top of page
Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 8.00.20 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 8.05.42 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 8.12.56 PM.png


University of Birmingham

Home: Skills


Research interests

My work focuses on understanding and appraising uncertainties in contentious phenomena, especially those related with agriculture, climate and water resources. My research aims at providing insights for sustainability and makes use of mathematical models, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis, post-normal science and ethics of quantification.

Since 2023 I am the PI of the ERC Consolidator Grant project "DAWN: Illuminating Deep Uncertainties in Irrigation Water Withdrawals", funded by the European Commission in the Horizon 2020 framework. The project will unfold, examine and assimilate the deep uncertainties that condition our understanding of irrigation demands. It has three specific objectives:

  1. To identify underlying assumptions and path-dependencies in irrigation models.

  2. To recover empirical irrigation knowledge from traditional irrigators and compare it with the scientific knowledge embedded in models.

  3. To merge the scientific and the traditional knowledge on irrigation and explore the resulting uncertainty space with groundbreaking uncertainty and sensitivity analysis tools.

By merging approaches from hydrology, statistics, philosophy and anthropology, DAWN proposes ground-breaking research to dramatically robustify our comprehension of irrigation withdrawals.

My detailed CV can be retrieved here.

Home: About Me


Present and previous posts

September 2022 - to date


School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

September 2019 - August 2022


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department (Levin Lab), Princeton University, USA.

Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway.

PI of the project The Role of Size in the Sustainability of Irrigation Systems (SIZE), funded by the European Commission H2020 framework.

January 2018 - August 2019


Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

September 2015 - August 2017


Department of Maritime Civilizations (Sedimentary Archaeology Lab), University of Haifa, Israel.

PI of the project Bloom the Dry: The Creation of Traditional Mediterranean Irrigated Fields (DryIR), funded by the European Commission FP7 framework.

May 2014 - August 2015


Department of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany.

PI of the project Bloom the Dry: The Creation of Traditional Mediterranean Irrigated Fields, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

PI of the project Building Up Intensive Labour Areas: Terraces, Irrigation and Agrarian Change in the Ricote Valley (Murcia, Spain) After 711 AD, funded by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

September 2012 - May 2014

Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CaSEs), Institut Milà i Fontanals, CSIC Barcelona, Spain


Home: Experience


September 2008 - August 2012


Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain

Dissertation title: Construction Criteria of Andalusi Irrigated Fields. The Case of Ricote (Murcia, Spain)

Grade: Summa cum laude

UAB Outstanding PhD Award

September 2001 - August 2006

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain


Home: Education
Home: List


Andrea Saltelli, Marta Kuc-Czarnecka, Samuele Lo Piano, Máté János Llorincz, Magdalena Olczyk, Arnald Puy, Erik Reinert, Stefán Thor Smith, and Jeroen van der Sluijs. 2023. Impact assessment culture in the European Union. Time for something new?.  Environmental Science and Policy 142, 99-111.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2023.02.005.

Monica Di Fiore, Marta Kuc Czarnecka, Samuele Lo Piano, Arnald Puy, and Andrea Saltelli. 2022. The challenge of quantification: an interdisciplinary reading. Minerva 61, 53-70.
doi: 10.1007/s11024-022-09481-w.

Samuele Lo Piano, Razi Sheikholeslami, Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Unpacking the modelling process via sensitivity auditing. Futures 144, 103041.
doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2022.103041.

Arnald Puy, Pierfrancesco Beneventano, Simon A. Levin, Samuele Lo Piano, Tommaso Portaluri, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Models with higher effective dimensions tend to produce more uncertain estimates. Science Advances 8(42), eabn9450.
doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abn9450

Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Discrepancy measures for sensitivity analysis in mathematical modeling.
arXiv: 2206.13470.

Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Mind the Hubris: Complexity can Misfire. In A. Saltelli, M. Di Fiore (Eds.). Views on Mathematical  Modelling. Oxford University Press, Oxford (Forthcoming).
arXiv: 2207.12230.

Arnald Puy, Razi Sheikholeslami, Hoshin V. Gupta, Jim W. Hall, Bruce Lankford, Samuele Lo Piano, Jonas Meier, Florian Pappenberger, Amilcare Porporato, Giulia Vico, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. The delusive accuracy of global irrigation water withdrawal estimates. Nature Communications 13, 3183.
doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-30731-8

Samuele Lo Piano, Emanuele Borgonovo, Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli, John Walsh, Daniele Bidoni. 2022. Improving the reliability of cohesion policy databases. PLOS ONE 17(4), e0266823.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266823.

Arnald Puy, Bruce Lankford, Jonas Meier, Saskia van der Kooij, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Large variations in global irrigation withdrawals caused by uncertain irrigation efficiencies. Environmental Research Letters 17(4), 044014.
doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac5768.

Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, Andrea Saltelli, Simon A. Levin. 2022. sensobol: an R package to compute variance-based sensitivity indices. Journal of Statistical Software 102(5), 1-37.

Arnald Puy, William Becker, Samuele Lo Piano, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. A comprehensive comparison of total-order estimators for global sensitivity analysis. International Journal for Uncertainty Quantification 12(2), 1-18

Arnald Puy, Emanuele Borgonovo, Samuele Lo Piano, Simon A. Levin, Andrea Saltelli. 2021. Irrigated areas drive irrigation water withdrawals. Nature Communications 12, 4525.

Saman Razavi, Anthony Jakeman, Andrea Saltelli, Clémentine Prieur, Bertrand Iooss, Emanuele Borgonovo, Elmar Plischke, Samuele Lo Piano, Takuya Iwanaga, William Becker, Stefano Tarantola, Joseph H.A. Guillaume, John Jakeman, Hoshin Gupta, Nicola Melillo, Giovanni Rabitti, Vincent Chabridon, Quingyun Duan, Xifu Sun, Stefán Smith, Razi Sheikholeslami, Nassim Hosseini, Masoud Asadzadeh, Arnald Puy, Sergei Kucherenko, Holger R. Maier. 2021. The future of sensitivity analysis: an essential discipline for systems modeling and policy support. Environmental Modelling & Software 137, 104954.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2020.104954

Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2021. Is VARS more intuitive and efficient than Sobol' indices?. Environmental Modelling & Software 137, 104960.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2021.104960 


Samuele Lo Piano, Federico Ferretti, Arnald Puy, Daniel Albrecht, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. Variance-based sensitivity analysis: The quest for better estimators between explorativity and efficiency. Reliability Engineering & System Safety 206, 107300.
doi: 10.1016/j.ress.2020.107300

Arnald Puy, William Becker, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. The battle of total-order sensitivity estimators. arXiv: 2009.01147 

Andrea Saltelli, Gabriele Bammer, Isabelle Bruno, Erica Charters, Monica Di Fiore, Emmanuel Didier, Wendy Nelson Espeland, John Kay, Samuele Lo Piano, Deborah Mayo, Roger Pielke Jr, Tommaso Portaluri, Theodore M. Porter, Arnald Puy, Ismael Rafols, Jerome R. Ravetz, Erik Reinert, Daniel Sarewitz, Philip B. Stark, Andrew Stirling, Jeroen van der Sluijs, Paolo Vineis. 2020. Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto. Nature 582.7813, 482–484.
doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01812-9


Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. Current models underestimate future irrigated areas. Geophysical Research Letters 47.8.
doi: 10.1029/2020GL087360


Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. A sensitivity analysis of the PAWN sensitivity index. Environmental Modelling & Software 127, 104679.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2020.104679.

Arnald Puy, Emanuele. Borgonovo, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2019. Are the results of the groundwater model robust?. 
arXiv: 1912.10814

Arnald Puy, Manuel Herzog, Pedro Escriche, Amou Marouche, Yousef Oubana, and Olaf Bubenzer. 2018. Detection of sand encroachment patterns in desert oases. The case of Erg Chebbi (Morocco). Science of The Total Environment 642, pp. 241- 249. 
doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.343.

Arnald Puy. 2018. Irrigated areas grow faster than the population. Ecological Applications 28.6, 1413-1419.
doi: 10.1002/eap.1743.

Andrea L. Balbo, Arnald Puy, Jaume Frigola, Fèlix Retamero, Isabel Cacho, and Helena Kirchner. 2018. Amplified environmental change: Evidence from land-use and climate change in medieval Minorca. Land Degradation & Development 29.4, 1262-1269.

Arnald Puy, Racahata Muneepeerakul, and Andrea L. Balbo. 2017. Size and stochasticity in irrigated social-ecological systems. Scientific Reports 7, 43943.
doi: 10.1038/srep43943.

Arnald Puy, José M. Garcia Avilés, Andrea L. Balbo, Michelle Keller, Svenja Riedesel, Daniel Blum, and Olaf Bubenzer. 2017. Drip irrigation uptake in traditional irrigated fields: The edaphological impact. Journal of Environmental Management 202, 550-561. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.07.017

Andrea L. Balbo and Arnald Puy. 2017. Terrace landscapes. Editorial to the special issue. Journal of Environmental Management 202.3, 495-499.
doi: 10. 1016/j .jenvman.2017.02.001

Andrea L. Balbo, Erik Gomez-Baggethun, Matthieu Salpeteur, Arnald Puy, Steffano Biagetti, and Jurgen Scheffran. 2016. Resilience of small-scale societies: a view from drylands. Ecology and Society 21.2, 53.
doi: 10.5751/ES-08327-210253

Arnald Puy, Andrea. L. Balbo, and Olaf Bubenzer. 2016. Radiocarbon dating of agrarian terraces by means of buried soils. Radiocarbon 58.2, 345-363.
doi: 10.1017/RDC.2015.21.

Arnald Puy, Andrea. L. Balbo, Camilla Zinsli, and Morten Ramstad. 2016. High-resolution stratigraphy of Scandinavian coastal archaeological settlements: the case of Hakonshella, W Norway". Boreas 45.3, 508-520.
doi: 10.1111/bor.12166

Arnald Puy. 2014. Land selection for irrigation in al-Andalus (Spain, 8th century AD). Journal of Field Archaeology 39.1, 84-100.
doi: 10.1179 / 0093469013Z.00000000072

Arnald Puy, Andrea L. Balbo, Antoni Virgili, and Helena Kirchner. 2014. The evolution of Mediterranean wetlands in the first millennium AD: The case of Les Arenes floodplain (Tortosa, NE Spain). Geoderma 232-234, 219-235.
doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2014.05.001

Arnald Puy and Andrea L. Balbo. 2013. The genesis of irrigated terraces in al-Andalus. A geoarchaeological perspective on intensive agriculture in semi-arid environments (Ricote, Murcia, Spain). Journal of Arid Environments 89, 45-56.
doi: 10 .1016 / j.jaridenv.2012.10.008

Arnald Puy. 2013. Tracking down the glitter of gold in the Diplomatari de Santes Creus. Imago Temporis - Medium Aevum 7, 175-224.
doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/P6KMG.

Arnald Puy. 2013. The construction of fertility in al-Andalus. Geoarchaeology in Ricote (Murcia, Spain, 8th century AD). Geophysical Research Abstracts 15, 2335.

Arnald Puy. 2012. La huerta de Ricote (Murcia, España) entre los siglos XV y XVIII. Estudiar el pasado: aspectos metodologicos de la investigacion en Ciencias de la Antiguedad y de la Edad Media. Proceedings of the First Postgraduate Conference on Studies of Antiquity and Middle Ages Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona 26-28th October 2010. Ed. by A. Castro Correa, D. Gomez Castro, G. Gonzalez Germain, J. Oller Guzman, A. Puy, R. Riera Vargas, K. Krystyna Starczewska, and N. Villagra Hidalgo. Oxford: BAR International Series 2412, 199-209.
doi: 10.13140/2.1.1883.4887

Ainoa Castro Correa, Daniel Gomez Castro, Gerard Gonzalez Germain, Jordi Oller Guzman, Arnald Puy, Roger Riera Vargas, Katarzyna Krystyna Starczewska, and Nereida Villagra Hidalgo, eds. Estudiar el pasado: aspectos metodologicos de la investigacion en Ciencias de la Antiguedad y de la Edad Media. Proceedings of the First Postgraduate Conference on Studies of Antiquity and Middle Ages Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona 26-28th October 2010. BAR International Series 2412. Oxford.

Arnald Puy. 2010. Moneda, peces de moneda d'or i magnats a Santes Creus. Revista de l'Arxiu Bibliografic de Santes Creus 23, 39-49.

Arnald Puy. 2008. La moneda d'or al diplomatari de Santa Maria de Santes Creus (975-1225). Gaceta Numismatica 169, 39-60.

Home: Job offers

Job offers

DAWN Small orange.png

Four students wanted

The scientific problem

Estimating the volume of water globally allocated to irrigation agriculture is regarded as a key challenge to help address the current water crisis. This has been attempted through ever-detailed global hydrological models with the assumption that more realistic representations will yield more accurate figures. However, after 30 years of research, current estimates of irrigation withdrawals do not seem to converge (Fig. 1). This variability points towards deep uncertainties lurking in our conceptualization of irrigation demands that are impervious to the development of finer-grained models. Without addressing these ambiguities, how do we now which model to trust? Can we be sure that their ranges properly bound the ``true'' value?


Fig. 1. Uncertainty in irrigation water withdrawal (IWW) estimates (in km3 per year).  a) Uncertainties at the continental level. Each color is a model, data are from 2005. b) Some predictions of global IWW to 2050.

If we do not understand the nature of the uncertainties ingrained in global hydrological models, we risk being misguided by spuriously accurate model estimates and missing on the ``true'' potential impact of irrigation on water resources. This endangers our capacity to manage water and agriculture for a sustainable


What will students do?

The students will integrate into a team of international, interdisciplinary researchers with the aim to study how uncertainties are characterized in global hydrological models. This particular investigation will focus on the technical, philosophical and semantic characterization of uncertainties: students will specifically contribute on the semantic part of the investigation. Their job will be to close-read the abstract of approximately 1,000 papers (c. 250 abstracts per student) following the framework of Guillaume et al., and characterize how the results (or claims) of the abstract are framed in terms of:

  1. Maturity and utility: to what extent can the results be used?

  2. Scope: what limitations exist on how the results can be used?

  3. Level of belief: how certain is the author that the results are true?

  4. Depth of analysis: how thoroughly has the issue ben examined?

  5. Relatability: are the results consistent with previous knowledge?

Once completed, the students will provide the rest of the team with a report summarizing the methodology and the results obtained. This report will be adapted for publication of a paper in a peer-review journal with the rest of the team.

What will each student get?

  1. Interdisciplinary training on the appraisal of uncertainties in mathematical modeling and scientific research proper.

  2. If needed, training in R programming.

  3. Involvement in the project "DAWN: Illuminating Deep Uncertainties in the Estimation of Irrigation Water Withdrawals, a 2M€ ERC Consolidator Grant project that will run from the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, from September 2023 to August 2028.

  4. Training in academic writing and presentation of results in academic journals.

  5. Co-authorship in the resulting paper with the rest of the DAWN team.

  6. A stipend based on 60h of work, band 400, spinal point 30 (11.78 pounds hourly rate of pay) upon submission of the report.

What do we expect from students?

We welcome applications from any student regardless of their disciplinary background and career stage. We are looking for students that are:

  1. Curious, skeptical, willing to develop interdisciplinary profiles and work in-between the Human and the Natural Sciences.

  2. Able to keep an open mind and think out-of-the-box, especially with regards to controversial issues such as the water crisis or climate change.

  3. Commited to learn and work in a demanding research environment.

Timeline and schedule

Please submit a one-page PDF including your abridged CV and a 250-word reflection on what do you think mathematical models are to Arnald Puy (contact details below) before April 30th 2023. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed during the third and fourth week of May. Interviews will be in person unless there is a case of force majeure. Contracts with the selected students will be signed ideally before the beginning of the summer break, and work will begin on the 1st of September 2023. Students must submit the draft with the results of the bibliographical survey before the 2023 Christmas break.


Arnald Puy

Associate Professor in Social and Environmental Uncertainties

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

University of Birmingham

United Kingdom

Home: Contact


School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT
United Kingdom

  • twitter

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page