Main content area

Model selection using information criteria, but is the “best” model any good?

Mac Nally, Ralph, Duncan, Richard P., Thomson, James R., Yen, Jian D. L.
Journal of applied ecology 2018 v.55 no.3 pp. 1441-1444
applied ecology, models, wildlife management
Information criteria (ICs) are used widely for data summary and model building in ecology, especially in applied ecology and wildlife management. Although ICs are useful for distinguishing among rival candidate models, ICs do not necessarily indicate whether the “best” model (or a model‐averaged version) is a good representation of the data or whether the model has useful “explanatory” or “predictive” ability. As editors and reviewers, we have seen many submissions that did not evaluate whether the nominal “best” model(s) found using IC is a useful model in the above sense. We scrutinized six leading ecological journals for papers that used IC to compare models. More than half of papers using IC for model comparison did not evaluate the adequacy of the best model(s) in either “explaining” or “predicting” the data. Synthesis and applications. Authors need to evaluate the adequacy of the model identified as the “best” model by using information criteria methods to provide convincing evidence to readers and users that inferences from the best models are useful and reliable.