Making models match: Replicating an agent-based model

Uri Wilensky, William Rand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Scientists have increasingly employed computer models in their work. Recent years have seen a proliferation of agent-based models in the natural and social sciences. But with the exception of a few "classic" models, most of these models have never been replicated by anyone but the original developer. As replication is a critical component of the scientific method and a core practice of scientists, we argue herein for an increased practice of replication in the agentbased modeling community, and for widespread discussion of the issues surrounding replication. We begin by clarifying the concept of replication as it applies to ABM. Furthermore we argue that replication may have even greater benefits when applied to computational models than when applied to physical experiments. Replication of computational models affects model verification and validation and fosters shared understanding about modeling decisions. To facilitate replication, we must create standards for both how to replicate models and how to evaluate the replication. In this paper, we present a case study of our own attempt to replicate a classic agent-based model. We begin by describing an agent-based model from political science that was developed by Axelrod and Hammond. We then detail our effort to replicate that model and the challenges that arose in recreating the model and in determining if the replication was successful. We conclude this paper by discussing issues for (1) researchers attempting to replicate models and (2) researchers developing models in order to facilitate the replication of their results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2007


  • Agent-based modeling
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Replication
  • Scientific method
  • Validation
  • Verification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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