From abstract to ideal–The limits of models. A reply to Pawson’s ‘boxed in by models’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Pawson’s article raises the important question of what constitutes good and bad modelling during a pandemic. His article makes the case for more involvement of social scientists to capture the complex adaptive nature of governmental policy. While articulating a welcome critique of epidemiological models, his article fails to recognise that all model use simplifications which make some models better than others. I will suggest a useful way of differentiating between good and bad, useful and less useful, models based on the difference between idealisation and abstraction, concepts I borrow from Onora O’Neill and political theory. They allow us to apply a more nuanced criticality to the current models used by the government. Refining our critique of the government’s COVID response is important since we need to account for the fact that current government responses to the pandemic, while open to criticism, have had some effect in reducing infection rates
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2021


  • evaluation
  • abstraction
  • ideology
  • ideal
  • health services


Dive into the research topics of 'From abstract to ideal–The limits of models. A reply to Pawson’s ‘boxed in by models’'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this