A Typology for Characterizing Human Action in MultiSector Dynamics Models: Article No. e2021EF002641

Jim Yoon, Patricia Romero-Lankao, Y. C. Yang, Christian Klassert, Nathan Urban, Kendra Kaiser, Klaus Keller, Brinda Yarlagadda, Nathalie Voisin, Patrick Reed, Richard Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus Citations


The role of individual and collective human action is increasingly recognized as a prominent and arguably paramount determinant in shaping the behavior, trajectory, and vulnerability of multisector systems. This human influence operates at multiple scales: from short-term (hourly to daily) to long-term (annually to centennial) timescales, and from the local to the global, pushing systems toward either desirable or undesirable outcomes. However, the effort to represent human systems in multisector models has been fragmented across philosophical, methodological, and disciplinary lines. To cohere insights across diverse modeling approaches, we present a new typology for classifying how human actors are represented in the broad suite of coupled human-natural system models that are applied in MultiSector Dynamics (MSD) research. The typology conceptualizes a "sector" as a system-of-systems that includes a diverse group of human actors, defined across individual to collective social levels, involved in governing, provisioning, and utilizing products, goods, or services toward some human end. We trace the salient features of modeled representations of human systems by organizing the typology around two key questions: (a) Who are the actors in MSD systems and what are their actions? (b) How and for what purpose are these actors and actions operationalized in a computational model? We use this typology to critically examine existing models and chart the frontier of human systems modeling for MSD research.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages22
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-84108


  • human activity
  • modeling
  • typology
  • vulnerability


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