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Policy modelling - still a lot to gain

Usually, policies are judged on their effectiveness after implementation, but wouldn't it be useful if this could also be predicted in advance? According to UT researcher Aleid Sunniva Teeuwen (Faculty of ITC), there is still a lot to be gained in the field of policy modelling; she recently published her research into simulation models that predict the impact of policy on food security. "Models are a good starting point for a discussion."

Teeuwen is researching simulation models that predict the impact of policy on food security. "When thinking about policy, most people imagine laws and regulations, but other policies like information campaigns can be more effective," says Teeuwen. For her publication, she compared 110 different studies. Most of those studies were on models that simulate legislative policy or financial policy (such as subsidies).

Blind spot

Of all the studies, only 24 looked at policy in the form of campaigns, education and training. "It appears to be a blind spot for many policy researchers in the field of food security," says Teeuwen, "And that's a shame since more research into these forms of policy will allow us to better predict their impact." One study showed, for example, that providing farmers with climate forecasts would be as effective as giving one in five farmers a new job. However, the former is often much cheaper. "Perhaps policymakers will choose this type of policy more often if it proves more effective. That way, they can ultimately help more people."

One-sided models

In the studies Teeuwen looked at, food security was often simulated one-sided. "For example, if you want to give subsidies to food producers, the modellers often only looked at how it affected the producers. The researchers did not look at the effects on consumers, the transport sector and other target groups." This is regrettable because policy aimed at producers can have a negative impact on consumers and vice versa. For example, import tariffs on food can be positive for farmers who get more money as a result, but negative for the consumer who is paying more.

In addition, there is a lack of knowledge in the field of spatial and social policy. By targeting measures specifically at vulnerable groups - for example, farmers in drought-prone areas or the poorest consumers - policymakers may achieve greater effects with the resources they have available.

More information

Aleid Teeuwen is a PhD candidate in the Department of Natural Resources (NRS; Faculty of ITC). She is conducting her research under the supervision of Prof. Andy Nelson, Dr. Yue Dou and Prof. Markus Meyer of Anhalt University of Applied Sciences. The research is funded by the 4TU.HTSF DeSIRE Programme and the National Science Foundation-China (grant agreement 42001228). Her research, entitled 'A systematic review of the impact of food security governance measures as simulated in modelling studies' was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Food.

DOI: 10.1038/s43016-022-00571-2