A bricolage-style exploratory scenario analysis to manage uncertainty in socio-environmental systems modeling: investigating integrated water management options
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exploratory analysis
exploratory modeling
water management

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Fu, B., Guillaume, J. H., Jakeman, A. J., & Asher, M. J. (2020). A bricolage-style exploratory scenario analysis to manage uncertainty in socio-environmental systems modeling: investigating integrated water management options. Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling, 2, 16227. https://doi.org/10.18174/sesmo.2020a16227


Exploratory analysis, while useful in assessing the implications of model assumptions under large uncertainty, is considered at best a semi-structured activity. There is no algorithmic way for performing exploratory analysis and the existing canonical techniques have their own limitations. To overcome this, we advocate a bricolage-style exploratory scenario analysis, which can be crafted by pragmatically and strategically combining different methods and practices. Our argument is illustrated using a case study in integrated water management in the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. Scenario ensembles are generated to investigate potential policy innovations, climate and crop market conditions, as well as the effects of uncertainties in model components and parameters. Visualizations, regression trees and marginal effect analyses are exploited to make sense of the ensemble of scenarios. The analysis includes identifying patterns within a scenario ensemble, by visualizing initial hypotheses that are informed by prior knowledge, as well as by visualizing new hypotheses based on identified influential variables. Context-specific relationships are explored by analyzing which values of drivers and management options influence outcomes. Synthesis is achieved by identifying context-specific solutions to consider as part of policy design. The process of analysis is cast as a process of finding patterns and formulating questions within the ensemble of scenarios that merit further examination, allowing end-users to make the decision as to what underlying assumptions should be accepted, and whether uncertainties have been sufficiently explored. This approach is especially advantageous when the precise intentions of management are still subject to deliberations. By describing the reasoning and steps behind a bricolage-style exploratory analysis, we hope to raise awareness of the value of sharing this kind of (common but not often documented) analysis process, and motivate further work to improve sharing of know-how about bricolage in practice.

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