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AHVLA workshop reviews validity and credibility of scientific models

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This is an edited version of a report produced by the AHVLA, of a workshop held in February. The workshop was the third such annual event held by the AHVLA. The overarching aim of the series is to foster collaboration and communication between modellers and policymakers to ensure animal health management gains maximum benefit from modelling. More information is available from Francesca Gauntlett, modelling coordinator in the AHVLA's Epidemiology, Surveillance and Risk Group, e-mail:

THE AHVLA recently hosted a mathematical modelling workshop which looked at the influence of human behaviour, economics and politics on model validity, credibility and reliability. The workshop ‘Modelling for policy: expertise with impact’ covered animal disease, public health and climate models and was attended by modellers, scientists, social researchers, economists and policymakers from the UK and Europe. Speakers from the AHVLA, Defra, the Health Protection Agency and other institutes addressed three key themes during the day.

Dealing with behaviour

Speakers in the first session all considered aspects of the common element of attempting to represent human behaviour within a mathematical model.

The first speaker was Daniel Horton, a veterinary scientist and rabies expert from the AHVLA, who discussed the influence of geography and human movement on disease models. He emphasised that mathematical models are heavily reliant on the underlying assumptions, illustrating this with several examples of where additional data collection markedly affected the results and fit of rabies disease models. He also highlighted the need to incorporate human behaviour into models, as transmission of the virus to humans is usually a result of interacting with dogs. The relationship between dogs and humans …

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