"A model is a lie that helps you see the truth." --Howard Skipper

When taking information from a professional medical/scientific level to a public level, often highly/over simplified figures are produced to convey the general point.

In this question, I felt compelled to share a graph from this site, feeling as though it conveyed the general point on gastric emptying. The graph is almost assuredly made up, but I think conveys the points of scintigraphic studies quite well.

As a general statement, are we ok with including "model like" data, or should we stick with solid examples from primary data even if they are more complex (in this case plot of 3 variables, wouldn't want to say 3D and have someone assume I meant in physical space)?

In the interest of full disclosure, I know and like Richard Bowen, which lead me to know of his site and want to link to it.


This sort of model graphs are good, because they help laypersons visualise concepts that are new to them. I'm not a layperson and these things help me a lot especially when I'm trying to understand something that's not my area of expertise. The simple solution to models being "lies that help us see the truth" would be a note (perhaps an asterisk next to the words "time graph" and then a remark at the end) that this is just a visualisation model, or that the values are an approximation or any other wording that you see fit for the specific situation. Sometimes these visualisation-aid graphs are presented without units and/or values to show a certain trend, but in this particular question that obviously wouldn't work.

I think the graph that you linked is a good one. In fact I found a similar one here with a reference to a research paper, so it actually might be drawn from research and not just a model.

An aside: since you already know the author of the website it might be worth trying to ask him (suggest) that he includes either references if the graph is drawn from research data or a note saying that it's a model in the original webpage you gave a link to. That would benefit both future users of his website and would solve your dilemma.


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