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3. Caution as a Response to Scientific Uncertainty: A Groundwater Game Experiment
Ahn, M., Baldwin, E., Girone, D. (2024). Caution as a Response to Scientific Uncertainty: A Groundwater Game Experiment. International Journal of the Commons.


Dataset and Codes

Understanding and managing uncertainty is critical for robust governance. In groundwater management, where collaborative, community-based governance is increasingly common, scientific uncertainty about hydrological conditions could pose challenges to effective and equitable resource management. This study bridges two literatures – collaborative governance and collective action – to examine whether scientific uncertainty about hydrologic conditions undermines the performance of groups that engage in collaborative governance of shared groundwater resources. We conducted a modified groundwater game experiment, based on Meinzen-Dick et al. (2016), where participants engage as resource users in a crop choice game over multiple rounds. But unlike the original game, where participants had full information about recharge rate, two treatments introduced scientific uncertainty in water recharge: uncertainty framed as a range of estimates about groundwater recharge, and uncertainty framed as competing hydrological models predicting different groundwater recharge rates. We also expand on the original game by exploring a wider range of outcomes that include not only sustainable resource use but also group earning and equitable distribution of earnings across players. Analyzing data from 30 group games, our findings suggest that scientific uncertainty can help safeguard shared groundwater resources by prompting users to exercise caution in the face of uncertain recharge rates. This effect was more consistent for the range of estimates treatment than for the competing hydrological models treatment. To unpack the mechanisms behind the experimental result, we also analyzed participants’ communications during the game to understand the strategies that collaborative groups use to cope with uncertainty. In the presence of scientific uncertainty, collaborative processes foster cautious behavior and protect shared resources.


2. Who Benefits from Collaborative Governance? An Empirical Study from the Energy Sector
Ahn, M., & Baldwin, E. (2024). Who benefits from collaborative governance? An empirical study from the energy sector. Public Management Review,


Collaborative governance can positively affect desired policy outcomes, but questions remain about who benefits. This article asks how and to what extent collaborative governance of utility conservation programmes in the U.S. states affects industrial, commercial, and residential ratepayers’ programme benefits. Panel data analysis shows that collaborative processes improve the equitable distribution of energy savings, but inequities persist, particularly for residential ratepayers. Additional qualitative analysis suggests representation in the collaborative process is not a major driver of equitable distribution of benefits, but that over time, collaboration can help participants to look beyond their individual interests and advocate for other stakeholders’ interests.


1. Collaborative Governance Regimes: Informing Practice through Research
Emerson Kirk and Ahn Minwoo 2021. "Collaborative Governance Regimes: Informing Practice through Research," Edited by Daniel P. Gitterman and Neil Britto, "The Intersector: How the Public, Nonprofit, and Private Sectors Can Address America's Challenges. Brookings Institution Press. DOI: 10.48558/bzf8-wv37

Cross-sector collaboration takes many forms and works at a variety of scales in multiple policy domains. When issue complexity requires ongoing engagement of interdependent stakeholders in one or more sectors, systems of cross-boundary cooperation are needed to integrate across institutional structures, design and manage participation of diverse actors, and enable joint action and the creation of public value. These open and dynamic collaborative systems have been referred to as collaborative governance regimes. CGRs are systems of public governance where autonomous organizations work together over time to achieve some collective public purpose; they are specifically defined as “a particular mode of, or system for, public decision making in which cross-boundary collaboration represents the prevailing pattern of behavior and activity.” Collaborative governance regimes occur at a variety of scales (local, subnational, national, cross-national, and global) and across different policy domains, from environmental to public health, emergency management, and public education. This chapter offers a review of research on CGRs and some implications for practice. Following an illustration of the integrative framework for Collaborative Governance Regimes that encompasses CGRs (their system context, formation, collaboration dynamics, and actions), the chapter offers an analysis of CGR research published by a range of social scientists since 2012. Finally, key findings are highlighted, and the chapter concludes with a discussion of the implications of this research for practice.

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