INOV - Sociétés innovantes

Innovation in expertise. Modelling and simulations as tools of governance – INNOX

Innovative expertise: computer modeling and simulation in governance

Modeling to simulate, build scenarios or predict: these practices and technologies would be in the process of emerging and entering the world of governance. Strong technological promisses are attached to these: that of fostering the effectiveness of the governance of incertain, large-scale and wicked issues; that, also of being able to act in anticipated and predictive ways.

Assessing the promises of computer modeling and simulation

As innovations, computer modeling and simulation imply the introduction of new hard technologies in governance, and thus of the competences, expertises and practices of impacted administrations. They imply massive developments in R&D in private industries and in academic labs, as well as the transfer of results and innovations towards public administration. They also suggest that the knowledge produced via modeling and simulation can flow and be shared, to become a civic epistemology.<br /><br />Given these heavy implications, INNOX will endeavour to, first and foremost, explain how computer modeling and simulation emerged as a credible innovation for governance. The second objective will be to assess how and how far this innovation actually verifies. The latter objective requires being in capacity to analyse the source and the scale of changes related to modeling and simulation technologies and practices. Rather than assuming that the changes foreseen by proponents of computer modeling and simulation are underway, the project will analyse which changes occur, in terms of the knowledge that is mobilized by administration to decide and intervene, in the relations between the latter and experts and industries that develop modeling and simulation technologies, but also in the paradigms and discourses surrounding governance.

The project is based on three case-studies: mapping and simulation of criminal behaviours; the construction of global energy scenarios; the modeling of toxicity pathways aiming at large-scale and fast prediction of chemicals toxicity.

Three lines of investigation will be followed in each of the case studies. First, what are the actors, professional or industrial, that develop and push technologies and practices of computer modeling and simulation? How far a jurisdiction and market for computer modeling and simulation in governance can be said to emerge and take shape? Second, how far does modeling and simulation actually change the practices and organization of public administration for decision-making and intervention on the three issues? Third, to what extent do modeling and simulation change the very ways in which issues are being talked about and adressed in the public space, notably by social movements and NGOs?

A set of nine different sites of investigation have been defined - one for each case-study and interrogation. They correspond to industrial, professional, public or social movement organizations that are involved in modeling and simulation in the three issues. Those may be located in Europe or in the United States. The investigation will every time be carried out by a duo of researchers.

Anticipated results revolve around the mapping and characterization of the diversity of practices and cultures underpinning modeling and simulation across and within each domain. They will also most likely concern the ways in which modeling and simulation are concretely deployed and put in practice in administrations and in the public space.

Overall, the project must help going beyond the mere vision that these techniques, in and of themselves, will be «applied« and increase the effectiveness of governance. Instead, the project aims to build a finer view of what they will or won't accomplish. It will reveal the politics these technologies have and generate.

The future prospects, beyond the actual achievement of the project, is the development of knowledge and concepts for the field of innovation in society.

Those results will be presented in academic publications in the field of science and technology studies, sociology and political science. A number of publications will be developed to reach the professional worlds that are being studied.

Computer-based modelling and simulations are fast entering the realm of governance. They are proving to be a necessary expertise and type of knowledge to use in public decision-making. To be sure, experts advising governments in various areas have long been using models and modeling techniques, in the simple sense of the creation of systems of elements that are logically or formally related to one another. Crime and social unrest, toxicity, energy production and consumption or climate have all been modeled by various scientific communities, and those models have been fed in national and international policy-making. IT technologies, however, are fast increasing the capacity to model and, through the use of models, to simulate, visualize, anticipate, build scenarios or predict. In this sense, modeling and simulations represent technical innovations in governance and public action.
The INNOX project has established three objectives. The first is to explain how governance has become a space that is prone to technological innovation, and specifically to modeling as an innovation. Second, the project aims to assess the extent of the changes that modeling really creates in governance, in terms of a change in the types of actors involved in governance and relationships between them, as well as the practices and types of knowledge used in administrative decision-making and public intervention or the ways of conceptualizing and speaking about public issues and policies.
These objectives will be achieved by means of investigation in three different types of modeling or use of models in governance: model-based simulation in the area of crime control; scenarios of energy transition; predictive and high-scale evaluation of chemicals toxicity.
Three different lines of inquiry will be followed in the investigation of these cases. The first theme is “production and markets for models”, or the proponents and developers of models and their uses: expert communities and particular industries or companies. It will also look into the competition between those very actors and their relationships with public authorities. The second theme is “Administration and decision”. It looks at the shifts that occur (or not) in the practices of decision-making in agencies, and related evolutions in the types of knowledge and expertise used, as well as modes of organization and relationships of public organizations with their audiences and interest groups. Third, an analysis of “public space, mobilizations and controversies” will be undertaken, to assess how and to what extent models produce a new form of knowledge and arguments for social movements or public interest groups, and how that impacts on dominant policy paradigms. Documentary, qualitative and quantitative analyses will be used for each line of inquiry in each of the three cases.
To achieve the project, a team of 9 researchers from two closely related social science research centres has been put together. Both centres work in the areas of science and technology studies, as well as research and innovation policies. They are part of the Institut Francilien Recherche Innovation Société. There will be a close interaction throughout the project with organizations that have a stake in the development of modeling in each of the three cases or sectors. These organizations are included as partners in the project.
The expected benefits of carrying out this ambitious project are: an improvement of the understanding of current technological transitions in governance and expertise; an increase in the capacity of the very actors of these transitions to make sense of it and steer it; the development of an analytical scheme for innovations in expert-based governance; finally, the successful installation of the team of social scientists and of the two social science centres as reference for research in the nascent field of studies of Science, Technology and Innovation in Society.

Project coordinator

Monsieur David Demortain (INRA Sciences en sociétés)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ONDRP Observatoire National de la Délinquance et des Réponses Pénales
CAAT Europe Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing Europe
INRA SENS INRA Sciences en sociétés
LATTS Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Sociétés

Help of the ANR 296,180 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: February 2014 - 42 Months

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