is the study of how the uncertainty in the output of a mathematical model or system (numerical or otherwise) can be apportioned to different sources of uncertainty in its inputs. A related practice is uncertainty analysis, which has a greater focus on uncertainty quantification and propagation of uncertainty. Ideally, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis should be run in tandem. The process of recalculating outcomes under alternative assumptions to determine the impact of variable under sensitivity analysis can be useful for a range of purposes, including
- Testing the robustness of the results of a model or system in the presence of uncertainty.
- Increased understanding of the relationships between input and output variables in a system or model.
- Uncertainty reduction: identifying model inputs that cause significant uncertainty in the output and should therefore be the focus of attention if the robustness is to be increased (perhaps by further research).
- Searching for errors in the model (by encountering unexpected relationships between inputs and outputs).
- Model simplification – fixing model inputs that have no effect on the output, or identifying and removing redundant parts of the model structure.
- Enhancing communication from modelers to decision makers (e.g. by making recommendations more credible, understandable, compelling or persuasive).
- Finding regions in the space of input factors for which the model output is either maximum or minimum or meets some optimum criterion (see optimization and Monte Carlo filtering).
- In case of calibrating models with large number of parameters, a primary sensitivity test can ease the calibration stage by focusing on the sensitive parameters. Not knowing the sensitivity of parameters can result in time being uselessly spent on non-sensitive ones.