News from the Centre for Policy Modelling, including announcements of: new papers, special issues, books, workshops, projects, jobs and study opportunities.

05 June, 2010

New Paper: Context and Social Simulation

This paper has some overlap with the previous one, but has a different argument at its core and is aimed at a different audience.
          Context and Social Simulation - Bruce Edmonds


Context is everywhere in the human social and cognitive spheres but it is often implicit and unnoticed.  Some possible reasons for this will be sketched below.  However, when one is involved in trying to understand and model the social and cognitive realms it becomes an important factor.  This paper is an analysis of the role and effects of context on social simulation and a call for it to be squarely faced by the social simulation community.
This paper starts with brief review of some the different kinds of context and what they are.  It then considers two, essentially different issues: firstly the issue of the context of a model and secondly the issue of including aspects of context-recognition and dependency in agents within simulations.  I do realise that putting both of these in one paper is inviting confusion, but I am keen to air both issues.  Thus the rest of this paper is in three sections: 
·         Section 2 is about context in general, including some of the different conceptions of it and its difficulties;
·         Section 3 discusses the context of a simulation;
·         and Section 4 talks about the representation of context within a simulation.
 Available at: 

22 May, 2010

New Paper: Complexity and Context-Dependency

Complexity and Context-Dependency

CPM Report No.: 10-209
By: Bruce Edmonds
Date: 20th May 2010

To be presented at the Eurpean Conference on Complex Systems 2010 (ECCS), Lisbon, September 2010.


It is argued that given the “anti-anthropomorphic” principle, that the universe is not structured for our benefit, that modelling trade-offs will necessarily mean that many of our models will be context-specific. The context heuristic, that divides the processing into rich, fuzzy context-recognition and crisp, conscious reasoning and learning is outlined. The consequences of accepting the impact of this human heuristic in the light of the necessity of accepting context-specificity in our modelling of complex systems is examined. In particular the development of “islands” or related model clusters rather than over-arching laws and theories. It is suggested that by accepting and dealing with context (rather than ignoring it) we can push the boundaries of science a little further.
Accessible as CPM Report 209:

14 May, 2010

Two PhD Studentships at the CPM available

(as part of the SCID project)

Stipend: £13,290 per annum + applicable fees
1+3 years or 3 years deending on experience

Applications are invited for 2 phd students to work on modelling projects associated with the EPSRC project: the Social Complexity of Immigration and Diversity (SCID).  This project is in association with the University of Manchester's Institute for Social Change and its Department of Theoretical Physics.  This is a high-profile and ambitious project that aims to develop a new approach to using simulations to gain understanding of important social issues.

The project will last for 5 years starting 1 September 2010. 

The period of study will involve the development of detailed agent-based simulations reflecting as much of the evidence as possible about a case study from one of 3 areas (fof details see the project description):
  • Diversity, homophily and social trust
  • Socio-political integration
  • Socio-economic inequality
The evidence will be provided by experts at the Institute for Social Change. The central challenge of the PhD will be to integrate as much of this evidence as possible within Agent-based Simulations.  For more details see the project description at:

Applicants should preferably have a Masters-level degree in  a relevant discipline, preferably with an element of computer science or computational social science. The candidate should thus have a reasonable level programming and/or simulation experience. An ability to learn to program simulations in Java/Repast is a must.  Knowledge of sociology in one of the above areas is also an advantage.  The candidate has to be an EU national.

The CPM is one of the few research centres in the world that focuses on social simulation.  Since its inception in 1992 it has developed its unique blend of trans-disciplinary research, crossing the areas of : artificial intelligence, complexity scicence, philosophy and computational social science (to get an idea of its scope browse its discussion papers).  It has built up a reputation and track-record over that time being involved in a number of EU and UK projects (Ocopomo, EMIL, Nania, NeWater, GIACS, CAVES, CCDEW, FIRMA, IMIS).  The CPM is a happy, informal, fairly chaotic but, we believe, very creative lab.  For more information about the work of the Centre see its website at

For informal discussions about the post, contact Bruce Edmonds on +44 (0) 161 3886 or email to

To apply, send a CV with a covering letter to Bruce Edmonds, Centre for Policy Modelling, MMUBS, Aytoun Building, Aytoun Street, M1 3GH, UK
The University is committed to an Equal Opportunities Policy.

28 April, 2010

FuturICT report summary: can 1 Billion € stop the (next) financial crisis?

One Billion Euros to Unleash the Power of Information

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2010) — Humanity faces enormous challenges ranging from financial and economic instability to environmental destruction and climate change, all linked directly to our inability to manage -- and often even to understand the nature of -- our collective activities and their consequences....
Produced by the FuturICT project:

15 April, 2010

Server still down...

...the university assigned us a new set of static IP addresses and I think have not updated the firewall access.


11 April, 2010

Sever is down again...

...I don't know why yet.

02 April, 2010

Thesis: Shah Jamal Alam, Understanding Social Complexity in the Context of HIV/AIDS: A Case Study in Rural South Africa

Understanding Social Complexity in the Context of HIV/AIDS:  A Case Study in Rural South Africa
(Shah Jamal Alam's Doctoral Thesis) 
Available at: 
This thesis aims at understanding the impact of HIV/AIDS and socioeconomic stressors in Sub-Saharan Africa. We present an agent-based simulation model of the social impacts of HIV/AIDS in villages in the Sekhukhune district of the Limpopo province in South Africa. AIDS in the Sub-Saharan region has not only affected individual’s health but its prevalence has a long-term implication on the economic development of the society. The impact of the disease relates to other stresses, such as food insecurity, high climate variability, market fluctuations, and variations in support from government and non-government sources. The model developed in this thesis focuses on decisions made at the individual and household level. The model development process is driven by evidence, which is made available through our project partners at the Stockholm Environment Institute (Oxford) and other external sources. The model has gone through several iterations, especially regarding agent's decision procedures. This whole modelling process has resulted in the modellers being able to ask new questions about the underlying problem, with successive iterations. It has contributed to identifying the gaps in the existing knowledge of the domain and thus helping to understand the problem with better precision. Simulation results reported in this thesis suggest a number of hypotheses concerning social and public health policies. They also suggest that agent-based social simulation is a potential tool in better understanding of this complex interplay of issues. Another contribution of this research is capturing the notion of overlapping social networks at different levels in modelling human social systems. One of the implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is that it increases the burden on traditional support networks or safety nets. This thesis looks towards techniques for identifying structural changes in dynamical networks that may be useful in better describing this effect.

01 April, 2010

Unpacking Public Discussion – developing an open forest of political argument

A proposal and contribution to Crossroad: a "Participative Roadmap for ICT Research in Electronic Governance and Policy Modelling".

Available as:

27 February, 2010

CfP: World Congress on Social Simulation, Sept. 2010, Kassel, Germany

The 3rd World Congress on Social Simulation will take place on September 6-9, 2010  at Center for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Kassel, Germany.

All details at:
Paper dealine: 1st May

The WCSS series is a joint collaboration of the regional international professional organizations:
  • the European Social Simulation Association – ESSA;   
  • the Computational Social Science Society - CSSS;
  • the Pacific Asia Association for Agent Based Social Systems Science – PAAA

23 February, 2010

4th International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems

SASO 2010: The 4th International Conference on Self-Adaptive and Self-Organizing Systems
Budapest, Hungary, September 27-October 1, 2010.

Submission deadline: April 19th (abstract), April 26th (full paper)

The topics of interest to SASO include, but are not limited to:
    * Applications and experiences with self-* systems
    * Design and engineering for self-* systems (self-organization, self-adaptation, self-management, self-monitoring, self-tuning, self-repair, self-configuration, etc.)
    * Management and control of self-* systems
    * Robustness and dependability of self-* systems
    * Control of emergent properties in self-* systems
    * Biologically, socially, and physically inspired self-* systems
    * Theories, frameworks and methods for self-* systems

Details at:

21 February, 2010

Two recent CPM Papers

04 February, 2010

SCIVE 2010 - Social Complexity of Informal Value Exchange

The first international workshop exploring the social aspects of informal value transfer
at the European Complex Systems Society Conference,
Lisbon, September 15th or 16th, 2010.

his workshop aims to promote inquiry into social phenomena that involve value-exchange, and in particular on networks for credit and value transfer, under the effect of recent technological and societal change. In particular an individual-based simulation approach to take into account their social complexity.

Informal value transfer and credit networks involve people or institutions providing credit or value transfer services based on social trust rather than laws and contracts. Such networks constitute a complex system that have been relatively unstudied yet have a significant impact on people's lives. ICT advances – for example the reduction of social distance and the advent of economically-feasible micro transactions – allow for significant improvements in reach and quality of these networks and might allow the release of presently untapped social resources.

We aim to contribute to understanding and to change in networks for credit and value transfer by individual based simulation. Many aspects of human cooperation involve some exchange of value and are the traditional subject matter of the field of economics.

However this exchange often involves many social processes and mechanisms other than those usually considered by economists, including: social norms, altruism, reputation, trust, group membership, friendship, kinship, identity, status etc. These can only be understood by modelling them at the individual level (with possible analytic models later).

The above artefacts are going to play an ever more important role thanks to the removal of barriers and to individual empowerment allowed by the growth of communication networks. As a consequence, the conversion of the above processes and mechanisms to their monetary value could grow more and more difficult, and the financial institutions that move and manage money could get reshaped. Two contrasting forces are at work here. On one hand, the ease with which value and credit can be transferred worldwide favours large, powerful organizations, whose aims grow less and less related to the territory. On the other hand, individuals can exert a stronger control on their own (small-scale) resources, creating a potential for peer finance, where mental constructs can play a very important role. We already see the effects of this second force in the rise of micro business and micro finance.

This workshop invites contributions of individual-based models of these aspects of society that involve value exchange or coordination. The economic processes of price, supply/demand and varieties of economic rationality (e.g. bounded rationality, optimisation etc.) are already well studied – this workshop aims to concentrate on the other social aspects involved.

For details see:

First ESSA Summer School in Social Simulation

There will be a first ESSA summer school in social simulation at Brescia in Italy. 13-17 September 2010. Organised by Flaminio Squazzoni of the University of Brescia, so it is bound to be good!


21 January, 2010

CPM's server is temporarily down

The server was apparently compromised and has been shut down whilst it is checked and cleaned. This will also affect the sites and

We are installing a new server from scratch and hope it will be up and running soon.