Researcher

Dr Sondoss Ashraf Abd El Aziz El Sawah

Biography

Research Interests

My research program focuses on understanding the behaviour of large complex problems and systemic risks that arise from the interactions between social, ecological, and technological systems. This focus includes how to use this understanding to create computational tools that enable decision makers design and evaluate options to deal with such complexity. To achieve this, I use systems thinking/dynamics based methodologies...view more

Research Interests

My research program focuses on understanding the behaviour of large complex problems and systemic risks that arise from the interactions between social, ecological, and technological systems. This focus includes how to use this understanding to create computational tools that enable decision makers design and evaluate options to deal with such complexity. To achieve this, I use systems thinking/dynamics based methodologies to analyse complex problems as dynamic and multi-dimensional systems where human cognition is central element to help understand and manage the situation. I have applied these methodologies to address a wide range of problems in both environmental and defence sectors, such as: predicting the impacts of climate change and coal mining on socio-ecological systems, assessment of water allocation plans in the Murray Darling Basin, and lifecycle assessment of large-scale military capabilities. In addition, I have an interest in how to transfer and integrate knowledge from multiple projects and application domains to improve the practice and teaching of system dynamics methodologies.

Background

I started my academic career with a bachelor degree in Computer Science (2002) followed by a Master Science in operations research and decision support systems (2005). In 2010, I completed a PhD degree at University of New South Wales investigating the role of systems thinking and dynamic modelling in understanding and communicating about water resources management. The research has resulted in developing a decision making framework that combines cognitive, dynamic models, and gaming technologies to support public participation in water planning. The framework was used by the water industry as communication tool during the millennium drought. This work was recognized by the prestigous 2010 Best Post-graduate water Prize by the Australian Water Association.

After this, I worked as a Postdoctoral fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University. During this post, I worked on developing and applying systems methodologies to develop integrated environmental models (i.e. combining social, economic, and biophysical models) to support policy design. I worked on a large number of projects covering a wide range of issues, such as Murray-Darling Basin Plan, cumulative impacts of mining, climate change impacts, and food-energy-water nexus. I also served as a supporting junior scientist for the expert panel (including six top world environmental scientists) in CSIRO 2013 Land and Water Division Review.

In 2013, I was promoted to a chief investigator (joint position between ANU and National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training). 

I got a taste of research at the public policy side by having a six month post as a systems analyst at the Bureau of Meteorology, where I got the opportunity to use my experience in developing a systems design process to underpin the development of the Bureau’s national water information products.

Now, I am a senior lecturer at the School of Engineering and Information Technology and Deputy Director of the Capability System Centre (a multi-million dollar industry funded research centre).

I am also an adjunct fellow at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University.

Research topics

  • Systems thinking and modelling approaches
  • Mental modelling and behavioural modelling
  • Stakeholder engagement and social learning
  • Decision Support Systems
  • Integrated and adaptive resource management

 

Professional Services

  • Editor of the Journal of Environmental Modelling and Software (A*)
  • Convener of the 23rd International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM 2019)
  • Guest editor for a Special Issue on “Good Modelling Practices”, Journal of Mathematics and Computers in Simulation
  • Board and founding member of the Journal of Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling (open-access journal)
  • Committee member of the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (2013-2017
  • Committee member of the Operations Research Society (ACT Chapter)
  • Organizing committee of the International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM 2015, 2017) 
  • Support member, CSIRO (Land-Water Flagship) 2013 Review Process

 


My Grants

I have attracted research grants from Australia and overseas, including:

 

  • 2017-2019, Co-investigator, research grants (AUD 642,178) from the Commonwealth Government to support the development of model-based decision making frameworks to inform the management of strategic Navy assets (e.g. the Future Submarine Program).
  • 2017, Co-investigator, research grant (USD 25,000) from the US National Science Foundation devoted to synthesize knowledge on the state-of-art and challenges in socio-ecological models for actionable science
  • 2016, Co-investigator, research grant (USD 60,000) from the US National Science Foundation devoted to develop practical guidelines on core modelling practices in integrated water management projects.
  • 2013, Co-investigator, a research grant (AUD 90,000) from the local Government to develop a modelling framework to support water conservation efforts at the Condamine region, one of the most iconic and yet water-stressed regions in QLD. 
  • 2011,  Co-investigator, Category 1 research grant (AUD 475,578) by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, from a combined funding source provided by the Government (Commonwealth and State) and industry, to develop a systems modeling framework for assessing climate change impacts on water resource systems, and flow on effects on ecological responses

 


My Awards

  • The Early Career Research Award by the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society (2018)
  • Best Paper Award by the International Council on Systems Engineering (2017)
  • The Australian Society of Operations Research Rising Start Award (2016).
  • Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (biannual) Early Career Research Excellence award (2015).
  • Peter Cullen Trust fellowship award for leadership in bridging science-policy gap (outstanding fellow of the year; 2014)
  • Best Reviewer’s Award from the international Journal of Environmental Modelling and Software (2012)
  • The Australian Water Association (AWA) Award for best postgraduate water research (2010)

My Research Activities

  • Leading a research project on the development of model-based decision support framework to inform sustainable asset management. The framework has been applied and used in projects related to decision support for strategic national assets such as the Future Submarine Program and design of future navy capabilities.

My Teaching

I am currently the coordinator of the Masters of Systems Engineering. I teach the following courses at the post-graduate level

  • Systems thinking and modeling (2015-)
  • Simulation Application (2015-)

In addition, I have delivered 30+ professional development courses on the use of systems thinking in complex problem solving to many Government and industrial agencies (e.g. Royal Australian Force)

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Contact

+61 2 6268 8098