PhD: Research Outline Version 2.0:
Development of a Contemporary Agent Based Model of the UK for Analysing Regional Development and Inter Regional Communications

Andy Turner

This PhD sets out to solve a number of current issues in large-scale agent-based modelling. These will be addressed by the development of a sound and rigorous framework for agent-based modelling that tackles these problems. The framework will be validated by using it to construct a regional development model.

The chief problems examined by this thesis will be:

  1. How may we best create an individual-scale model of the UK and link this with useful non-agent-based and agent-based models?
  2. What techniques might we use for validating models that are both spatial and involve data/commodity exchange on networks and via global processes?
  3. How do we best visualize, quantify and control the propagation of errors through large scale, dynamic, and complex systems?

The agent based model (ABM) will be similar to that of the SimCity computer game (EA games, 2006). The model agents will be individual people agents, most of these will be grouped into household agents and family agents. Additionally agents will be:

Connections between these agents will provide for modelling of social and business networks.

The ABM will be run to produce dynamic simulations that can be visualised as animated maps with states that can be preserved along with provenance. Mechanisms will be built into the framework for testing the sensitivities of simulations to random factors and changes in model configuration and parameters. This is important for reasons of repeatability and testing the verisimilitude of any given model. In addition, part of the reliability of such models is an understanding of the mechanism by which errors are enlarged or dampened during model runs. Such errors are usually ignored in agent-based models under the erroneous assumption that behavioural models do not suffer from the same kinds of numerical errors that more mathematical model suffer. The largest problem in this area is the location and visualization of such errors, which needs to be addressed before they can be investigated in detail.

Choosing the UK for study is appropriate because of good data availablitiy, and because many issues of organisation and policy operate between the individual and national level. Key to the ABM's use in social simulations of the UK will be calculations of accessibility and mobility, and the push and pull factors associated with locational change in agents. For individuals and businesses these are the relationships between, and influences on, migration and commuting.

The final model used during the testing of the system will be decided after the first six months of work, as the social system chosen will be dependent on the model capabilities and also on the models chosen for associated work external to the PhD. However, viable candidate systems are available, including the modelling of regional development; industrial manufacturing changes or the housing market.


EA games (2006) SimCity4. accessed 10-01-2006 .


Thanks to my supervisors Andy Evans and Mark Birkin for reviewing this research outline and providing valuable comments.

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