How Can We Fully Realize the Potential of Mathematical and Biological Models to Reintegrate Biology?

Anna Dornhaus, Brian Smith, Kalina Hristova, Lauren B. Buckley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Both mathematical models and biological model systems stand as tractable representations of complex biological systems or behaviors. They facilitate research and provide insights, and they can describe general rules. Models that represent biological processes or formalize general hypotheses are essential to any broad understanding. Mathematical or biological models necessarily omit details of the natural systems and thus may ultimately be incorrect representations. A key challenge is that tractability requires relatively simple models but simplifcation can result in models that are incorrect in their qualitative, broad implications if the abstracted details matter. Our paper discusses this tension, and how we can improve our inferences from models. We advocate for further e?orts dedicated to model development, improvement, and acceptance by the scientifc community, all of which may necessitate a more explicit discussion of the purpose and power of models. We argue that models should play a central role in reintegrating biology as a way to test our integrated understanding of how molecules, cells, organs, organisms, populations, and ecosystems function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2244-2254
Number of pages11
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


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