While I was reading a paper, I found "mechanistically-motivated."

We use our models to suggest mechanistically-motivated ways of comparing models.

Because English is my second language, I don't get what the meaning is.

I hope someone can explain it.

  • Without additional context we can only say that this means that whatever is being described is motived mechanistically.
    – Jim
    Jan 2, 2016 at 23:34
  • I am sorry. It was "We use our models to suggest mechanistically-motivated ways of comparing models". Jan 2, 2016 at 23:39
  • I don't know why so many people sincerely trying to learn English use poorly written, pompous and fatuous sources. What can you possibly expect to learn from those? It's a mystery.
    – Ricky
    Jan 2, 2016 at 23:45
  • @Ricky I am graduate student. So I have to read so many papers. Even though authors which are MIT students or professor English was poor, their research result is more worth than your mystery. Jan 2, 2016 at 23:55
  • @WoongheeLee: The results are before us.
    – Ricky
    Jan 3, 2016 at 0:07

2 Answers 2


Mechanistically motivated is a term of art in scientific modeling, a description in contrast to phenomenologically motivated. As an abstract from a paper on molecular evolution states

Descriptive models are often said to be phenomenologically motivated whereas explanatory models are said to be mechanistically motivated.

That is, descriptive models of natural phenomena (the phenomenologically motivated) take into account what things are observed, while explanatory models (the mechanistically motivated) take into account why things are observed as they are. The canonical examples of the latter are thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. The former derives its explanations of the workings of heat and work from the axioms of statistical mechanics; the latter derives its explanations of the activity of subatomic particles from the axioms of Hilbert spaces.

Scientific theories are necessarily a mix of the two approaches.

  • @WoongheeLee You have been fortunate here in finding someone who has been able to give you the answer to a very technical question. The scientifically complex nature of the request was not indicated in your OP. Welcome to the site. But if you continue to ask questions that call for specific expertise you will need to provide more elaborate description of your needs. .
    – WS2
    Jan 3, 2016 at 0:38

There is another possible answer to this question. If I substitute "operational" or "operationally motivated" for "mechanistically motivated" the sentence takes on a common meaning used widely in English. The authors may have said, they use their models such that it's easy to operationally compare one to the next. In English it is common to say, that was very mechanical, meaning it is easy to perform, it's straight forward and so on. They then pick and use models in a way that can be mechanistically (easily) compared once any test is finished. That is pretty common English. For chemist early on measured physical properties such as melting points and heat of combustion in a laboratory. Later on, Quantum Mechanics developed to a point such that scientists could show that small microscopic properties, do add up to the macroscopic properties known to be correct. That's not the topic here. That's not this sentence, the folks here are just using common English to say, they are picking and using models such that the results of any use are easy, just "mechanical". It's done for operational reasons, they like to get their work done.

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