Environmental computer models are the key tools used in Community Modelling (CM). All CM groups need to include an expert modeller who understands how to apply modelling software to the local problem that the group aims to investigate.


Because local participants are not expected to have any experience with models, or to be natural scientists, CM works best with software that has an accessible graphical user interface for data input and enables visualisation of model outputs.

To ensure that the model can be handed over to the local participants for continued use at the end of a CM project it is necessary to use software that is free to download and use. Any instrument-based data sets needed to set up the model for the locality also need to be in the public domain, so that the local participants can continue to use the model to run scenarios after the end of the project.

Selecting appropriate software, assemble relevant datasets and setting up the model to represent the locality are key tasks for the Modeller, a role outlined in more detailed below.




The Modeller in a CM project needs to have the skills that enable them to identify modelling software that can be used to address the local problem; to set up a model to represent the local system; to run various scenarios and to show the local participants how to use the model.



The Modeller will start by looking into the problem as perceived by the local community, reviewing existing technical knowledge and previous research. This can include talking to experts in the Environment Agency and reading research reports. The Modeller will also agree with the Facilitator on how they will approach the local problem initially and which modelling frameworks could be worth exploring for use in the group.


The Modeller will locate and access the publicly available datasets needed to set up a model for the locality and prepare to run a few example scenarios.



Session 1

The Modeller presents the suggested modelling approach to the group, shows how it works and what it can be used for. This is best done on a laptop with the group gathering around, to create a relaxed and personal atmosphere conducive to knowledge sharing and learning. The Modeller plays a key role in the discussion about what the group wants to model, it is critical that clarity and agreement is reached regarding what the group can do with the model and what it is not possible to do within the boundaries of time and resources. The very tough CM time constraints require firm management of expectations.



Between sessions 1 and 2

The Modeller sets up the model to do what the group has agreed. If local participants have agreed to supply information (e.g. citizen science monitoring data) the Modeller puts these to use. The Modeller also makes sure that the model can run on laptops that the participants can use in Session 2 and 3.



Session 2

The Modeller explains the model set up to the group and what it can show. Then the Modeller oversees and supports the hands-on exercise with the participants using laptops. Finally, the Modeller responds to questions from the participants.



Between sessions 2 and 3

The Modeller and the Facilitator develop a plan for how to do the handover of the model. The Modeller may find that it is necessary to add a fourth session, in order to complete the collective modelling. The Modeller transfers all the necessary computer files to a memory device that will be handed over to the participants in the final session.



Session 3

The Modeller takes the participants through a range of different model runs and visualisations that can be done with the bespoke model as set up on a data storage device. The participants carry out the instructions on laptops with the same model set-up as the Modeller. The Facilitator records this in a manner agreed upon. Plenty of time must be allocated to questions, explanations and clarifications. If there is not enough time to do all this in the third session a fourth session is added.



After the final Session

The Modeller contributes to the bespoke model user’s manual that will enable the local participants to use the model after the project has ended, that the Facilitator is responsible for. The Modeller also needs to be prepared to answer further questions from the local participants via email or other means of communication, for an agreed length of time after the final session.


This website is published a team of human geography researchers in the School of Geography and the Environment at University of Oxford.

Submitting Form...

The server encountered an error.

Form received.