Complex systems models and the management of error and uncertainty

J.P. Messina, T.P. Evans, S.M. Manson, A.M. Shortridge, P.J. Deadman, P.H. Verburg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


For the complex systems modeller, uncertainty is ever-present. While uncertainty cannot be eliminated, we suggest that formally incorporating an assessment of uncertainty into our models can provide great benefits. Sources of uncertainty arise from the model itself, theoretical flaws, design flaws, and logical errors. Management of uncertainty and error in complex systems models calls for a structure for uncertainty identification and a clarification of terminology. In this paper, we define complex systems and place complex systems models into a common typology leading to the introduction of complex systems specific issues of error and uncertainty. We provide examples of complex system models of land use change with foci on errors and uncertainty and finally discuss the role of data in building complex systems models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-25
JournalJournal of Land Use Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Complex systems
  • Error
  • Uncertainty


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