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Science Wednesday: Modeling Matters: Transparency in Action

2012 February 22

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection.Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Gabriel Olchin

In the age of transparent government, I think it helps to highlight specific products that make our research and approaches more apparent to the public. Transparency is important to me because I work in the field of environmental modeling, and models are often referred to as the ‘black-boxes’ of the research process; and a black-box is not transparent at all!

What does transparency mean, and why is it important to environmental modeling at the EPA?

The modeling research at the EPA is a complex science – one that we don’t take lightly. To me, transparency means providing the relevant information and documentation so that our stakeholders can understand how these ‘black boxes’ (models) work.

Models are used by the EPA for a variety of reasons: for regulatory rulemaking, as research tools, and to generate data that inform decisions. Each model used by the EPA is designed and developed with specific purposes in mind.

The EPA established the Council for Regulatory Environmental Modeling in 2000 to improve the quality, consistency and transparency of the models for environmental decision making. In short, the CREM helps to make the EPA’s modeling transparent. We maintain the Models Knowledge Base, an inventory of the computational models that are developed, used, and/or supported by EPA’s offices. For each model, the Models Knowledge Base provides information or documentation on:

  • the model’s development;
  • the model’s conceptual basis, scientific detail, and evaluation;
  • technical requirements and how to use the model;
  • information on the model’s inputs and outputs; and
  • directions for acquiring the model and links to further information.

The CREM’s latest effort has been focused on developing a suite of training modules for environmental modeling. These modules are designed to take our technical guidance document on environmental modeling and make it transparent to a broader audience. We also developed training modules on the legal aspects of environmental modeling, integrated modeling, and technical topics of model evaluation.

I’m often humbled working at an Agency with such talented modelers. I really enjoy my role at EPA helping to make the great modeling work done in our program and regional offices more transparent to our stakeholders.

About the author: Gabriel Olchin, a biological scientist, has been in the Office of the Science Advisor with the Council for Regulatory Environmental Modeling since 2009.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    February 22, 2012

    Spying : Investigating Transparency

    The people in the world are knowing The U.S. Character: Open min

  2. kiyohisa tanada permalink
    February 23, 2012

    Will “the environmental modeling” be the thing which CREM applied “machine learning” to?
    Digitizing the environmental situation,
    Data accumulate an environmental problem with a computer and,
    When other areas take measures, I offer an effective policy.
    I think that this system is splendid.
    I think that the splendor of this system is recognized so that time and the accumulation of data advance.
    This is my opinion.

  3. Charles permalink
    February 24, 2012

    I think this is a teriffic post! It’s really important to help the public understand that there is, in fact, real science and reasoning behind decisions and standards used to protect the environment and stuff about people’s health… In other words, they don’t just make up rules and regulations for the fun of it or because they “believe” in some number for no reason.

  4. May 8, 2012

    A thorough research and a valid point. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Yami.

  5. July 28, 2012

    This really answered my problem, thank you!…….We want more post like this

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