The ecological literature reveals considerable confusion about the meaning of validation in the context of simulation models. The confusion arises as much from semantic and philosophical considerations as from the selection of validation procedures. Validation is not a procedure for testing scientific theory or for certifying the ‘truth’ of current scientific understanding, nor is it a required activity of every modelling project. Validation means that a model is acceptable for its intended use because it meets specified performance requirements. Before validation is undertaken, (1) the purpose of the model, (2) the performance criteria, and (3) the model context must be specified. The validation process can be decomposed into several components: (1) operation, (2) theory, and (3) data. Important concepts needed to understand the model evaluation process are verification, calibration, validation, credibility, and qualification. These terms are defined in a limited technical sense applicable to the evaluation of simulation models, and not as general philosophical concepts. Different tests and standards are applied to the operational, theoretical, and data components. The operational and data components can be validated; the theoretical component cannot. The most common problem with ecological and environmental models is failure to state what the validation criteria are. Criteria must be explicitly stated because there are no universal standards for selecting what test procedures or criteria to use for validation. A test based on comparison of simulated versus observed data is generally included whenever possible. Because the objective and subjective components of validation are not mutually exclusive, disagreements over the meaning of validation can only be resolved by establishing a convention.
Ecological Modelling – Elsevier
Published: Nov 1, 1996
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