Discussion papers

CPM-16-228 - 6 April 2016

Discussion paper: "Staged Models for Interdisciplinary Research"

Luis F. Lafuerza, Louise Dyson, Bruce Edmonds, Alan J. McKane

This is a paper that describes the “staged modelling approach” developed during the “SCID” Project (The Social Complexity of Immigration and Diversity). This starts with a complex, evidence-led model and then progressively models that with simpler models to get a combination of rigour and relevance.


Modellers of complex biological or social systems are often faced with an invidious choice: to use simple models with few mechanisms that can be fully analysed, or to construct complicated models that include all the features which are thought relevant. The former ensures rigour, the latter relevance. We discuss a method that combines these two approaches, beginning with a complex model and then modelling the complicated model with simpler models. The resulting “chain” of models ensures some rigour and relevance. We illustrate this process on a complex model of voting intentions, constructing a reduced model which agrees well with the predictions of the full model. Experiments with variations of the simpler model yield additional insights which are hidden by the complexity of the full model. This approach facilitated collaboration between social scientists and physicists — the complex model was specified based on the social science literature, and the simpler model constrained to agree (in core aspects) with the complicated model.


Paper can be found at: https://www.openabm.org/model/4871