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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13574

Disclosing the truth: are models better than observations?

Morten D. Skogen*, Rubao Ji, Anna Akimova, Ute Daewel, Cecilie Hansen, Solfrid S. Hjøllo, Sonja M. van Leeuwen, Marie Maar, Diego Macias, Erik Askov Mousing, Elin Almroth-Rosell, Sévrine F. Sailley, Michael A. Spence, Tineke A. Troost, Karen van de Wolfshaar

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: All models are wrong, but some models are useful. This aphorism is attributed to George Box (1976) about statistical models but is now used for scientific models in general. When presenting results from a marine simulation model, this effectively stops discussions on the quality of your model, as there is always another observation to mismatch, and thereby another confirmation why your model can not be trusted. It is common that observations are less challenged and are often viewed as a ’gold standard’ for judging models, whereas proper interpretations and the true value of models are often overlooked. Models are not perfect, and there are many examples where models improperly are used to provide misleading answers with great confidence. But, to what extent does an observation represent the truth? The precision of the observational gear may be high, but what about representativeness? Isn’t the interpretation of the observations just another model, but this time not coded in a computer language but formed by the individual observer? We submit that it would be more productive to initiate a process where the norm is that models and observations are joined to strengthen both. In the end neither is the goal, but only useful tools for disclosing truth. Biased views on either observational or modeling approaches would limit us from achieving this goal.