Towards Good Social Science
By: Scott Moss and Bruce Edmonds
Date: 14 July 2004.
CPM Report No.: 04-135.
Presented at: EPOS, the
Cross-Disciplinary Workshop on Epistemological
Perspectives on Simulation,
Koblenz, 1-2 July 2004.
S. and Edmonds, B. (2005). Towards Good Social Science. Journal of
Artificial Societies and Social Simulation 8(4)
This paper is about good and bad
science. It is not about good and bad scientists though we do consider
conditions in which good scientists do bad science. In particular, we
take it for granted that scientists who seek to explain observed events
by adhering carefully to the best standards available from their
training and the traditions of their discipline have the personal
qualities of the good scientist. If, however, the best available
standards lead to bad science, then we would say that the good
scientists are doing bad science.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which agent-based
simulation could support good social science. We will argue that, where
the social sciences are concerned, simulations based on software agents
could support good science provided that the design of the agents is
itself based on good science.
Clearly, the pursuit of this argument first requires an account of what
constitutes good science and a defense of this. This will be done, not
so much by engaging in a general philosophical or methodological debate
but rather by drawing on examples of scientific developments that have
transformed our understanding of the world. The examples will draw on
developments in the natural – physical and biological – sciences and
the lessons learned therefrom will be applied to the social and
computer sciences. The discussion of the natural sciences will
constitute section 2 followed by a brief discussion of how these will
differ from the social sciences in section 3. The failure of large
sections of key social sciences – economics and sociology – will be
explored in section 4. In section 5 we take a step back from the
argument about good and bad science in order to consider the purpose of
doing social science and how that purpose conditions what we mean by
good social science. Finally, in section 6, we consider the role of
software agents in the development of good social science and, in
particular, the development of social policy.