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Integrating Socio-Ecological Sciences Through a Community Modeling Framework

This project established a consortium in the social and natural sciences for facilitating agent based modeling (ABM) of socioecological dynamics. This organization serves the scientific community as a framework for collaboration and interdisciplinary research, emphasizing the complex interactions between humans and the environment. A workshop brought together leading and innovative practitioners of ABM research in social and natural sciences to organize the consortium, using successful examples of community frameworks for cybertool development in other research domains. Invited participants span a wide range of scientists employing ABM in socio-ecological research and ABM platform developers. The workshop was followed by a pilot project to develop and evaluate a suite of resources that helped consortium members—and practitioners in the social and natural sciences more broadly—make more effective use of advanced ABM simulation protocols in ongoing and planned research. These resources include an archive of agent based models that can be used by researchers to initiate new modeling efforts and assist peer-review of publications of research involving ABM; a server for collaborative development of better ABM interfaces and cybertools to improve the usability and usefulness of ABM for socioecological research (e.g., concurrent version server, or cvs); and a testbed of standard data for developing model evaluation protocols. The consortium also will promote a community-wide set of best practices for model dissemination and frameworks for model interchange, and initiate a training program in ABM aimed at social and natural scientists. 

The initial organizing workshop and pilot project were collaborations between the School of Human Evolution & Social Change (Arizona State University), the Resilience and Adaptive Management Group (University of Alaska), the Department of Anthropology (University of Arizona), the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity (Arizona State University), and the Santa Fe Institute. The workshop took place at the Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, and the pilot project resources server is managed there.

The interactions between humans and their environments are both dynamic and complex. This complexity has intersected over the past century with increasingly rapid population growth, urbanization, and technological development to make human society an important driver of environmental change. This has created a rate and degree of social-environmental change that threatens to exceed our abilities to adapt using traditional strategies. Hence, it is imperative that humans find better ways to understand these global socio-ecological systems (or "socioecosystems"), and anticipate their social and natural consequences in order to lessen the risk of potentially severe socio-natural catastrophes. Recent advances in information technology offer powerful new tools to assist in understanding and managing these coupled social and natural systems. In this context, agent based models have recently emerged as a promising cybertool to study the dynamics of complex human and biological systems, integrating individual perceptions and behaviors in the contexts behavioral ecology, game theory of decision-making, and geospatial representations of the world. The consortium created through this project has established a community-wide framework to promote more effective use of agent based modeling in socioecological research, and its results are accessible and useful to diverse audiences. Since questions about the dynamics of socio-ecological systems lie at the heart of increasingly critical policy debates at global scale, the long-term agenda of the program initiated here also offers the potential to better inform discussions of environmental policy and its consequences on human society.

Project Period: 2006-2010

Products

Website

www.openabm.org

Workshop

We held an initial planning workshop March 1-3 at the Center for Social Dynamics & Complexity, Arizona State University to discuss issues that have retarded the use of computational modeling in social and life sciences and strategically plan ways to remedy this situation. To carry the ideas of the workshop forward and begin implementation on a preliminary basis, participants formed the Open Agent Based Modeling Consortium, and develop and manage a new internet resource center and collaboratory for the development of community-wide modeling efforts and information. The Open ABM internet portal can be reached at .

Participants at this workshop represented 15 different institutions, including the University of Washington, Argonne National Laboratory, Arizona State University, University of Michigan, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Colorado State University, University of Arizona, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Brookings Institution, Washington State University and Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe Institute, Northwestern University, George Mason University, and the National Science Foundation. They included scientists using computational modeling in social and life science research, and representatives from the development teams of leading modeling platforms.
The complete list of participants and workshop agenda can be found at 

In October 2008, we held a second workshop of task group leaders to review the activities of the OpenABM Consortium and pilot project for the preceding two years and suggest ways to improve the OpenABM site. The workshop participants also discussed future directions for the Consortium. We implemented many of the workshop suggestions, including:
- collapsing multiple discussion forums into a few for better communication among members;
- establishing an OpenABM mailing list;
- making Wikipedia entries for OpenABM and making sure that it shows up in relevant internet searches (e.g., Google);
- adding links from the OpenABM model archive to other internet sites with models
- enhancing the ABM FAQ on the OpenABM site.
The workshop participants also discussed issues in model dissemination and publication, and options for public and private funding to support expanded activities of the consortium.

Initial members of the Open Agent Based Modeling Consortium are listed below:
Marina Alberti, University of Washington
Mark Altaweel, Argonne National Laboratory
Marty Anderies, Arizona State University
*Michael Barton, Arizona State University
Daniel Brown, University of Michigan
Douglas Causey, University of Alaska, Anchorage
Kathy Galvin, Colorado State University
Randy Gimblett, University of Arizona
*Bill Griffin, Arizona State University
Volker Grimm, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Ross Hammond, Brookings Institution
*Marco Janssen, Arizona State University
*Anaru Kliskey, University of Alaska, Anchorage
Timothy Kohler, Washington State University and Santa Fe Institute
Melinda Laituri, Colorado State University
Steven Lansing, University of Arizona and Santa Fe Institute
*Lilian Alessa, University of Alaska Anchorage
*Michael North, Argonne National Laboratory
Luis A. Nunes Amaral, Northwestern University
*Tad Park, University of Arizona
*Dawn Parker, George Mason University
*Miles Parker, Argonne National Laboratory
Bill Rand, Northwestern University
Hessam Sarjoughian, Arizona State University
Sander van der Leeuw, Arizona State University
Deborah Winslow, National Science Foundation
*Also attended the review and planning workshop in fall 2008

 

Publications

Articles
Marco A. Janssen, Lillian Na Alessa, C. Michael Barton, Sean Bergin and Allen Lee. "Towards a Community Framework for Agent-based modelling," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, v.11, 2008, p. n.

Books/One Time Proceedings
Janssen, M.A. "Towards a Community Framework for Agent-based modeling", 09/01/2006-08/31/2007, 2007, "invited keynote talk at Third international Model-to-model workshop, Marseille, France, March 15-16, 2007. http://m2m2007.
macaulay.ac.uk/index.html".

Janssen, M.A. "Towards a Community Framework for Agent-based modeling", 09/01/2007-08/31/2008, 2007, "invited keynote talk at Third international Model-to-model workshop, Marseille, France, March 15-16, 2007. http://m2m2007.
macaulay.ac.uk/index.html".

Janssen, M.A.. "Towards a Community Framework for Agent-based modeling", 09/01/2008-08/31/2009, 2007, "invited keynote talk at Third international Model-to-model workshop, Marseille, France, March 15-16, 2007. http://m2m2007.
macaulay.ac.uk/index.html".

Janssen, M.A.. "Towards a Community Framework for Agent-based modeling", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, 2007, "invited keynote talk at Third international Model-to-model workshop, Marseille, France, March 15-16, 2007. http://m2m2007.
macaulay.ac.uk/index.html".

 

 

Michael Barton
Principal investigator
Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Lilian Alessa
Co-Principal investigators
Arizona State University, School of Sustainability
Marco Janssen
Co-Principal investigators
Arizona State University, School of Sustainability