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Journal Articles

The Collective Direction of Attention Diffusion

Wang, C.J., J. Wu, M.A. Janssen, and J. Zhang

2016 Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/srep34059.


We find that the flow of attention on the Web forms a directed, tree-like structure implying the time-sensitive browsing behavior of users. Using the data of a news sharing website, we construct clickstream networks in which nodes are news stories and edges represent the consecutive clicks between two stories. To identify the flow direction of clickstreams, we define the “flow distance” of nodes (Li), which measures the average number of steps a random walker takes to reach the ith node. It is observed that Li is related with the clicks (Ci) to news stories and the age (Ti) of stories. Putting these three variables together help us understand the rise and decay of news stories from a network perspective. We also find that the studied clickstream networks preserve a stable structure over time, leading to the scaling between users and clicks. The universal scaling behavior is confirmed by the 1,000 Web forums. We suggest that the tree-like, stable structure of clickstream networks reveals the time-sensitive preference of users in online browsing. To test our assumption, we discuss three models on individual browsing behavior and compare the simulation results with empirical data.


Institutions and the performance of coupled infrastructure systems

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

2016 International Journal of the Commons 10(2): 495–516.


Institutions, the rules of the game that shape repeated human interactions, clearly play a critical role in helping groups avoid the inefficient use of shared resources such as fisheries, freshwater, and the assimilative capacity of the environment. Institutions, however, are intimately intertwined with the human, social, and biophysical context within which they operate. Scholars typically are careful to take this context into account when studying institutions and Ostrom’s Institutional Design Principles are a case in point. Scholars have tested whether Ostrom’s Design Principles, which specify broad relationships between institutional arrangements and context, actually support successful governance of shared resources. This article further contributes to this line of research by leveraging the notion of institutional design to outline a research trajectory focused on coupled infrastructure systems in which institutions are seen as one class of infrastructure among many that dynamically interact to produce outcomes over time.


An iterative approach to case study analysis: insights from qualitative analysis of quantitative inconsistencies

Barnett, A.J., J.A. Baggio, H.C. Shin, D.J. Yu, I. Perez-Ibarra, C.A. Rubinos, U. Brady, E. Ratajczyk, N. Rollins, R. Aggarwal, J.M. Anderies, M.A. Janssen

2016 International Journal of the Commons 10(2): 467–494.


Large-N comparative studies have helped common pool resource scholars gain general insights into the factors that influence collective action and governance outcomes. However, these studies are often limited by missing data, and suffer from the methodological limitation that important information is lost when we reduce textual information to quantitative data. This study was motivated by nine case studies that appeared to be inconsistent with the expectation that the presence of Ostrom’s Design Principles increases the likelihood of successful common pool resource governance. These cases highlight the limitations of coding and analysing Large-N case studies. We examine two issues: 1) the challenge of missing data and 2) potential approaches that rely on context (which is often lost in the coding process) to address inconsistencies between empirical observations theoretical predictions.  For the latter, we conduct a post-hoc qualitative analysis of a large-N comparative study to explore 2 types of inconsistencies: 1) cases where evidence for nearly all design principles was found, but available evidence led to the assessment that the CPR system was unsuccessful and 2) cases where the CPR system was deemed successful despite finding limited or no evidence for design principles.  We describe inherent challenges to large-N comparative analysis to coding complex and dynamically changing common pool resource systems for the presence or absence of design principles and the determination of “success”.  Finally, we illustrate how, in some cases, our qualitative analysis revealed that the identity of absent design principles explained inconsistencies hence de-facto reconciling such apparent inconsistencies with theoretical predictions.  This analysis demonstrates the value of combining quantitative and qualitative analysis, and using mixed-methods approaches iteratively to build comprehensive methodological and theoretical approaches to understanding common pool resource governance in a dynamically changing context.


Challenges and opportunities in coding the commons: problems, procedures, and potential solutions in large-N comparative case studies

Ratajczyk, E., U. Brady, J. Baggio, A. Barnett, I. Perez-Ibarra, N. Rollins, C. Rubiños, H.C. Shin, D.J. Yu, R. Aggarwal, J.M. Anderies, M.A. Janssen

2016 International Journal of the Commons 10(2): 440-466.


On-going efforts to understand the dynamics of coupled social-ecological (or more broadly, coupled infrastructure) systems and common pool resources have led to the generation of numerous datasets based on a large number of case studies. This data has facilitated the identification of important factors and fundamental principles which increase our understanding of such complex systems. However, the data at our disposal are often not easily comparable, have limited scope and scale, and are based on disparate underlying frameworks inhibiting synthesis, meta-analysis, and the validation of findings. Research efforts are further hampered when case inclusion criteria, variable definitions, coding schema, and inter-coder reliability testing are not made explicit in the presentation of research and shared among the research community. This paper first outlines challenges experienced by researchers engaged in a large-scale coding project; then highlights valuable lessons learned; and finally discusses opportunities for further research on comparative case study analysis focusing on social-ecological systems and common pool resources.


Explaining Success and Failures in the Commons: The configural nature of Ostrom’s Institutional Design Principles

Baggio J.A., A. Barnett, I. Perez-Ibarra, E. Ratajczyk, U. Brady, C. Rubinos, H. Shin, D.J. Yu, N. Rollins, R. Aggarwal, J.M. Anderies, M.A. Janssen

2016 International Journal of the Commons 10(2): 417–439.


Governing common pool resources (CPR) in the face of disturbances such as globalization and climate change is challenging. The outcome of any CPR governance regime is the influenced by local combinations of social, institutional, and biophysical factors, as well as cross-scale interdependencies. In this study, we take a step towards understanding multiple-causation of CPR outcomes by analyzing 1) the co-occurrence of Destign Principles (DP) by activity (irrigation, fishery and forestry), and 2) the combination(s) of DPs leading to social and ecological success. We analyzed 69 cases pertaining to three different activities: irrigation, fishery, and forestry. We find that the importance of the design principles is dependent upon the natural and hard human made infrastructure (i.e. canals, equipment, vessels etc.). For example, clearly defined social bounduaries are important when the natural infrastructure is highly mobile (i.e. tuna fish), while monitoring is more important when the natural infrastructure is more static (i.e. forests or water contained within an irrigation system). However, we also find that congruence between local conditions and rules and proportionality between investment and extraction are key for CPR success independent from the natural and human hard made infrastructure. We further provide new visualization techniques for co-occurrence patterns and add to qualitative comparative analysis by introducing a reliability metric to deal with a large meta-analysis dataset on secondary data where information is missing or uncertain.


Games for Groundwater Governance: Field Experiments in Andhra Pradesh, India

Meinzen-Dick, R., R. Chaturvedi, L. Domenech, R. Ghate, M.A. Janssen, N. Rollins and K. Sandeep

2016 Ecology & Society 21(3):38.


Groundwater is a common-pool resource that is subject to depletion in many places around the world as a result of increased use of irrigation and water-demanding cash crops. Where state capacity to control groundwater use is limited, collective action is important to increase recharge and restrict highly water-consumptive crops. We present results of field experiments in hard rock areas of Andhra Pradesh, India, to examine factors affecting groundwater use. Two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ran the games in communities where they were working to improve watershed and water management. Results indicate that, when the links between crop choice and groundwater depletion is made explicit, farmers can act cooperatively to address this problem. Longer NGO involvement in the villages was associated with more cooperative outcomes in the games. Individuals with more education and higher perceived community social capital played more cooperatively, but neither gender nor method of payment had a significantly effect on individual behavior. When participants could repeat the game with communication, similar crop choice patterns were observed. The games provided an entry point for discussion on the understanding of communities of the interconnectedness of groundwater use and crop choice.


The foundress’ dilemma: group selection for cooperation among queens of the harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex californicus

Shaffer, Z., T. Sasaki, B. Haney, M.A. Janssen, S. Pratt, J. Fewell

2016 Scientific Reports 6, 29828; doi: 10.1038/srep29828.


The evolution of cooperation is a fundamental problem in biology, especially for non-relatives, where indirect fitness benefits cannot counter within-group inequalities. Multilevel selection models show how cooperation can evolve if it generates a group-level advantage, even when cooperators are disadvantaged within their group. This allows the possibility of group selection, but few examples have been described in nature. Here we show that group selection can explain the evolution of cooperative nest founding in the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex californicus. Through most of this species’ range, colonies are founded by single queens, but in some populations nests are instead founded by cooperative groups of unrelated queens. In mixed groups of cooperative and single-founding queens, we found that aggressive individuals had a survival advantage within their nest, but foundress groups with such non-cooperators died out more often than those with only cooperative members. An agent-based model shows that the between-group advantage of the cooperative phenotype drives it to fixation, despite its within-group disadvantage, but only when population density is high enough to make between-group competition intense. Field data show higher nest density in a population where cooperative founding is common, consistent with greater density driving the evolution of cooperative foundation through group selection.


Food security in the face of climate change: Adaptive capacity of small-scale social-ecological systems to environmental variability

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

2016 Global Environmental Change 40: 82-91.


Improving the adaptive capacity of small-scale irrigation systems to the impacts of climate change is crucial for food security in Asia. This study analyzes the capacity of small-scale irrigation systems dependent on the Asian monsoon to adapt to variability in river discharge caused by climate change. Our study is motivated by the Pumpa irrigation system, a small-scale irrigation system located in Nepal that is a model for this type of system. We developed an agent-based model in which we simulated the decisions farmers make about the irrigation strategy to use according to available water flow. Given the uncertainty associated with how climate change may affect the Asian monsoon, we simulated the performance of the system under different projections of climate change in the region (increase and decrease in rainfall, reduction and expansion of the monsoon season, and changes in the timing of the onset of the monsoon). Accordingly to our simulations, farmers might need to adapt to rainfall intensification and a late onset in the monsoon season. The demands for collective action among farmers (e.g. infrastructure repair, meetings, decisions, etc.) might increase considerably due to climate change. Although our model suggests that investment in new infrastructure might increase the performance of the system under some climate change scenarios, the high inequality among farmers when water availability is reduced might hinder the efficiency of these measures due to a reduction of farmers’ willingness to cooperate. Our modeling exercise helps to hypothesize about the most sensitive climate change scenarios for smallscale irrigation farming in Nepal and helps to frame a discussion of some possible solutions and fundamental trade-offs in the process of adaptation to improve for food and water security under climate change.

Keywords: Adaptation; Agent-based model; Climate change; Common-pool resources; Irrigation systems; Resilience


Stimulating Contributions to Public Goods through Information Feedback: Some Experimental Results

Janssen, M.A., A. Lee and H. Sundaram

2016 PLoS ONE 11(7): e0159537. doi:10.1371/journal. pone.0159537.


In traditional public good experiments participants receive an endowment from the experimenter that can be invested in a public good or kept in a private account. In this paper we present an experimental environment where participants can invest time during five days to contribute to a public good. Participants can make contributions to a linear public good by logging into a web application and performing virtual actions. We compared four treatments, with different group sizes and information of (relative) performance of other groups. We find that information feedback about performance of other groups has a small positive effect if we control for various attributes of the groups. Moreover, we find a significant effect of the contributions of others in the group in the previous day on the number of points earned in the current day. Our results confirm that people participate more when participants in their group participate more, and are influenced by information about the relative performance of other groups.


Exploration of unpredictable environments by networked groups

Sasaki, T., M.A. Janssen, Z. Shaffer and S.C. Pratt

2016 Current Zoology 62 (3): 207-214.


Information sharing is a critical task for group-living animals. The pattern of sharing can be modeled as a network whose structure can affect the decision-making performance of individual members as well as that of the group as a whole. A fully connected network, in which each member can directly transfer information to all other members, ensures rapid sharing of important information, such as a promising foraging location. However, it can also impose costs by amplifying the spread of inaccurate information (if, for example the foraging location is actually not profitable). Thus, an optimal network structure should balance effective sharing of current knowledge with opportunities to discover new information. We used a computer simulation to measure how well groups characterized by different network structures (fully connected, small world, lattice, and random) find and exploit resource peaks in a variable environment. We found that a fully connected network outperformed other structures when resource quality was predictable. When resource quality showed random variation, however, the small world network was better than the fully connected one at avoiding extremely poor outcomes. These results suggest that animal groups may benefit by adjusting their information-sharing network structures depending on the noisiness of their environment.

Keywords: agent-based model; collective cognition; conformity; small world networks; speed–accuracy; trade-off


The Role of Diverse Strategies in Sustainable Knowledge Production

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

2016 PLoS ONE 11(3): e0149151. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149151.


Online communities are becoming increasingly important as platforms for large-scale human cooperation. These communities allow users seeking and sharing professional skills to solve problems collaboratively. To investigate how users cooperate to complete a large number of knowledge-producing tasks, we analyze Stack Exchange, one of the largest question and answer systems in the world. We construct attention networks to model the growth of 110 communities in the Stack Exchange system and quantify individual answering strategies using the linking dynamics on attention networks. We identify two answering strategies. Strategy A aims at performing maintenance by doing simple tasks, whereas strategy B aims at investing time in doing challenging tasks. Both strategies are important: empirical evidence shows that strategy A decreases the median waiting time for answers and strategy B increases the acceptance rate of answers. In investigating the strategic persistence of users, we find that users tends to stick on the same strategy over time in a community, but switch from one strategy to the other across communities. This finding reveals the different sets of knowledge and skills between users. A balance between the population of users taking A and B strategies that approximates 2:1, is found to be optimal to the sustainable growth of communities.


Learning for resilience-based management: Generating hypotheses from a behavioral study

Yu, D.J., H.C. Shin, I. Pérez, J.M. Anderies and M.A. Janssen

2016 Global Environmental Change 37: 69-78.


Encouragement of learning is considered to be central to resilience of social–ecological systems (SESs) to unknown and unforeseeable shocks. However, despite the consensus on the centrality of learning, little research has been done on the details of how learning should be encouraged to enhance adaptive capacity for resilience. This study contributes to bridging this research gap by examining the existing data from a behavioral experiment on SES that involves learning. We generate new hypotheses regarding how learning should be encouraged by comparing the learning processes of human-subject groups that participated in the experiment. Our findings suggest that under environmental stability, groups may be able to perform well without frequent outer-loop (or double-loop) learning. They can still succeed as long as they tightly coordinate on shared strategies along with active monitoring of SESs and user participation in decision-making. However, such groups may be fragile under environmental variability. Only the groups that experience active outer-loop learning and monitoring of SESs are likely to remain resilient under environmental variability.

Keywords: Loop learning; General resilience; Behavioral experiment; Adaptive management; Adaptive co-management; Adaptive governance


Book Chapters

A Model of Online Collaboration for Knowledge Production

Manning, M.K., M.A. Janssen, L. Wu

2016 In Proceedings of the 2016 Winter Simulation Conference , edited by T.M.K. Roeder, P.I. Frazier, R. Szechtman, E. Zhou, T. Huschka, and S.E. Chick, 3464-3475, IEEE.


Large scale collaboration is a fundamental characteristic of human society, and has recently manifested in the development and proliferation of online communities. These virtual social spaces provide an opportunity to explore large scale collaborations as natural experiments in which determinants of success can be tested. In order to do this, we first review previous work on meddling online communities to build an understanding of how these communities function. Having thus identified the operating mechanisms inherent in online communities, we propose a population ecology model of online communities that seeks to explain a number of statistical patterns from a selection of such communities.


Impact of Diverse Behavioral Theories on Environmental Management: Explorations with Daisyworld

Janssen, M.A.

2016 In Proceedings of the 2016 Winter Simulation Conference , edited by T.M.K. Roeder, P.I. Frazier, R. Szechtman, E. Zhou, T. Huschka, and S.E. Chick, 1690-1701, IEEE.


Our understanding of human behavior is limited and consequently lacks a standard formal model of human behavior that could represent relevant behavior in social-ecological systems. In this paper we explore the consequences of alternative behavioral models using a simple dynamic system of agents of harvesting daisies in the well-known Daisyworld model. We explore the consequences of different behavioral assumptions and derive optimal tax policies that lead to sustainable outcomes for each of the theories.


An agent-based model of resource distribution on hunter-gatherer foraging strategies: clumped habitats favor lower mobility, but result in higher foraging returns

Janssen, M.A. and K. Hill

2016 In Simulating Prehistoric and Ancient Worlds, edited by J.A. Barceló and F. Del Castillo, 159-174, Springer.

Testing Brantingham’s neutral model: the effect of spatial clustering on stone raw material procurement

Oestmo, S., M.A. Janssen, C.W. Marean

2016 In Simulating Prehistoric and Ancient Worlds, edited by J.A. Barceló and F. Del Castillo, 175-188, Springer.


Social Dilemmas Are Only Part of the Story to Explain Overharvesting of Renewable Resources

Janssen, M.A.
2016 CBIE Working paper 2016-002.


We report on experiments with a spatial explicit dynamic resource where individuals make incentivized real-time decisions when and where to harvest the resource units. We test how individuals make decisions when they manage the resource on their own, or share a resource twice the size with another person. We find that most individuals do not harvest resources close to the optimal strategy when they manage the resource individually, and this relates to their understanding of the instructions and their social orientation. Cooperators let resources grow even when there is no social dilemma. In group rounds, there is more overharvesting, especially if participants are selfish and have a low understanding of the instructions. The results show that a better understanding of the motivations of participants is needed to explain the observed behavior.


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