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Approaches to evaluating model quality across different regime types in environmental and public health governance

MacGillivray, Brian H. ORCID: and Richards, Keith 2015. Approaches to evaluating model quality across different regime types in environmental and public health governance. Global Environmental Change 33 , pp. 23-31. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.04.002

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A reliance on mathematical modelling is a defining feature of modern global environmental and public health governance. Initially hailed as the vanguard of a new era of rational policy-making, models are now habitually subject to critical analyses. Their quality, in other words, is routinely queried, yet what exactly is quality in this context? The prevailing paradigm views model quality as a multi-dimensional concept, encompassing technical dimensions (e.g. precision and bias), value judgments, problem-framing, treatment of 'deep' uncertainties, and pragmatic features of particular decision contexts. Whilst those technical dimensions are relatively simple to characterise, the broader dimensions of quality are less easily formalised and as a result are difficult to take account of during model construction and evaluation. Here, we present a typology of governance regimes (risk-based, precautionary, adaptive and participatory) that helps make explicit what these broader dimensions of model quality are, and sketches out how the emphasis placed on them differs by regime-type. We show that these regime types hold distinct positions on what constitutes sound evidence, on how that evidence should be used in policy-making, and to what social ends. As such, a model may be viewed within one regime as providing legitimate evidence for action, be down-weighted elsewhere for reflecting a flawed problem-framing, and outright rejected in another jurisdiction on the grounds that it doesn't cohere with the preferred ethical framework for decision-making. We illustrate these dynamics by applying our typology to a range of policy domains, emphasising both the disconnects that can occur, as well as the ways that modellers have adapted their practices to ensure that their evidence is brought to bear on policy problems across diverse regime types.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Science policy; Model evaluation; Risk regulation; Environmental governance; Civic epistemologies; Quality evaluation
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0959-3780
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 July 2016
Date of Acceptance: 8 April 2015
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2023 16:24

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