Holistically Evaluating Agent Based Social System Models

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Departmental Papers (ESE)
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social systems modeling
validation and evaluation of social systems models
cognitively detailed agent based models
holistic approach to validation of complex social systems
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Systems Engineering
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The philosophical perspectives on model evaluation can be broadly classified into reductionist/logical positivist and relativist/holistic. In this paper, we outline some of our past efforts in, and challenges faced during, evaluating models of social systems with cognitively detailed agents. Owing to richness in the model, we argue that the holistic approach and consequent continuous improvement are essential to evaluating complex social system models such as these. A social system built primarily of cognitively detailed agents can provide multiple levels of correspondence, both at observable and abstract aggregated levels. Such a system can also pose several challenges, including large feature spaces, issues in information elicitation with database, experts and news feeds, counterfactuals, fragmented theoretical base, and limited funding for validation. We subscribe to the view that no model can faithfully represent reality, but detailed, descriptive models are useful in learning about the system and bringing about a qualitative jump in understanding of the system it attempts to model – provided they are properly validated. Our own approach to model evaluation is to consider the entire life cycle and assess the validity under two broad dimensions of (1) internally focused validity/quality achieved through structural, methodological, and ontological evaluations; and (2) external validity consisting of micro validity, macro validity, and qualitative, causal and narrative validity. In this paper, we also elaborate on selected validation techniques that we have employed in the past. We recommend a triangulation of multiple validation techniques, including methodological soundness, qualitative validation techniques, such as face validation by experts and narrative validation, and formal validation tests, including correspondence testing.

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SIMULATION: Transactions of The Society for Modeling and Simulation International
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