International Programmes 2020/2021

Bayreuth International Summer School – Scales and Data Quality in Social-Ecological Research on Drylands Scales and Data Quality in Social-Ecological Research on Drylands

University of Bayreuth • Bayreuth

Course location
In cooperation with
Volkswagen Foundation
Teaching language
  • English
Language level of course
  • English: C1
  • July 2021
Target group

International graduate, PhD, and postdoc students


One of the main challenges facing interdisciplinary research on drylands is the analysis of the interaction between social and ecological systems within and across spatial and temporal scales. Scale is an important concept to transcend disciplinary boundaries between ecological and social phenomena because there often is a mismatch between the ecological scale of certain issues and the social scale in which this issue is dealt with. At the same time, the epistemologies and ontologies of data collection and analysis within different disciplines and scale levels often "mismatch" and lead to all kinds of stumble blocks and misunderstandings in interdisciplinary research. Hence, one of the main scientific challenges is to find methodologies to overcome these issues.

Wide ranges of methodological approaches are used to link environmental data with social and cultural data. Recently, in addition to regression models and time-series analyses, agent-based modelling has been providing a tool to link decision-making of individuals with factors influencing decisions. The main challenge is the combination of point data with gridded data and almost continuous data with discrete data of various data categories (e.g. numeric, ordinal). Data on the socio-economic and socio-political situation are comparably sparse in space and time. They often come from infrequent census campaigns and are aggregated to larger political administration levels. Thus, they are difficult to link with migration processes, as population movement is only partly quantified along migration routes, and it is often estimated. The demographic development is measured, estimated, and projected with scenarios. New developments include mobility profiles using social media and an increasing control of movement at border posts using digital methods. Data obtained from case studies might be used for unravelling mechanisms and modes of interaction between different levels rather than be used for quantitative analysis. These will be employed to increase the quality and validation of models developed at higher scale levels. Besides the different data types and data scales, the quality of the above-listed data sources is of utmost importance, as are the uncertainties related to the data. Land cover data and precipitation data are very different in quality, even from the same data providers. As is the case for bio-physical data, data quality is of utmost importance for socio-political and socio-economic data. A wide range of sources and methods for validation will be used for this.

After the course, the participants should have:

  • A basic understanding of the main concepts related to issues of scale and complexity of social-ecological systems in drylands
  • The ability to relate these basic concepts to own research and epistemological and ontological positions
  • The ability to understand the different scales and data qualities and to evaluate these issues
  • The ability to select the appropriate methods for the available data
  • The ability to debate and discuss these issues with people working on other scale levels and in other disciplines
  • A basic ability to apply these skills in the design of new research

For more detailed information on the course content and lecturers, please visit our website.

Average number of hours per week
Average number of participants per group/course
Dates and costs
  • July 2021
Price only on request
Further information on dates and prices

This course is sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation ("VolkswagenStiftung"). It is free for participants and travel grants are available for successful applicants. Participation is based on a competitive selection process.

Please check our website for further information:

Teaching language
  • English
Language level of course
  • English: C1
Language requirements

A very good command of the English language (preferably C1 level) is a requirement for your participation in the course. Please provide proof of your language level by submitting a language certificate (e.g. TOEFL, IELTS, Cambridge) with your application.

Submit application to

Please submit your contact information and supporting documents (CV, brief personal statement, and proof of language proficiency) via our website:

Please contact us via e-mail if you have any questions regarding the application procedure.

Is accommodation organised?
Accommodation is arranged by the organiser.
Type of accommodation

Hostel or hotel


A daily lunch as well as a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner are included in the programme.

Is a social and leisure programme offered?
Description of social and leisure programme

We offer a weekend excursion to Berlin as well as city tours / guided visits and sports activities in Bayreuth.

Free internet access
Support in visa matters
Pick-up service from train station/airport

University of Bayreuth

University location

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Bachelor's degree

Master's degree


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