Community Ecology

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 191–204 | Cite as

Models, measures and messages: an essay on the role for induction

  • M. B. DaleEmail author


In this essay, I examine the role of induction in developing vegetation models. Falsification is a necessary component of model building but is not itself sufficient. Induction provides a necessary complement and one that dethrones the null hypothesis from its privileged state. After examining the role of description and environment, I examine several possible criteria useful for valorising models so that we may choose the ‘best’. These criteria include fit, simplicity, precision and interest. Predictability, which is given overwhelming importance in a falsification approach, is found to be ambiguous. It may be obtained by using multiple models without regard to the processes active in the real system. In addition movement towards a model which does reflect the ‘real’ processes can result in loss of predictivity. Finally, some comments are made on what we can infer and how this relates to our understanding of living systems.


Falsification Model classes Model selection Null hypothesis Prediction Valorisation 



Minimum message length


General Unary Hypothesis Automaton


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I would like to thank Sanyi Bartha and Pat Dale for many helpful comments made after reading earlier drafts.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian School of Environmental StudiesGriffith UniversityNathanAustralia

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