Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Ebola: models do more than forecast

Your assertion that models of the Ebola epidemic have failed to project its course misrepresents their aims (see Nature 515, 18; 2014). They helped to inspire and inform the strong international response that may at last be slowing the epidemic (see M. F. C. Gomes et al. PLoS Curr. Outbreaks; 2014).

Subsequent models assessed the likely impact of different public-health interventions and policy decisions (J. A. Lewnard et al. Lancet Infect. Dis. 14, 1189–1195 (2014) and A. Pandey et al. Science; 2014). As those interventions were implemented and as people's behaviour changed, case counts below the modelled baseline were early indicators that the response to the outbreak was having an effect.

Epidemics are affected by countless variables, so uncertainty is a given. Models synthesize available information. Without them, there is little to guide decision-makers during an outbreak. Their importance goes beyond providing forecasts.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Caitlin Rivers.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rivers, C. Ebola: models do more than forecast. Nature 515, 492 (2014).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing