PIK Report No. 27

PIK Report No. 27

Integrated Systems Analysis at PIK: a brief epistemology


A. Bronstert, V. Brovkin, M. Krol, M. Lüdeke, G. Petschel-Held,
Yu. Svirezhev & V. Wenzel

1. Introduction

Global Change research is a priori problem oriented research, where neither generally accepted paradigms nor predefined methodologies exist. Each project has its own essential focus which might put special emphasis on regional, sectoral, or global processes. As, however, the underlying problems are specified by 'real life' rather than questions defined by disciplines, the nature of problem-oriented research is in principal different from discipline-oriented scientific endeavours. A scientific approach to this real-life problem might mean the confrontation with the entire spectrum of sciences which in its history, at least since Descartes, is mainly characterized by a continued break-down into ever finer parts. Thus, problem-oriented research, as understood here, has to alter the traditional direction of scientific differentiation towards a method of synthesizing and integration. In this way each project faces a number of difficulties which are related to the different analytical parts generated through the history of science. Although these difficulties are similar in nature, their distinctions and therefore their solutions are individual to each problem. In particular, the range of the problem determines the degree of integration required and therefore, to some extent, the degree of difficulties encountered. Thus, the first step of any research project has to be a sufficient specification of the problem and the corresponding elements to be taken into account. In terms of systems analysis this corresponds to the formulation of the system's components and elements, their potential interdependencies, and of the boundaries of the system to be analysed.

On this baseline, this report discusses the major common difficulties faced by integrated projects at PIK and possible approaches used in these projects. As examples we have decided to chose two global and two regional modelling approaches taking place at PIK. We think that this heterogeneity is not disadvantageous but rather represents a fruitful variety of ideas, approaches, and possible answers.