Constructive Epistemic Modeling: A Hierarchical Bayesian Model Averaging Method

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Frank T-C Tsai, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, United States and Ahmed S. Elshall, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, United States
Constructive epistemic modeling is the idea that our understanding of a natural system through a scientific model is a mental construct that continually develops through learning about and from the model. Using the hierarchical Bayesian model averaging (HBMA) method [1], this study shows that segregating different uncertain model components through a BMA tree of posterior model probabilities, model prediction, within-model variance, between-model variance and total model variance serves as a learning tool [2]. First, the BMA tree of posterior model probabilities permits the comparative evaluation of the candidate propositions of each uncertain model component. Second, systemic model dissection is imperative for understanding the individual contribution of each uncertain model component to the model prediction and variance. Third, the hierarchical representation of the between-model variance facilitates the prioritization of the contribution of each uncertain model component to the overall model uncertainty. We illustrate these concepts using the groundwater modeling of a siliciclastic aquifer-fault system. The sources of uncertainty considered are from geological architecture, formation dip, boundary conditions and model parameters. The study shows that the HBMA analysis helps in advancing knowledge about the model rather than forcing the model to fit a particularly understanding or merely averaging several candidate models.

[1] Tsai, F. T.-C., and A. S. Elshall (2013), Hierarchical Bayesian model averaging for hydrostratigraphic modeling: Uncertainty segregation and comparative evaluation. Water Resources Research, 49, 5520-5536, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20428.

[2] Elshall, A.S., and F. T.-C. Tsai (2014). Constructive epistemic modeling of groundwater flow with geological architecture and boundary condition uncertainty under Bayesian paradigm, Journal of Hydrology, 517, 105-119, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.05.027.