Sensitivity to model structure: a comparison of compartmental models in epidemiology
Silal SP., Little F., Barnes KI., White LJ.
Compartmental models have provided a framework for understanding disease transmission dynamics for over 100 years. The predictions from these models are often policy relevant and need to be robust to model assumptions, parameter values and model structure. A selection of compartmental models with the same parameter values but different model structures (ranging from simple structures to complex ones) were compared in the absence and presence of several policy interventions to assess sensitivity to model structure. Models were fitted to data to assess if this might reduce this sensitivity. The compartmental models produced wide-ranging estimates of outcome measures but when fitted to data, the estimates obtained were robust to model structure. This finding suggests that there may be an argument for selecting simple models over complex ones, but the complexity of the model should be determined by the purpose of the model and the use to which it will be put.