Development and use of explicit conceptual models
Models are simplified representations of reality that can aid decision-making.
Models may be conceptual or quantitative: conceptual models identify and describe the important entities within a model, the nature of these entities and the relationships between them; quantitative models aim to represent these entities and their relationships numerically or mathematically. Depending on the nature of a particular problem, a conceptual model may be sufficient to inform decision-making or a quantitative model may be required. The development of a clear conceptual model is an important pre-cursor to the development of quantitative models. Conceptual models can be useful in establishing help to communicate and clarify the intent, structure of a proposed quantitative analysis. Importantly, they can enable a wide group of collaborators to contribute to, critique, and validate candidate models. This can help establish what the boundaries of model should be in terms of comparisons and which effects should be included, and which can reasonably be excluded. Clearly presented conceptual models can also increase decision-makers understanding of and confidence in quantitative models.