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Uncertainty in and around biophysical modelling: insights from interdisciplinary research on agricultural digitalization

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posted on 2023-05-03, 17:47 authored by Martin Espig, Susanna Finlay-Smits, Esther MeenkenEsther Meenken, David WheelerDavid Wheeler, Mostafa Sharifi
Agricultural digitalization is providing growing amounts of real-time digital data. Biophysical simulation models can help interpret these data. However, these models are subject to complex uncertainties, which has prompted calls for interdisciplinary research to better understand and communicate modelling uncertainties and their impact on decision-making. This article develops two corresponding insights from an interdisciplinary project in a New Zealand agricultural research organization. First, we expand on a recent Royal Society Open Science journal article (van der Bles et al. 2019 Royal Society Open Science6, 181870 (doi:10.1098/rsos.181870)) and suggest a threefold conceptual framework to describe direct, indirect and contextual uncertainties associated with biophysical models. Second, we reflect on the process of developing this framework to highlight challenges to successful collaboration and the importance of a deeper engagement with interdisciplinarity. This includes resolving often unequal disciplinary standings and the need for early collaborative problem framing. We propose that both insights are complementary and informative to researchers and practitioners in the field of modelling uncertainty as well as to those interested in interdisciplinary environmental research generally. The article concludes by outlining limitations of interdisciplinary research and a shift towards transdisciplinarity that also includes non-scientists. Such a shift is crucial to holistically address uncertainties associated with biophysical modelling and to realize the full potential of agricultural digitalization.


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© 2020 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • English

Does this contain Māori information or data?

  • No


The Royal Society Publishing

Journal title

Royal Society Open Science




Espig, M., Finlay-Smits, S. C., Meenken, E. D., Wheeler, D. M., & Sharifi, M. (2020). Uncertainty in and around biophysical modelling: insights from interdisciplinary research on agricultural digitalization. Royal Society Open Science, 7, 201511. doi:10.1098/rsos.201511

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