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Models in biology: ‘accurate descriptions of our pathetic thinking’

Overview of attention for article published in BMC Biology, April 2014
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About this Attention Score

  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • Among the highest-scoring outputs from this source (#30 of 1,577)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (99th percentile)

Mentioned by

6 blogs
224 tweeters
7 Facebook pages
6 Google+ users
1 research highlight platform


157 Dimensions

Readers on

764 Mendeley
17 CiteULike
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Models in biology: ‘accurate descriptions of our pathetic thinking’
Published in
BMC Biology, April 2014
DOI 10.1186/1741-7007-12-29
Pubmed ID

Jeremy Gunawardena


In this essay I will sketch some ideas for how to think about models in biology. I will begin by trying to dispel the myth that quantitative modeling is somehow foreign to biology. I will then point out the distinction between forward and reverse modeling and focus thereafter on the former. Instead of going into mathematical technicalities about different varieties of models, I will focus on their logical structure, in terms of assumptions and conclusions. A model is a logical machine for deducing the latter from the former. If the model is correct, then, if you believe its assumptions, you must, as a matter of logic, also believe its conclusions. This leads to consideration of the assumptions underlying models. If these are based on fundamental physical laws, then it may be reasonable to treat the model as 'predictive', in the sense that it is not subject to falsification and we can rely on its conclusions. However, at the molecular level, models are more often derived from phenomenology and guesswork. In this case, the model is a test of its assumptions and must be falsifiable. I will discuss three models from this perspective, each of which yields biological insights, and this will lead to some guidelines for prospective model builders.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 224 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 764 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
United States 27 4%
United Kingdom 18 2%
Switzerland 6 <1%
Germany 5 <1%
Mexico 5 <1%
Spain 5 <1%
Portugal 5 <1%
Brazil 4 <1%
France 3 <1%
Other 21 3%
Unknown 665 87%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 227 30%
Researcher 179 23%
Student > Bachelor 79 10%
Student > Master 66 9%
Professor 51 7%
Other 121 16%
Unknown 41 5%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 314 41%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 129 17%
Physics and Astronomy 45 6%
Engineering 39 5%
Computer Science 31 4%
Other 141 18%
Unknown 65 9%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 173. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 17 July 2021.
All research outputs
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Outputs from BMC Biology
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Outputs of similar age
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Outputs of similar age from BMC Biology
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Altmetric has tracked 18,382,898 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 99th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 1,577 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 20.2. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 98% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 198,260 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 99% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 1 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has scored higher than all of them