Conducting climate science: More complex models

Updated Wednesday, 19th February 2014
Models can be bigger or have more components. We hear from Neil Edwards about his complex models.

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Our third diarist is Dr Neil Edwards who is a Reader in Earth Systems Science at The Open University. He studies the interaction between the various Earth systems like the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere. Neil introduces some more complex models, drawing on his background in mathematics, and talks about how these models are used in a practical sense to inform policy.

Activity Six

  1. Neil demonstrates the cross disciplinary nature of environmental research. What other academic specialties is he currently working with?
  2. How does Neil think about his models?
  3. Why does he think that putting information about animals into a climate model is so exciting?


  1. Economists, climate modellers, vegetation modellers, statisticians.
  2. It simplifies complexity, and is essentially a structure for formulating a problem. Models seek to fill in the gaps where there is incomplete data. Their power is to make predictions about what is likely to happen under different conditions. Their end purpose is to inform policy
  3. Because this hasn’t been widely done before and it gives insights into biodiversity, and biodiversity loss.

This Learning Journey is part of the Creative Climate project on OpenLearn. You can return to the first page or move on to the next section: Government reponses to climate change




  • picture of Susan Fawssett

    Susan Fawssett

    (Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences)

    Susan has been an Open University tutor at both undergraduate and postgraduate for over twenty years and teaches across faculties. She has authored module materials and been commended for her student centred teaching. She is a seasoned ...

    View author profile
  • picture of Neil Edwards

    Neil Edwards

    (School of Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences)View author profile

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