Scientific assessment of scenario-based research

Organizer: Vanessa Schweizer (University of Waterloo)


This research session focuses on findings or methods relevant to the assessment of multiple scenario-based studies. The topic title is purposely broad to leave room for a variety of relevant work, such as summaries of MIPs, cross-scale studies (e.g. large scenario projects spanning multiple jurisdictions), methodological proposals for conducting such scientific assessments, and critiques. The aim of the session is to take stock of any preliminary results emerging from comparative, meta-analytic, or synthetic studies. Session presentations may serve as informational input to discussions of how the scientific assessment of scenario-based research, especially those contributing to the SSP-RCP scenarios framework, could be performed.

Why it is important: Recently, concerns have been raised that the scientific assessment of climate change research (as performed by bodies such as the IPCC and USGCRP) is becoming a “big literature” (akin to big data) problem. Moreover, under the new scenarios framework, additional degrees of freedom have been introduced for scenario-based research. Previous approaches to assessment – e.g. identification of themes addressed by the literature, groupings of studies by scenario assumptions (e.g. SRES A1/A2/B1/B2), IPCC uncertainty guidance to focus on the agreement and number of studies – may need to be augmented with new methods for systematically searching and categorizing literature (such as from scientometrics, or data science) and for synthesizing interdisciplinary knowledge (such as from systems theory).

This session corresponds to (1) how scenario-based research may be assessed by IPCC or other assessment bodies and (2) evaluation of the SSP-RCP framework to date.