G7. Use and relevance of modelling for environmental impact assessments

Impact Assessment (IA) refer to ex-ante assessments of the impacts of policy changes on one or more dimensions of sustainability (i.e. people, planet, profit). Increasingly governments (for instance, the EU) develop Impact Assessments as a standard procedure to prepare legislation. However, predicting the impacts of new legislation on the different domains of sustainable development remains a challenging task.

Many impact assessment (IA) models focus on effects of policy measures on environment and ecology. A key ambition in developing and using environmental models and software is to influence policy and management processes, outputs and outcomes. To successfully achieve these ambitions, environmental models and software need to be scientifically and technically sound and reliable, relevant to users, and used in a widely accepted legitimate process. There are various examples of sophisticated IA models and models that are actually used in the policy making process. However, in many cases, there is still is a gap between the actual and potential use of these models in IA. Why is this so and what can be improved about this?

In this session, innovations and opportunities for improving models and their use are being explored. We are talking about usability here, which is the extent to which a (software) product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use (ISO definition). In addition we would like to discuss design methods which can improve the uptake of models and software.

We invite contributions from model developers, those applying models, experts in researching the science-policy interface and usability experts. We are looking for papers presenting examples of environmental IA models with a special focus on usability and actual use. Papers are welcomed which describe examples of models that: (i) have not been used by proposed end users and explain why this occurred or (ii) have been successful in decision making and describe what the reasons were for this success. Furthermore, papers are invited focusing on approaches and opportunities for improving the use of IA models, including collaboration with usability experts and interaction designers.