Ten challenges for computer models in transitions research: Commentary on Holtz et al.

Will McDowall, Frank W. Geels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence of a dedicated modelling community within the transitions field is to be welcomed, and the authors of a recent paper in EIST (Holtz et al., 2015) make many valuable points. We build on their position paper in two ways. First, we reflect on some of the ways in which modelling in other areas of ‘sustainability science’ has sometimes fallen short of the strengths articulated. Second, we extend some of Holtz et al.’s discussion of the epistemological and ontological challenges for modelling transitions. We suggest ten challenges in response to the more optimistic claims made by Holtz et al., and we provide some additional suggestions for ways forward. In particular, we suggest that seeking closer integration of qualitative, socio-technical analysis with models may not always be the best strategy. Rather, pluralist ‘bridging strategies’ and dialogue between analytic approaches may be more productive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
Early online date19 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Modelling
  • Process theory
  • Scenarios
  • Socio-technical transitions

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research
  • Sustainable Consumption Institute


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