Ecoinformatics Conference Service, International Conference on Ecological Informatics 6

A library of model fragments on sustainability

Paulo Salles, Bert Bredeweg, Eugenia Cioaca, Elena Nakova, Andreas Zitek, Richard Noble

Last modified: 2008-09-13


This paper describes the implementation of a Library of model fragments that integrates 11 independent
Qualitative Reasoning models in order to organize, in a single model, essential concepts for understanding
sustainable development in educational contexts. Input models came from the NaturNet - Redime1 project
and studies about the Millennium Development Goals. As the Library includes knowledge from different
disciplines, it was necessary to create handles to explore it and to select clusters of concepts that may be
used in curricula for learning about sustainability. Literature on Qualitative Reasoning reports the use of
perspectives as a possible solution for this type of problem. A perspective defines a subset of simulation
models created to achieve specific goals, that is, to answer questions of a particular type. It can be
implemented by means of modelling assumptions.
The Library supports 202 different simulations that can be explored in many ways. Two of them are
discussed here: (a) by creating perspectives based in the input models, as they were presented, and (b) by
creating thematic-based perspectives. Case study-based perspectives include simulations addressing
Natural; Rural; Semi-urban; Urban; Natural resources exploitation; Environmental rehabilitation; and
Social related issues. Thematic-based perspectives include, among others, Natural systems; Human
exploitation of natural resources; Energy; Economy; Stakeholder participation; Governmental plans and
activities; and Human well being.
The Library comprises 112 entities, 60 configurations, 201 quantities, 22 quantity spaces, 24 agents, 45
modelling assumptions, and 414 model fragments. Integration of independent models was achieved by
rebuilding parts of the models in order to summarize similar concepts, by using more abstract representions
of processes and situations, and by creating model fragments that are general enough to be reused in
different situations. The use of assumptions was essential to integrate independent models. From the
technical point of view, the perspective-taken approach is effective to organize knowledge and simulations
about sustainability.
Ongoing work focuses on optimizing the knowledge representation in model fragments and entity
hierarchies, and in the integration of perspectives, so new simulations may become possible. A point to be
addressed is shifting from one perspective to another. Identifying the requirements for such transitions will
lead to better understand the nature of perspective-taking in qualitative reasoning. Concluding, the Library
now can be used in the development of curricula about sustainability and, therefore, to meet one of the
most relevant goals of NaturNet-Redime, to support stakeholders in finding means to make their activities
more sustainable