Standardised and transparent model descriptions for agent-based models: Current status and prospects

Author(s): Birgit Müller, Stefano Balbi, Carsten M. Buchmann, Luís de Sousa, Gunnar Dressler, Jürgen Groeneveld, Christian J. Klassert, Quang Bao Le, James D.A. Millington, Henning Nolzen, Dawn C. Parker, J. Gary Polhill, Maja Schlüter, Jule Schulze, Nina Schwarz, Zhanli Sun, Patrick Taillandier, Hanna Weise
In: Birgit Müller, Stefano Balbi, Carsten M. Buchmann, Luís de Sousa, Gunnar Dressler, Jürgen Groeneveld, Christian J. Klassert, Quang Bao Le, James D.A. Millington, Henning Nolzen, Dawn C. Parker, J. Gary Polhill, Maja Schlüter, Jule Schulze, Nina Schwarz, Zhanli Sun, Patrick Taillandier, Hanna Weise. 2014. Standardised and transparent model descriptions for agent-based models: Current status and prospects. Environmental Modelling & Software, 55, 156-163, doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2014.01.029
Year: 2014
Type: Journal / article
Link to centre authors: Schlüter, Maja
Full reference: Birgit Müller, Stefano Balbi, Carsten M. Buchmann, Luís de Sousa, Gunnar Dressler, Jürgen Groeneveld, Christian J. Klassert, Quang Bao Le, James D.A. Millington, Henning Nolzen, Dawn C. Parker, J. Gary Polhill, Maja Schlüter, Jule Schulze, Nina Schwarz, Zhanli Sun, Patrick Taillandier, Hanna Weise. 2014. Standardised and transparent model descriptions for agent-based models: Current status and prospects. Environmental Modelling & Software, 55, 156-163, doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2014.01.029

Summary

Agent-based models are helpful to investigate complex dynamics in coupled human–natural systems. However, model assessment, model comparison and replication are hampered to a large extent by a lack of transparency and comprehensibility in model descriptions.

In this article we address the question of whether an ideal standard for describing models exists. We first suggest a classification for structuring types of model descriptions. Secondly, we differentiate purposes for which model descriptions are important. Thirdly, we review the types of model descriptions and evaluate each on their utility for the purposes.

Our evaluation finds that the choice of the appropriate model description type is purpose-dependent and that no single description type alone can fulfil all requirements simultaneously. However, we suggest a minimum standard of model description for good modelling practice, namely the provision of source code and an accessible natural language description, and argue for the development of a common standard.

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