Conceptual model

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"Models are fundamental instruments for scientific inquiry but their use in and for public policy making can be controversial. The use of models to legitimise regulatory decisions is challenged on various grounds, including uncertainty which is embodied in models and an inevitable component of modelling practices. The subjectivity of model evaluation is another point of contention, since models are evaluated not only according to rigorous scientific criteria but also plausible judgements of policy usefulness. In addition, models are often sufficiently complex to preclude scrutiny and challenge by those who are adversely affected by the regulations. Intuition and intelligent guesswork contained in models in the form of tacit assumptions make it difficult even for researchers from neighbourhood disciplines to adequately appreciate the limitations of models. For these and other reasons the use of models for policy decisions has been the main focus of political debates in areas such as climate change policy, biodiversity protection, and environment-related diseases and health risks. In this session we address conceptual modelling techniques such as causal loop diagrams, cognitive maps and their fuzzy counterparts, other problem structuring methods, qualitative probabilistic networks, value and decision trees, Bayesian belief networks, influence diagram, stock and flow diagram, reasoning map and other techniques and tools which facilitate transparent development of models and bolster these models’ potential to promote consensus and cooperation. These techniques are similar in scope as they all capture views and concerns of non-scientists and help to incorporate them in models. All conceptual models consist of elements (concepts) which symbolize relevant aspects of the modelled phenomena, and connections between them which are indicative of implications or cause effect relations. However, the techniques differ widely in terms of purpose, meaning and content of the models. In the workshop, particular attention will be paid to how different techniques capture uncertainty, and to what extent the conceptual models instigate conciliation between different worldview/beliefs. Not only, discussion will be encouraged about how and whether conceptual models increase the acceptance of simulation (mathematical) models and scenarios built on their basis."[1]


  1. International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software. Integrating Sciences and Information Technology for Environmental Assessment and Decision Making iEMSs July 6-10, 2008 - Barcelona, Catalonia