US EPA and no system dynamics

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Richard Dudley
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US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Richard Dudley » Wed Aug 05, 2009 11:36 pm

About two year ago Silvia Ulli-Beer tried to get us (people in the Environmental SIG) to comment on the draft EPA document "Guidance on the Development, Evaluation, and Application of Environmental Models" Some made half-hearted attempts to do this, but we in the USA didn't do a very good job of picking up the suggestion of our German colleague. Now, looking at the final 99 page document (which came out in March 2009) I cannot find a single mention of "system dynamics". The same is true for the related 69 page document "Integrated Modeling for Integrated Environmental Decision Making". :cry:

Perhaps someone else can comment about EPA's use of SD in its work?

Scott Fortmann-Roe
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Scott Fortmann-Roe » Fri Aug 07, 2009 12:33 pm

Hi,

Could you post a link to the documents you reference!

Thanks,
Scott

Robert Eberlein
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Robert Eberlein » Sun Aug 09, 2009 6:53 am

The document you mention, which I found at

nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=P1003E4R.txt

is somewhat long on generalities but seems to be generally sensible.

It is unfortunate that they don't mention any work done by people in System Dynamics, but the number of different places doing work they mention is pretty big. We are only once voice among many and the C-ROADS messages is a sensible one. We can help provide more widespread understanding of the issues without doing gross injustice to the physical science based work. Hopefully that will show up in the next such report.

Richard Dudley
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Richard Dudley » Sun Aug 09, 2009 1:02 pm

Sorry for not having posted a link to the document.

I think that the report is a nice summary of many different issues and methods. It is just unfortunate that it did not include the system dynamics approach as one of many possible tools for examining the types of issues EPA faces, especially as this is a document researchers may turn to to see how such work should be carried out.

It is my understanding that EPA is now using system dynamics in certain areas.

Maybe Allyson can enlighten us? ;)

Allyson Beall King
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Allyson Beall King » Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:03 pm

I am doing work with the education lead for an EPA program. I have had several discussions with both the lead and others in that organization. It is my opinion that much of the resistance is not due to the concept itself but rather that most of the scientists I have talked with are content to work with their legacy models and on reductionist theory. I am working to try to get the users of legacy models to give me generalizations, aggregations etc for the systems model but that is counter intuitive if you will to what classic science does, and thus there is often push back. That said I think much of it is culture. Management type people have encouraged me to design system dynamics models as a scientific translators with policy makers in mind. I did have the opportunity once to talk with a "higher up" in EPA climate policy who very much liked what I was trying to do. He reminded me that in the 70's-80's when climate change was first being discussed at the federal level (at least behind the scenes) that they were using systems modeling. He noted that "sadly they had failed" though certainly did not blame the problem on the models. Uncertainty is a political tool, and SD modelers aside is typically not embraced. Thus the drive for more hard, classic science.

Richard Dudley
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Richard Dudley » Fri Aug 14, 2009 9:04 am

I also think that there are lots of EPA people interested in SD (some were at the SD meeting).

It is important for a number of reasons to emphasize that SD is (or at least can be) a "hard" science and a useful approach for addressing hard science questions.

With this in mind I think that the role of SD in planning scientific studies should be emphasized more. In the past (?), in many instances, a model has been viewed as an end product. But modeling early and often as part of a scientific study (e.g. ecological field study) can be extremely helpful in planning needed research, setting up sampling programs, and carrying out field experiments etc.

Secondly, SD models represent a dynamic hypothesis as to how things work / how things fit together. and this can be presented as a dynamic hypothesis for testing/examination/further development.

Thirdly, the SD field has created several approaches for model analysis that go beyond seeing that results that match reality. They examine the accuracy of the causality which produces those results resulting in a better answers to the questions being asked. That's science.

Mahri Monson
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Mahri Monson » Wed Oct 21, 2009 2:00 pm

I'm sorry I'm so behind on this discussion thread; I just joined this SD forum.

I work at the EPA (I started 1 year ago in DC in Water Enforcement and am currently on a rotation in San Francisco in the Pacific Islands Office) and am very interested in:
1. helping advocate for SD modeling use at EPA
2. getting in touch with other EPA employees/contractors who are using SD or are interested in doing so
3. doing an SD modeling project at EPA

Can anyone put me in touch with other EPA SD-interested people?

Is anyone interested in collaborating on an SD modeling project with me? I do not have any concrete plan, but have some possible ideas for EPA-relevant topics:
-Clean Water Act enforcement: targeting resources, choosing priorities, articulating environmental impacts of CWA enforcement
-Chesapeake Bay: point source and non-point source pollution management, enforcement priorities,
-green infrastructure/low impact development for stormwater management: accounting for multiple benefits including water quality, air quality, urban heat island reduction, energy conservation, community/walkable community benefits; getting green infrastructure into enforcement long term control plans for municipalities

I am also on the organizing committee for an EPA workshop on integrated modeling for large aquatic ecosystems in January 20-21, 2010 (http://www.scgcorp.com/cremlargeaqeco/). Does anyone know of SD modeling of U.S. large aquatic ecosystems, e.g. Pacific Islands, San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound? The conference is highlighting Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes, and I am trying specifically to find a West Coast example, and generally would like to know about any SD modeling efforts for large aquatic ecosystems.

Thanks very much, and feel free to email me as well at monson.mahri@epa.gov.
-Mahri

Richard Dudley
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Re: US EPA and no system dynamics

Post by Richard Dudley » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:54 am

Mahri:

I have sent some contacts by email, but your question deserves some discussion here too. It certainly is worthwhile to get USEPA using SD in addition to their other modeling approaches. Much of their work is less about policy modeling and more about modeling what I might call "field chemistry" ... the way pollutants move in groundwater, interactions of pollutants in aquatic systems or in soil, pollutant plumes from factories etc. Also effects of substances on animal and human populations. Of course SD models could be helful with those issues too.

Your suggested examples seem appropriate and interesting, and it is unfortunate that the current SD web-based forum is so inactive compared to that which we previously had.

Hopefully someone else will add their views and opinions.

Large aquatic ecosystems.... a key issue is what is it about these ecosystems that is to be modeled. Just to gain a better understanding of the ecology via modeling, or are there specific management issues, conflicts, or other problems that need to be solved? There are a number of papers where SD was used to look at issues related to reservoirs, wetlands, marine conservation, fisheries, irrigation systems, etc. Also a book on SD modeling for marine conservation. I will send some references.

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