20 Apr 2017

Bruce's Modelling Gripes, No. 4: Not being open about code etc.

There is no excuse, these days (at least for academic purposes), not to be totally transparent about the details of the simulation. This is simply good scientific practice, so others can check, probe, play around with and inspect what you have done. The collective good that comes of this far outweighs and personal embarrassment at any errors or shortcomings discovered.

This should include:
  • The simulation code itself, publicly archived somewhere, e.g. openabm.org
  • Instructions as to how to get the code running (any libraries, special instructions, data needed etc.)
  • A full description of the simulation, its structures and algorithms (e.g. using the ODD structure or similar)
  • Links or references to any papers or related models
Other things that are useful are:
  • A set of indicative/example results
  • A sensitivity analysis
  • An account of how you developed the simulation, what you tried (even if it did not work)
For most academics, somehow or other, public money has been spent on funding you do the work, the public have a right to see the results and that you uphold the highest academic standards of openness and transparency.  You should do this even if the code is not perfectly documented and rather dodgy!  There is no excuse.

For more on this see:
Edmonds, B. & Polhill, G. (2015) Open Modelling for Simulators. In TerĂ¡n, O. & Aguilar, J. (Eds.) Societal Benefits of Freely Accessible Technologies and Knowledge Resources. IGI Global, 237-254. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8336-5. (Previous version at http://cfpm.org/discussionpapers/172)

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