What's in a Model? More Than You Think

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The use of complex mathematical models is central to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) decision-making process. It is generally impractical to obtain measured data to support the many scenarios involved in environmental decision-making. Thus, EPA relies heavily upon models for a host of applications, including estimating the behavior of chemical substances released into the environment.

Because of the strategic role that models play in environmental decision-making, EPA and other regulatory bodies recognize the critical importance of employing best practices for the selection, assessment, and use of environmental models. The need for clear and objective criteria in these areas has become all the more essential with the passage of the Information Quality Act (IQA) in 2000.

This “Washington Watch” column outlines the reasons why models are so much a part of the environmental decision-making process, how models can be used and abused, and what EPA is doing to ensure that models are created and used in ways that are legally and scientifically defensible.

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