Research “Hylight”: The need for process-based evaluation of large-domain hyper-resolution models by Melsen et al.


Lieke Melsen

Last year, Lieke Melsen and colleagues published an opinion paper in HESS. We (YHS members) thought it was an interesting choice for a PhD student to publish an opinion paper and decided to ask her a few questions about the paper.

Q: Where are you from, where are you based, and what are you working on now?

A: I am from the Netherlands, born in Amsterdam, and working at Wageningen University as a PhD candidate. Not for long anymore; I just submitted my thesis and will defend in April. In the meantime, I am working on two themes which I’d like to explore more in the future: the role of subjective decisions made by the modeller during hydrological model configuration, and how the philosophy of science of a researcher relates to hydrological model evaluation. 


Lieke’s paper on HESS

Q: What is the take home message of your paper? 

A: Nature is extremely complex; many processes take place at many different temporal and spatial scales. Not all these processes are represented in hydrological models – the application scale of the model determines which processes are most important and subsequently included in the model. This means that you cannot just change the application scale of the model, because, at a different scale, different processes become important.


Q: Writing an “opinion paper” is not common for PhD students. What spurred you to be an exception to the rule?

A: I just started with the meta-analysis of VIC literature to include this as introduction for another manuscript, but I was so surprised by the pattern that I found (Figure 3 in the paper) that we decided to write an opinion-paper. It was not easy though; it has been rejected twice by another journal with reviews varying from extremely positive to extremely though; to be honest I sometimes had the impression that it was not really appreciated that a junior wrote an opinion paper. I was about to give up, but all the co-authors stimulated to continue and in the end it did improve a lot compared to the initial submission.

Q: Your paper does not give explicit examples on what data sources may be useful to evaluate models at higher temporal resolutions. What do you think are important sources that we should better utilise in the future?

A: I find this a tough question. As also written in the paper, it is not only the measurements that need to be carried out, the data should also be centrally available, which requires a data infrastructure.

Q: In the past, you expressed your appreciation (see videofor the timelessness of the work of several philosophers. (Why) do you think your paper will still be cited in 10(0) years from now?

A: I am afraid not. I hope that in 100 years, scientists will laugh at our stupid models from nowadays and that by that time they came up with something completely novel to analyze nature. To include another philosopher; I hope that in 100 years, hydrology has made a paradigm shift (Kuhn).

[END] –Interviewed by Wouter Berghuijs

This interview is part of the new YHS Research “Hylights” series to showcase interesting and outstanding work by early career scientists. Selection criteria are not set in stone, but reasons to select work can include e.g. novelty and relevance of findings, fun of reading, unique collaborations, media coverage and generated controversy. Selected work will be provided with a short layman summary, and a short written or video interview with the (first) author(s). Tips can be sent to young hydrologicsociety(at)gmail(dot)com or t(dot)h(dot)m(dot)vanemmerik(at)tudelft(dot)com.

Reference paper: Melsen, L. A., Teuling, A. J., Torfs, P. J. J. F., Uijlenhoet, R., Mizukami, N., and Clark, M. P.: HESS Opinions: The need for process-based evaluation of large-domain hyper-resolution models, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 1069-1079, doi:10.5194/hess-20-1069-2016, 2016.

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