Sprawling and powerful 'community models' shaping future of regional and global science

Feb 18, 2012

Since the dawn of science, scientists have been using models to visualize and explain the workings of the world. But where the earliest ideas might have been conveyed in something as simple as a cave painting, modern-day scientists are wrestling with phenomena as big and complicated as intercontinental air pollution, desertification and global warming.

The scale of such inquiries recently set Howard Grimes to thinking, well, big.

"How do we use global scientific networks to devise solutions to these problems that we face across the globe?" asked Grimes, Washington State University vice president for research.

Grimes and a panel of experts drawn from WSU and elsewhere will tackle the question in a panel this Friday at the annual meeting of the in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their discussion will be in keeping with this year's theme, "Flattening the World: Building a Global Knowledge Society."

The term on most panelists lips will be "community modeling," which can have teams of researchers pooling data and ideas in a far-reaching, ever-changing collaborative process.

"Think: Linux," says Grimes, referring to the open-source that can be used, changed and shared across not one but several communities.

Until recently, researchers have tended to work alone or in small groups, gathering data, building models and getting feedback after publishing their work. Community modeling is bigger, more powerful and more interdisciplinary while retaining the peer-review process essential for rigorous science.

"It's an iterative process that is globally based," says Grimes.

"Science needs to be relevant for decision making, and community modeling efforts can get us there through the creative efforts of a large multi-disciplinary group of people," says Jennifer Adam, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Adam has helped develop the BioEarth , which aims to improve our understanding of how carbon, nitrogen and water interact in global climate change. The model can incorporate models of water, land and air, as well as models from different disciplines.

"Groups developing and applying these models need to span a much larger depth of disciplines than ever before," says Adam, "including psychologists, anthropologists, communication researchers, and not just the traditional social scientists that we typically work with, like economists."

Joining Adam in Friday's discussion will be Claudio Stockle, who will discuss how models can address problems relating to agricultural production and the sustainable use of land and water resources.

Agriculture and natural resource concerns in the Pacific Northwest are increasingly interconnected, he says, as demands for food, water and energy grow while facing pressures from climate change, increasing world population, and the hungry markets of emerging economies.

"We need to understand how the region will fare under projected future scenarios," he says, "and how to adapt or mitigate potential consequences." Using models to address such issues, he added, "is almost unavoidable."

Explore further: Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

Provided by Washington State University

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Report seeks to integrate microbes into climate models

Feb 14, 2012

The models used to understand how Earth's climate works include thousands of different variables from many scientific including atmospherics, oceanography, seismology, geology, physics and chemistry, but few take into consideration ...

Connecting the dots on aerosol details

Jul 27, 2011

Predicting future climate change hangs on understanding aerosols, considered the fine details in the atmosphere. Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric ...

Supercomputers may help predict climate changes locally

Aug 07, 2011

Even a century ago, scientists working out equations on paper understood that gases in the atmosphere absorbed and emitted energy, keeping Earth from being a ball of ice. Today they use supercomputers to make increasingly ...

Tropical clouds hold clues for the global water cycle

Jan 16, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- To study the wellspring of atmospheric water, you have to start with tropical clouds. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory showed that global climate models are not accurately ...

People matter in climate change models

Dec 05, 2011

Climate change does not discriminate among regions or their inhabitants, but the continued growth of the human population will most likely contribute to the ill-effects of climate change. US researchers writing in the International Jo ...

Recommended for you

Male-biased tweeting

9 hours ago

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

11 hours ago

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Math modeling handbook now available

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...