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Abstract: After all these years the definition of sustainability remains ambiguous, and while we all think we know what we mean when talking about sustainability, we are very likely to mean different things. The classic definition of sustainability, as something that is maintained and increased, is not operational and productive when it is not clear what we are to maintain. Local sustainability can be contrary to the cause of global sustainability when stripping the larger system of any ways of evolving and adapting. Sustainability can be only assumed in the context of a social compromise about the size of the human enterprise on planet Earth. Arriving at such a compromise is not easy especially when we lack any shared vision about what desirable futures should look like. Perhaps one of the reasons why we often fail to take action based on the scientific knowledge we already have is because we cannot synchronize the understanding of systems gained from models, with human perceptions, beliefs, values and preconceived notions about the system that already exist. Engaging stakeholders in the modeling process in a participatory process can help resolve some of these contradictions. New technologies inspired by social media and wide access to the Internet deliver opportunities for broad democratic engagement of the public in science and decision making. We see a lot of potential in taking model integration beyond the software coupling and considering mental models developed by stakeholders in addition to computer models. Model integration should then deal with coupling of all sorts of models, including software components and conceptual models produced by stakeholders. We have many good models, now we need to learn to communicate them properly to decision makers and citizens, whose behavior is key to developing sustainable futures.
Biography: Alexey Voinov is a Distinguished Professor at the School of Information, Systems and Modeling at Faculty of Engineering and IT, University of Technology Sydney. He is director of the faculty Center on Persuasive Systems for Wise Adaptive Living (PERSWADE). Alexey is also professor at the Water Engineering and Management Department at Faculty of Engineering Technology, University of Twente, Netherlands. Before joining UTS, Alexey was professor of Spatio-Temporal Systems Modeling for Sustainability Science at ITC, University of Twente. Prior to that he was coordinating the Chesapeake Research Consortium Community Modeling Program and was also Principle Research Scientist at John's Hopkins University. He has spent one year with the AAAS Science and Technology Fellowship program working with the Army Corps of Engineers. For over ten years he was with the Institute for Ecological Economics, Univ. of Maryland and Vermont. He has his MSc and Ph.D. from Moscow State University, Russia. He is a keen advocate of stakeholder involvement in modeling and decision making. He wrote a book on "Systems Science and Modeling for Ecological Economics" (Academic Press/Elsevier).