TU Berlin

Sociology of Politics and GovernanceMODEL-POL

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Modelling has become a dominant form of research in many scientific disciplines, and an indispensable tool across virtually all domains of policy-making. Models are critical to our ability to comprehend, anticipate, and intervene into complex phenomena, from climate dynamics to financial markets. Modelling types and techniques are changing rapidly, driven by advances in analytical procedures, data availability and computing power that further expand the reach of models and their outputs. Models also introduce particular forms of uncertainty and risk into decision-making processes, and their legitimacy has become crucial in contemporary disputes over the epistemic authority of governing institutions and elites. Despite their relevance, however, the role of models in policy remains an under-researched object of social-scientific investigation.

This project brings together social scientists who research the development and use of models across a variety of scientific and policy domains.

MODEL-POL is funded by the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership.

See also the Oxford University project website


1. To develop a robust, collaborative social-scientific research agenda focused on how models are produced, disseminated, interpreted and contested in policy debates and political controversies, and how the knowledge they produce can stabilize or undermine the authority of governing institutions

2. To directly engage modellers and users of models in a set of structured discussions on how to enhance the public accountability of models

3. To seek funding for a sustained programme of research to advance this agenda

The project team

Javier Lezaun (University of Oxford) 
Sophie Haines (University of Oxford) 
Sara de Wit (University of Oxford) 
Jörg Niewöhner (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Axel Klie (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Jan-Peter Voß (Technische Universität Berlin)
Stefan Schäfer (IASS Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies)
Oliver Geden (Stiftung Wissenschaft Politik)
Liliana Bounegru (University of Oxford) 

Workshop in 2019

In autumn 2019, a workshop focused on developing a field-defining social-scientific research agenda for the study of modelling practices in policy-relevant sciences and on the role of models in supporting or eroding scientific-political authority. In addition to project participants, the workshop included social scientists addressing models and modelling as empirical objects across a variety of domains (e.g. climate change, finance, public health, humanitarian action). 

Workshop programme


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