A protocol to develop Shared Socio-economic Pathways for European agriculture

Related GLP Member: Hermine Mitter, Anja Techen, Joerg Priess, Martin Schönhart


  • The Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs) will be refined for sectors and scales.
  • We develop a protocol for systematically enriching SSPs for European agriculture.
  • Six quality criteria guide the design of the storyline development process.
  • Nine work steps, adequate methods and stakeholder engagement levels are specified.
  • Feedback loops and consistency checks are suggested for quality control.


Moving towards a more sustainable future requires concerted actions, particularly in the context of global climate change. Integrated assessments of agricultural systems (IAAS) are considered valuable tools to provide sound information for policy and decision-making. IAAS use storylines to define socio-economic and environmental framework assumptions. While a set of qualitative global storylines, known as the Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs), is available to inform integrated assessments at large scales, their spatial resolution and scope is insufficient for regional studies in agriculture. We present a protocol to operationalize the development of Shared Socio-economic Pathways for European agriculture – Eur-Agri-SSPs – to support IAAS. The proposed design of the storyline development process is based on six quality criteria: plausibility, vertical and horizontal consistency, salience, legitimacy, richness and creativity. Trade-offs between these criteria may occur. The process is science-driven and iterative to enhance plausibility and horizontal consistency. A nested approach is suggested to link storylines across scales while maintaining vertical consistency. Plausibility, legitimacy, salience, richness and creativity shall be stimulated in a participatory and interdisciplinary storyline development process. The quality criteria and process design requirements are combined in the protocol to increase conceptual and methodological transparency. The protocol specifies nine working steps. For each step, suitable methods are proposed and the intended level and format of stakeholder engagement are discussed. A key methodological challenge is to link global SSPs with regional perspectives provided by the stakeholders, while maintaining vertical consistency and stakeholder buy-in. We conclude that the protocol facilitates systematic development and evaluation of storylines, which can be transferred to other regions, sectors and scales and supports inter-comparisons of IAAS.

This paper follows up on an OSM2019 session and GLP blog post by two of the paper's authors:
Let's talk about scales: Eur-Agri-SSPs as example of nested scenario narratives for European agriculture and food systems

A second paper was published and can be viewed at:
Shared Socio-economic Pathways for European agriculture and food systems: The Eur-Agri-SSPs