Playing the “dam” game: evaluating the suitability of science-based role-play simulations as tools for learning about sustainable water futures



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Research has shown that much of the science produced does not make its way to the decision-making table. This leads to a gap between scientific and societal progress, which is problematic. To tackle this issue, our research tests a novel science-based negotiation simulation that integrates a role-play simulation (RPS) with a system dynamics model (SDM). In RPSs, stakeholders engage in a mock decision-making process (reflecting real-life institutional arrangements and scientific knowledge) for a set period. System dynamics models (SDMs) are visual tools used to simulate the interactions and feedback within a complex system. We test the integration of the two approaches with stakeholders in New England via a series of two consecutive workshops across two states. The workshops engage stakeholders from diverse groups to foster dialogue, learning, and creativity. Participants discuss a hypothetical (yet realistic) decision scenario to consider scientific information and explore dam management options that meet one another's interests. In the first workshop, participants contributed to the design of the fictionalized dam decision scenario and the SDM. In the second workshop, participants assumed another representative's role and discussed dam management options for the fictionalized scenario. This presentation will briefly report on the practical design of this science-based role-play, and particularly emphasize workshop outcomes, which were evaluated using debriefing sessions, surveys, concept mapping exercises, and interviews. Results will determine the extent to which this new knowledge production process leads to learning, use of science, and more collaborative decision-making about dams in New England and beyond.


First Name Last Name
Kevin Gardner
Shannon Rogers
Lawrence Hamilton
Cuihong Song
Weiwei Mo
Natallia Diessner

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Submission Details

Conference GRC
Event Graduate Research Conference
Department Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science (GRC)
Group Leitzel - Poster
Added April 15, 2020, 4:10 p.m.
Updated April 17, 2020, 5:42 p.m.
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