Pushing frontiers in science: Rethinking demand

Under the 2018 thematic focus of Consumption and Production, IIASA partnered with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) to organize an international, interdisciplinary workshop aiming to push the frontiers of science on the conceptualization, interdisciplinary integration, and modeling of demand.

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It is widely recognized that dominant disciplinary models of conceptualizing demand are often formulated at a level of intermediary goods and services, in other words, with a focus on for example, cars or gasoline, instead of on mobility. This has the effect that these models fall increasingly short in terms of both empirical explanatory power and in usefulness for novel policy approaches beyond the technological or economic realm.

In order to ultimately push the scientific frontier on concepts, models, and policy innovations addressing the demand (consumption) side of resource and technological systems, IIASA collaborated with RITE in Japan to convene a three-day international, interdisciplinary discussion workshop titled, Rethinking Demand, on the premises of the eighth century AD Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan.

The aim of the workshop was to further an interdisciplinary dialogue on the novel conceptualization of energy demand and to provide a forum to discuss new concepts that might not be familiar across disciplines. Some of the topics highlighted during the workshop include decent living standards, shared urban mobility models, Society 5.0 concepts, digital convergence, social practice theory, time budgets and resource implications, as well as new insights and research questions from different fields, and novel conceptualizations of demand and modeling approaches.

This highly successful workshop helped to establish a new scientific community committed to a continued exchange and dialogue with the ultimate objective of providing novel conceptual and formal representations amenable to modeling. To that end, external funding for a continuation of the Rethinking Demand workshops was obtained, and a sequel event is being planned at IIASA in 2019.

The workshop, individual contributions, as well as a synthesis workshop report of the main messages and lessons learned are documented on the IIASA website. The workshop summary report also formed part of the external funding reporting for the ALternative Pathways toward Sustainable development and climate stabilization (ALPS) contract, on which IIASA is collaborating with RITE in Japan.

Participants of the international, interdisciplinary IIASA-RITE workshop on Rethinking Demand, Nara Japan.

Further information
  • Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, UK
  • Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), Japan

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