Common Terms


As with any technical field, there are several terms that are commonly used but may not be understood by people who are new. Below is a list of such terms for scientific modelling.*

*Note: These terms should not be considered perfect definitions, but instead simple descriptions of the concepts to allow for understanding.

  • Scientific modelling - The act of using a technical methodology to represent (and generally simplify) a system in order to better understand that system. Common types include simulation and statistical modellingIt should be noted that articles can include multiple examples of modelling together. For example, statistical modelling is often used to understand the details of the system before simulations of the system are created.

  • Statistical modelling - Gathering data from a system to look for trends and patterns. A lot of scientific enquiry and machine learning falls under this category.

  • Simulation - Modeling the details of a system to replicate or predict the behaviour of the system. Common types include agent-based modelling and equation-based modelling.

  • Equation-based models - Also known as EBMs or mathematical modelling. These models are created by using specific ‘simplifying’ assumptions about the system so that it can be described by equations. Physics, for example, is characterized by EBMs that describe the motion of objects.

  • Agent-based models - Also known as ABMs or individual-based models. These are computer simulations that model a system as an environment that contains agents. The ways in which the agents interact with the environment and each other is set but this type of model is characterized by emergent behaviour. See the encyclopaedia article for more information.

  • Emergent behaviour - The effect where many simple individual interactions can cause large and complex group dynamics. See the flocking behaviour in the Boid model in the encyclopaedia article.

  • Non-pharmaceutical interventions - These are policies enforced by governments to limit the spread of diseases but do not use pharmaceuticals. Examples include social distancing and the use of masks.