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Durham University

Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)


Colleagues are very welcome at the following events hosted by CHESS and K4U (ERC project) this academic year

Workshop: Adequacy for Purpose

1st May 2019, 13:00 to 18:15, Senate Suite, University College
Models are ubiquitous in science today. They are used both in basic research and in a variety of applied settings. How should the task of model evaluation be conceptualized and approached? Models typically differ from scientific theories, insofar as some of their assumptions are known from the outset to be false; consequently, some traditional perspectives on theory evaluation – asking how well a theory is confirmed, for example – are not well suited to the context of model evaluation. Increasingly, both philosophers and practitioners are instead framing model evaluation as a task that seeks to determine the adequacy or fitness of models for particular purposes. What are the implications of this shift in focus for model evaluation in practice? What challenges arise when evaluating a model’s adequacy-for-purpose? These and other questions will be explored in this workshop.


Dr Wendy Parker (Durham University)

Model evaluation: An adequacy-for-purpose view

According to an adequacy-for-purpose view, models should be assessed with respect to their adequacy (or fitness) for particular purposes. Such a view has been advocated by scientists and philosophers alike. Important details, however, have yet to be spelled out. I attempt to make progress by addressing three questions. What does it mean for a model to be adequate-for-purpose? What makes a model adequate or fit-for-purpose? How does the shift to evaluating model adequacy (rather than model truth or representational accuracy) make a difference in practice?

Paul Glover (Principal Analyst, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory)

Fitness for purpose: A practitioner’s view on the concept of Adequacy in Analysis (joint paper with Paul Pearce, Senior Principal Analyst, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory)

Defence is seeking to establish agile collaborative working as the new norm in its approach to analytical challenges. Most of the systems being studied are complex adaptive in nature, with key socio-technical elements, requiring counter-factual analysis of emergent situations. In order to rapidly assess the ‘fitness for purpose’ of analytical perspectives we use a number of ‘lenses’ to help us to reflect on the available evidence. These ‘lenses’ seek to assess the RIGOUR of the work conducted through considering it in the light of a Critical Realist perspective, the Post-Modernist critique, Indicators of Reliability and the Evidence Framework Approach. The application of these means shall be illustrated through two examples. This method enables the issues identified by the Chilcot inquiry to be addressed, when compiling key information for decision makers. We end by presenting the current iteration of the Evidence Framework Approach.

Joe Roussos (London School of Economics)

Making confident decisions with model ensembles (joint paper with Prof Roman Frigg, LSE)

Increasingly many policy decisions take input from collections of scientific models. Such decisions face significant and often poorly understood uncertainty. We rework a recently developed theory of decision-making under severe uncertainty—called the “confidence approach”—to tackle decision-making with multiple models, showing how it can be used to construct nested sets of predictions of increasing specificity. We discuss the conditions under which particular sets are available to decision-makers. We illustrate the approach with a case study: an insurance pricing decision using hurricane models. The confidence approach has important consequences for this case and offers a powerful framework for a wide class of problems. We end with a consideration of different methods for nested set construction, appropriate to different collections of models.

Prof Mark von Rosing (Global University Alliance)

An adequacy-for-purpose view on: What factors influence or determine the content
of different enterprise models?

Enterprise models are simply put (from an enterprise modeller and architect perspective), an artefact
used for documentation purposes. This can be a strategy map, a process model or a data sequence diagram. The key idea of any enterprise model is that it is a graphical representation, an illustration, of a composition of information intended to represent, a specific aspect of an enterprise e.g. business, application and/or technology. This is also where an adequacy-for-purpose view is relevant. When is the content i.e. objects and relations and view of the model sufficient for the purpose concerned (and when not). Which enterprise modelling concepts are not fit for purpose. Meaning they are not in a state of sufficiency. Which scientific approach can be used within enterprise modelling to identify the ideal state of artefacts and even how they cross relate.

All welcome and refreshments provided – please contact the Centre Administrator at to confirm attendance

Contact for more information about this event.

For Further Information

For further information on all our events, including details on how to register, contact us at CHESS and K4U
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Department of Philosophy
Durham University
50 Old Elvet

Tel: 0191 334 6552
Fax: 0191 334 6551