Best Practice Guide


Our research is dedicated to promoting best practice principles in the field of modelling, which we believe includes sharing valuable resources that clearly communicate the need for such principles and demonstrate how they can be implemented in practice. The three frameworks listed below (the ODD protocol, Pattern-oriented modelling and TRACE) are all intended to help people designing, using or learning about agent-based models improve the scientific processes around their work. They are also devised to be compatible. Although they all originate from the field of ecological modelling, they are suitable for all types of agent-based modelling.

For more on the importance of open models and how we can better establish standards in sharing data and code, we recommend you check out BehaveLab's SSW2020 Tutorial on "Best practices of making your computational models available for your future self (and others)" by Marco Janssen, Allen Lee & Michael Barton (Arizona State University, United States). In addition to presenting best practices on the workflow of modeling using Github, it also demonstrates containerization of models and discusses best ways to archive your models.


The ODD Protocol for Describing Agent-Based and Other Simulation Models - Grimm et al.

For anyone creating and publishing agent-based models, the ODD (Overview, Design concepts, Details) protocol is a standardized way to explain everything from the initial purpose of the design to code-level details of the agents and the environment. The ODD protocol is a structured and formalised way to explain a model precisely in plain English (though equations and tables of variables are common in the sections where more detail is expected). Having a standard structure makes it easier for authors to make sure that they give enough detail to make their results reproducible and makes it easier for readers to find the information they are looking for within large descriptions of complex models.


The button links to the latest guideline for using the protocol, one of the supplements to the latest paper. The links below are papers explaining the thought process behind the protocol and are the references to be used for any publication that uses the ODD protocol.


Grimm et al. 2020

Grimm et al. 2006

Pattern-Oriented Modeling of Agent-Based Complex Systems: Lessons from Ecology - Grimm et al.

Pattern-oriented modelling is a framework that adapts the scientific method to the field of agent-based modelling. Particularly, it evaluates those models based on their ability to replicate real patterns. It also gives an algorithmic conception of scientific theory rather than an analytic one (since analytic conceptualisation is best suited to EBMs).

Towards better modelling and decision support: Documenting model development, testing, and analysis using TRACE - Grimm et al.

While the ODD protocol focuses on the details of the model to allow easy replication, TRACE is used to describe the entire scientific process that every simulation model is part of. It starts with problem formulation and provides a structured framework for describing the evaluation and validation processes that should happen during the design of any model.