Models at Work—Models in Decision Making

Science in Context 27 (4):561-577 (2014)
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In this topical section, we highlight the next step of research on modeling aiming to contribute to the emerging literature that radically refrains from approaching modeling as a scientific endeavor. Modeling surpasses “doing science” because it is frequently incorporated into decision-making processes in politics and management, i.e., areas which are not solely epistemically oriented. We do not refer to the production of models in academia for abstract or imaginary applications in practical fields, but instead highlight the real entwinement of science and policy and the real erosion of their boundaries. Models in decision making – due to their strong entwinement with policy and management – are utilized differently than models in science; they are employed for different purposes and with different constraints. We claim that “being a part of decision-making” implies that models are elements of a very particular situation, in which knowledge about the present and the future is limited but dependence of decisions on the future is distinct. Emphasis on the future indicates that decisions are made about actions that have severe and lasting consequences. In these specific situations, models enable not only the acquisition of knowledge (the primary goal of science) but also enable deciding upon actions that change the course of events. As a result, there are specific ways to construct effective models and justify their results. Although some studies have explored this topic, our understanding of how models contribute to decision making outside of science remains fragmentary. This topical section aims to fill this gap in research and formulate an agenda for additional and more systematic investigations in the field.
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