from diverse social disciplines, so that integrated insights are made available for decision makers.

IA is a participatory process, involving social scientists, analysts and model builders, and takes into account that models have to be developed with the participation of those they involve.

aims and strengths of IA

IA is an investigation of complex processes and aims to produce a coherent study of them. It takes account of the complexity of society, and aims to improve decision making.

IA models are computer simulation models that describe the cause-effect relations of a specific problem and the inter-linkages with other problems. They are complex models that many processes, and many interactions and feedbacks between.

The strengths of IA include the exploration of these feedbacks and of critical uncertainties that are possible. They also have flexible and rapid tools available.


The integration of social, economic, and environmental processes complicated as it involves differences across time, space and the dynamics of each. Furthermore, there is no existing theory as to how this might be achieved. This means that IA is very practical, in attempting to combine these different paradigms.

Processes have to be interlinked and merged, and this is carried out problem by problem. This means that simplification is required, and that integration of these different models is required rather than just linking them, and that aggregation is key.

Other weaknesses associated with this approach have been outlined as including a high abstraction level, that there is an inadequate treatment of uncertainties. Furthermore, IA models have been criticised for the limited validation the include.

methods of IA

These include analytical methods, which have a natural science basis, such as models, scenarios, and risk analysis. Other methods used have a social science basis.

IA model building includes a comparison of other models. For example, the issue of climate change now has approximately 65 IA models, of which there are two main types. The first of these are models that are economically orientated, such as DICE. These are parameterised, based around neo classical ideas of equilibrium and optimism, and have been poorly received by those working in the environmental field. The other type of models are environment orientated, which are complex and process based, and include evaluation, but have been seen as under representing economics. Examples of such models include IMAGE and TARGETS.


Another method of IA is to develop scenarios. These are hypothetical but dynamic, and make links between states, driving forces, consequences and actions. They are not images or predictions of the future, but projections.

  • Integrated Assessment scenarios are:
  • Participative - stakeholder-based
  • Consistent - key assumptions are checked among different sectors, actors and factors
  • Coherent - they include relevant linkages and dimensions
  • Multiple scale - covering various scales in space and time

Previous scenarios that have been carried our across Europe have considered various factors such as social, economic, environmental and institutional. However, there are no scenarios available that that discuss sustainable development in Europe in a balanced and integrated manner.

IA models

The aim of these models is to simulate human behaviour through agent rules. The calculation procedure involves a set of hypothetical variables, and gathering information from actual sites. The importance placed on uncertainties varies according to the perspective adopted, either Individualist, Hierachist, or Egalitarian.

Other methods that have been used have been proved to be unsuccessful. With the RAP system, actors have perfect knowledge and behave in a certain way. This system is used by almost all models, even though it is clearly deficient. It is used by economists and decision makers. For example, the recent policy in Holland relating to cars and toll charges was based on RAP, but will not work. Instead, with IA, the aim is to create a conceptual model of individual consumer behaviour.


One of the key elements of IA is that it is a participatory process. Participatory methods is an umbrella terms for the approaches of assessment in which non-scientists are involved. They are used to map out the diversity of an issue, and include policy recommendations. For example, such methods include interviews, focus groups, scenario workshops. The aim in all of these methods is discussion to develop scenarios. The choice of method will depend on the goal of the participation, time available and budget.

integrated water assessment

This is concerned with identifying and analysing as many aspects as possible of a water related problem, and the connections between them.

A simulation model takes into account characteristics of water:

  • Human water use has no effect on the global water storage. The regional differences outweigh each other.
  • Deforestation can lead to a loss of 10%-20% in the global water storage.
  • New water reservoirs can lead to a gain of 20%-30%.
  • Large-scale withdrawal of groundwater can lead to a significant rise of sea level.
  • This rise may vary from several decimeters (20-30 cm) till half a meter (50 cm).

There are three levels of integration:

  • Within a water system
  • Between a water system and other environmental systems
  • Within social and economic developments

It is important to remember that this is not an examination of all water related phenomena.

quo vadis integrated assessment

  • High expectations of Integrated Assessment
  • Crying need for integrated visions
  • Much has to happen to meet the level of expectations

what has to be done?

  • Improvement of existing IA-methods, and developing new methods.
  • Matching demand & supply
  • Quality criteria
  • IA in research, and other new areas of application

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