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Introduction to Agent-Based Modeling (2nd edition)

Marco A.Janssen 2020

Journal Articles

How Behavior of users impact the success of online Q&A communities

Yu, F and M.A. Janssen

2020 Advances in Complex Systems 23(6): 2050015.


What makes Question & Answer (Q&A) communities productive? In this paper, we look into how the diversity of behavioral types of agents impacts the performance of Q&A communities using different performance metrics. We do this by developing an agent-based model informed by insights from previous studies on Q&A communities. By analyzing the different strategies for how questions are selected to answer, we find that there are mixtures of strategies leading to the best outcomes for different performance conditions. Particularly, Q&A communities that encourage participants to focus on answering the new questions reach the best performance in answering the questions, creating the long term value, and improving the competence of solving difficulty. In conclusion, we find that the current strategies of question selection on Stack Overflow are in line with the high performance of producing public benefit from the collective attention available.


Formalising theories of human decision-making for agent-based modelling of social-ecological systems: practical lessons learned and ways forward

Schwarz, N., G. Dressler, K. Frank, W. Jager, M.A. Janssen, B. Müller, M. Schlüter, N. Wijermans, and J. Groeneveld

2020 Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling 2, 16340.


Incorporating representations of human decision-making that are based on social science theories into social-ecological models is considered increasingly important – yet choosing and formalising a theory for a particular modelling context remains challenging. Here, we reflect on our experiences of selecting, formalising and documenting psychological and economic theories of human decision-making for inclusion in different agent-based models (ABMs) of natural resource use. We discuss the challenges related to four critical tasks: How to select a theory? How to formalise a theory and how to translate it into code? How to document the formalisation? In this way, we present a systematic overview of the choices researchers face when including theories of human decision-making in their ABMs, reflect on the choices we made in our own modelling projects and provide guidance for those new to the field. Also, we highlight further challenges regarding the parameterisation and analysis of such ABMs and suggest that a systematic overview of how to tackle these challenges contributes to an effective collaboration in interdisciplinary teams addressing socio-ecological dynamics using models.


On code sharing and model documentation of published Individuals and Agent-based models

Janssen, M.A., C. Pritchard, and A. Lee

2020 Environmental Modeling and Software 134, 104873.


Being able to replicate research results is the hallmark of science. Replication of research findings using computational models should, in principle, be possible. In this manuscript, we assess code sharing and model documentation practices of 7500 publications about individual-based and agent-based models. The code availability increased over the years, up to 18% in 2018.

Model documentation does not include all the elements that could improve the transparency of the models, such as mathematical equations, flow charts, and pseudocode. We find that articles with equations and flow charts being cited more among other model papers, probably because the model documentation is more transparent.

The practices of code sharing improve slowly over time, partly due to the emergence of more public repositories and archives, and code availability requirements by journals and sponsors. However, a significant change in norms and habits need to happen before computational modeling becomes a reproducible science.


Keeping up shared infrastructure on Port of Mars: An experimental study

Janssen, M.A., L. Gharavi and M. Yichao

2020 International Journal of the Commons 14(1): 404-417.


In this study, we discuss Port of Mars, a new experimental design to study collective action problems in extreme environments under conditions of high uncertainty. The game is situated in the first-generation habitat on Mars, providing an engaging narrative for players to navigate collective action problems. This pilot study finds that most groups are able to avoid the collapse of the habitat, and that the existence of thresholds seems to make groups cooperative. The game demonstrates the initial outcomes of a transdisciplinary project that could provide new ways to study commons governance under high uncertainty.


Applying Brantingham’s Neutral Model of Stone Raw Material Procurement to the Pinnacle Point Middle Stone Age Records, Western Cape, South Africa

Oestmo, S., M.A. Janssen, and H. Cawthra

2020 Quaternary Science Reviews 235: 105901.


The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain (PAP), when exposed, presented Middle Stone Age (MSA) foragers at Pinnacle Point (PP) on the South Coast of South Africa with new sources of raw materials to make stone tools. Sea-level fluctuations and the changing size of the Paleo-Agulhas Plain throughout the Pleistocene PP record ∼165 ka to 50 ka would have altered the availability of different resources, thus potentially forcing new raw material procurement strategies. The relative frequencies of raw material throughout the PP sequence shows that frequencies of raw material types did change, especially after 90 ka. What caused these changing frequencies is debated and centers on whether targeted procurement of specific raw materials was the cause, or if simple raw material availability and abundance due to the changing environmental context in conjunction with opportunistic procurement drove such shifts. The application of a neutral model of stone raw material procurement presented here evaluates whether random walk in the region surrounding the PP site during different coastline configurations (Marine Isotope Stage 6, 5, and 4) explains the observed shifts in raw material usage. Put differently, did opportunistic acquisition of raw materials during random walk in these different environments cause the observed raw material pattern? Model simulations and a sensitivity analysis provide no convincing evidence that observed raw material frequencies at PP resulted from opportunistic acquisition during random walk.


The foraging potential of the Holocene Cape South Coast of South Africa without the Paleaso-Agulhas Plain

Wren, C.D., S. Bothaa, J. De Vynck, M.A. Janssen, K. Hill, E. Shook, J.. Harris, B.M. Wood, J. Venter, R. Cowling, J. Franklin, A. Potts, E.C. Fisher and C.W. Marean

2020 Quaternary Science Reviews 235: 105789.


The Palaeo-Agulhas Plain formed an important habitat exploited by Pleistocene hunter-gatherer populations during periods of lower sea level. This productive, grassy habitat would have supported numerous large-bodied ungulates accessible to a population of skilled hunters with the right hunting technology. It also provided a potentially rich location for plant food collection, and along its shores a coastline that moved with the rise and fall of sea levels. The rich archaeological and paleontological records of Pleistocene sites along the modern Cape south coast of South Africa, which would have overlooked the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain during Pleistocene times of lower sea level, provides a paleoarchive of this extinct ecosystem. In this paper, we present a first order illustration of the “palaeoscape modeling” approach advocated by Marean et al. (2015). We use a resourcescape model created from modern studies of habitat productivity without the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain. This is equivalent to predominant Holocene conditions before recent landscape modifications for farming. We then run an agent-based model of the human foraging system to investigate several research questions. Our agent-based approach uses the theoretical framework of optimal foraging theory to model human foraging decisions designed to optimize the net caloric gains within a complex landscape of spatially and temporally variable resources. We find that during the high sea-levels of MIS 5e (+5–6 m asl) and the Holocene, the absence of the Plain left a relatively poor food base supporting a much smaller population relying heavily on edible plant resources from the current Cape flora. Despite high species diversity of plants with edible storage organs, and marine invertebrates, encounter rates with highly profitable resources were low. We demonstrate that without the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain, human populations must have been small and low-density, and exploited plant, mammal, and marine resources with relatively low caloric returns. The exposure and contraction of the Palaeo-Agulhas Plain was likely the single biggest driver of behavioural change during periods of climate change through the Pleistocene and into the transition to the Holocene.


How do resource mobility and group size affect institutional arrangements for rule enforcement? A qualitative comparative analysis of fishing groups in South Korea

Shin, H.C., D.J. Yu, S. Park, J.M. Anderies, J. Abbott, M.A. Janssen, T.K. Ahn

2020 Ecological Economics 174,106657; doi.org:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2020.106657.


Two social feedbacks critical for redressing decline in organizational performance are exit (changing membership to a better performing organization) and voice (members’ expression of discontent). In self-governing organizations of common-pool resources (CPRs) experiencing decline from poor rule conformance, the exit option is often unavailable due to a closed membership policy. Thus, members should rely on the voice option to reverse the trend. However, it is poorly understood under what set of conditions members can successfully use the voice option to govern their CPRs. We analyzed 30 self-governing fishing groups in South Korea to generate configurations of institutional and social-ecological conditions linked to the successful voice option. We considered Ostrom’s Design Principles for rule enforcement as institutional conditions and resource mobility and group size as social-ecological factors affecting institutional fit. We find that if the informal mechanism for conflict resolution is absent, fishing groups will be unsuccessful; even if rules for monitoring and graduated sanctions are not in use, groups can be successful when they harvest only stationary resources and the informal conflict-resolution is present; and groups managing mobile resources need graduated sanctions to be successful, while those appropriating only stationary resources can achieve the same outcome without such sanctions.


Water sports

Janssen, M.A.

2020 The Mint 13: 39-41.

Beyond tipping points: exploring non-linear transition pathways of social-ecological systems

Matthias, J.D., J.M. Anderies, J. Baggio, J. Hodbod, S. Huet, M.A. Janssen, M. Milkoreit and M.L. Schoon

2020 Scientific Reports 10, 4136.


Tipping point dynamics are fundamental drivers for sustainable transition pathways of social-ecological systems (SES). Current research predominantly analyzes how crossing tipping points causes regime shifts, however, the analysis of potential transition pathways from these social and ecological tipping points is often overlooked. In this paper, we analyze transition pathways and the potential outcomes that these may lead to via a stylized model of a system composed of interacting agents exploiting resources and, by extension, the overall ecosystem. Interactions between the social and the ecological system are based on a perception-exploitation framework. We show that the presence of tipping points in SES may yield counter-intuitive social-ecological transition pathways. For example, the high perception of an alarming ecological state among agents can provide short-term ecological benefits, but can be less effective in the long term, compared to a low-perception condition. This work also highlights how understanding non-linear interactions is critical for defining suitable transition pathways of any SES.


Eight Grand Challenges in Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling

Elsawah, S., Filatova, T., Jakeman, A.J., Kettner, A.J. , Zellner, M.L., Athanasiadis, I.N., Hamilton, S.H., Axtell, R.L., Brown, D.G., Gilligan, J.M., Janssen, M.A., Robinson, D.T., Rozenberg, J. Ullah, I.I.T., Lade, S.J.

2020 Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling 2.


Modeling is essential to characterize and explore complex societal and environmental issues in systematic and collaborative ways. Socio-environmental systems (SES) modeling integrates knowledge and perspectives into conceptual and computational tools that explicitly recognize how human decisions affect the environment. Depending on the modeling purpose, many SES modelers also realize that involvement of stakeholders and experts is fundamental to support social learning and decision-making processes for achieving improved environmental and social outcomes. The contribution of this paper lies in identifying and formulating grand challenges that need to be overcome to accelerate the development and adaptation of SES modeling. Eight challenges are delineated: bridging epistemologies across disciplines; multi-dimensional uncertainty assessment and management; scales and scaling issues; combining qualitative and quantitative methods and data; furthering the adoption and impacts of SES modeling on policy; capturing structural changes; representing human dimensions in SES; and leveraging new data types and sources. These challenges limit our ability to effectively use SES modeling to provide the knowledge and information essential for supporting decision making. Whereas some of these challenges are not unique to SES modeling and may be pervasive in other scientific fields, they still act as barriers as well as research opportunities for the SES modeling community. For each challenge, we outline basic steps that can be taken to surmount the underpinning barriers. Thus, the paper identifies priority research areas in SES modeling, chiefly related to progressing modeling products, processes and practices.


Editorial: The inaugural issue of Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling (SESMO)

Jakeman, A., Athanasiadis, I., Haasnoot, M., Janssen, M., & Voinov, A.

2020 Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling 1, 16399; https://doi.org/10.18174/sesmo.2019a16399.


Managing the Global Commons

Janssen, M.A.
2020 Opinion published in Hindu: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/managing-the-global-commons/article32726262.ece

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