Ten iterative steps in development and evaluation of environmental models
Models are increasingly being relied upon to inform and support natural resource management. They are incorporating an ever broader range of disciplines and now often confront people without strong quantitative or model-building backgrounds. These trends imply a need for wider awareness of what constitutes good model-development practice, including reporting of models to users and sceptical review of models by users. To this end the paper outlines ten basic steps of good, disciplined model practice. The aim is to develop purposeful, credible models from data and prior knowledge, in consort with end-users, with every stage open to critical review and revision. Best practice entails identifying clearly the clients and objectives of the modelling exercise; documenting the nature (quantity, quality, limitations) of the data used to construct and test the model; providing a strong rationale for the choice of model family and features (encompassing review of alternative approaches); justifying the techniques used to calibrate the model; serious analysis, testing and discussion of model performance; and making a resultant statement of model assumptions, utility, accuracy, limitations, and scope for improvement. In natural resource management applications, these steps will be a learning process, even a partnership, between model developers, clients and other interested parties.