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Sustaining the Commons

Anderies J.M. and Janssen, M.A. 2013, 2016
Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment, Arizona State University

Journal Articles

A multi-method approach to study robustness of social-ecological systems: the case of small-scale irrigation systems

Janssen, M.A. and J.M. Anderies

2013 Journal of Institutional Economics 9(4): 427-447.


Elinor Ostrom was a leader in using multiple methods to perform institutional analysis. In this paper, we discuss how a multi-method approach she pioneered may be used to study the robustness of social–ecological systems. We synthesize lessons learned from a series of studies on small-scale irrigation systems in which we use case-study analysis, experimental methods in laboratory and field settings, and mathematical models. The accumulated insights show the importance of creating institutional arrangements that fit the human ecology within the biophysical constraints of the system. The examples of work based on multiple methods approaches presented here highlight several lessons. For example, experimental work helps us better understand the details of how the ability to maintain trust relationships, low levels of inequality, and low transaction costs of coordination are critical for success. Likewise, the integration of case-study analysis and modeling helps us better understand how systems that can leverage biophysical characteristics to help address challenges of monitoring, sanctioning, and coordination may be able to increase their chances of success.


Agent-Based Model of a Cyber Security Defense Analyst Team

Rajivan, P., M.A. Janssen, and N.J. Cooke

2013 Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting 57: 1314-1318.


Cyber security defense is often performed by a group of people called cyber defense analysts and yet team work and collaboration in cyber defense is almost non-existent. This study, using an agent-based model of the cyber defense analyst’s task and interactions, explored the effects of different collaboration strategies and team sizes on performance measures such as number of intrusion alerts accurately processed by the analysts and rewards they accrue from accurately processing the alerts. This study also explored the feasibility of using agent-based modeling methodologies for studying team processes in the cyber defense context. The model revealed that specific collaboration strategies lead to better performance and that large teams are detrimental to performance.


The role of information in governing the commons: experimental results

Janssen, M.A.

2013 Ecology and Society 18 (4): 4.


The structure and dynamics of ecosystems can affect the information available to resource users on the state of the common resource and the actions of other resource users. We present results from laboratory experiments that showed that the availability of information about the actions of other participants affected the level of cooperation. Since most participants in commons dilemmas can be classified as conditional cooperators, not having full information about the actions of others may affect their decisions. When participants had more information about others, there was a more rapid reduction of the resource in the first round of the experiment. When communication was allowed, limiting the information available made it harder to develop effective institutional arrangements. When communication was not allowed, there was a more rapid decline of performance in groups where information was limited. In sum, the results suggest that making information available to others can have an important impact on the conditional cooperation and the effectiveness of communication.

Keywords: common pool resource; communication; conditional cooperation; information; institutions


Scenario Analysis of Technology Products with an Agent-Based Simulation and Data Mining Framework

Shinde, A., M. Haghnevis, M.A. Janssen, G. Runger and M. Janakiram

2013 International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management 10(5):1-22.


A framework is presented to simulate and analyze the effect of multiple business scenarios on the adoption behavior of a group of technology products. Diffusion is viewed as an emergent phenomenon that results from the interaction of consumers. An agent-based model is used in which potential adopters of technology product are allowed to be influenced by their local interactions within the social network. Along with social influence, the effect of product features is important and we ascribe feature sensing attributes to the consumer agents along with sensitivities to social influence. The model encompasses utility theory and discrete choice models in the decision-making process for the consumers. We use expressive machine learning algorithms that can handle complex, nonlinear, and interactive effects to identify important inputs that contribute to the model and to graphically summarize their effects. We present a realistic case study that demonstrates the ability of this framework to model changes in market shares for a group of products in response to business scenarios such as new product introduction and product discontinuation under different pricing strategies. The models and other tools developed here are envisioned to be a part of a recommender system that provides insights into the effects of various business scenarios on shaping market shares of different product groups.

Keywords: Scenario analysis; technology substitution; dependency plots


Robustness of Social-Ecological Systems: Implications for Public Policy

Anderies, J.M. and M.A. Janssen

2013 Policy Studies Journal 41(3): 513-536.


We conceptualize social-ecological systems (SESs) as complex adaptive systems where public policy affects and is affected by the biophysical system in which it is embedded. The study of robustness of SESs combines insights from various disciplines including economics, political science, ecology, and engineering. In this paper we present an approach that can be used to explore the implications for public policy when viewed as a component of a complex adaptive system. Our approach leverages the Institutional Analysis and Development framework to provide a platform for interdisciplinary research that focuses on system-wide outcomes of the policy process beyond just policy change. The main message is that building robustness can create new vulnerabilities. Fail-free policies cannot be developed, and instead of a focus on the “right” policy, we need to think about policy processes that stimulate experimentation, adaptation, and learning.


Environmental variability and collective action: Experimental insights from an irrigation game

Anderies, J.M., M.A. Janssen, A. Lee and H. Wasserman

2013 Ecological Economics 93: 166-176.


Studies of collective action in commons dilemmas in social–ecological systems typically focus on scenarios in which actors all share symmetric (or similar) positions in relation to the common-pool resource. Many common social–ecological systems do not meet these criteria, most notably, irrigation systems. Participants in irrigation systems must solve two related collective action problems: 1) the provisioning of physical infrastructure necessary to utilize the resource (water), and 2) the asymmetric common-pool resource dilemma where the relative positions of “head-enders” and “tail-enders” generate asymmetric access to the resource itself (water). In times of scarcity, head-enders have an incentive to not share water with tail-enders. Likewise, tail-enders have an incentive to not provide labor to maintain the system if they do not receive water. These interdependent incentives may induce a cooperative outcome under favorable conditions. However, how robust is this system of interdependent incentives in the presence of environmental variability that generates uncertainty about water availability either through variation in the water supply itself or through shocks to infrastructure? This paper reports on results from laboratory experiments designed to address this question.

Keywords: Commons dilemmas; Uncertainty; Experiments; Collective action; Irrigation


Breaking the elected rules in field experiments on forestry resources

Janssen, M.A, F. Bousquet, J.C. Cardenas, D. Castillo, and K. Worrapimphong

2013 Ecological Economics 90: 132-139.


Harvesting from common resources has been studied through experimental work in the laboratory and in the field. In this paper we report on a dynamic commons experiment, representing a forest, performed with different types of communities of resource users in Thailand and Colombia, as well as student participants. We find that all groups overharvest the resource in the first part of the experiment and that there is no statistical difference between the various types of groups. In the second part of the experiment, participants appropriate the common resource after one of three possible regulations is elected and implemented. There is less overharvesting after the rules are implemented, but there is a significant amount of rule breaking. The surprising finding is that Colombian villagers break the rules of the games more often than other groups, and even more so when they have more trust in members of the community. This observation can be explained by the distrust in externally proposed regulations due to the institutional and cultural context.

Keywords: Common pool resources; Dynamic games; Forestry; Field experiments; Rule compliance


Book Chapters

Comparing Agent-Based Models on Experimental data of Irrigation Games

Baggio, J.A. and M.A. Janssen

2013 In Proceedings of the 2013 Winter Simulation Conference, edited by R. Pasupathy, S.-H. Kim, A. Tolk, R. Hill, and M. E. Kuh, pp.1743-1753, .

Cultural Evolution of the Structure of Human Groups

Jordan, F.M., C. van Schaik, P. François, H. Gintis, D.B.M. Haun, D.J. Hruschka, M.A. Janssen, J.A. Kitts, L. Lehmann, S. Mathew, P.J. Richerson, P. Turchin, and P. Wiessner

2013 In Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion, edited by P.J. Richerson and M.H. Christiansen, pp. 87-116, MIT Press.

Governance of Common-Pool Resources

Janssen, M.A.

2013 In Encyclopedia of Energy, Natural Resource, and Environmental Economics, edited by  J. F. Shogren, Vol. 3, pp. 38-44,  Elsevier, Amsterdam.

Dynamics of Rules and Resources: Three New Field Experiments on Water, Forests and Fisheries

Cardenas, J.C, M.A. Janssen, and F. Bousquet

2013 In Handbook on Experimental Economics and the Environment, edited by John List and Michael Price, pp. 319-345, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham.

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