We had a visitor last week! Spencer Thomas came to a very white Stockholm to apply his equation free analysis tool EMBER on some models of ours. Yes, Romina and I fed our models to be test-dummies :).
Spencer is a Research Fellow in Applied Mathematics at the University of Surrey as part of the Evolution and Resilience of Industrial Ecosystems (ERIE) team. Exactly a year ago I visited the Centre for Research in Social Simulation (CRESS) at the University of Surrey, got connected and kept in touch since. I think this tool is a super contribution to (agent-based) modellers, to quickly understand the macro-level behaviour of ones model, to identify tipping points, bistable states and simply the role of key drivers in your model.
So what is this equation-free analysis tool EMBER all about?
EMBER (Emergent and Macroscopic and Behavioural ExtRaction) is a tool that allows to systematically analyse macro-level behaviour of an ABM while making use of mathematical tools. Typically mathematical tools make use of a equation-based description of a (macro-level) phenomenon. However this tool brings the mathematical techniques that do not rely on an equation-based description (equation-free methods) in the application realm of ABMs. Allowing support for understanding the emergent (macroscopic) behaviour from simulations at the agent (microscopic) level due to the non-linear and often stochastic nature of ABMs less difficult. More specifically, equation-free methods enable techniques such as path following, tipping point analysis, regime shifts and statistical analysis to be extracted directly from an ABM. Allowing for less computational expensive analysis of ABMs that does not require the observation or aggregation of simulation results to the extend of parameter sweeps.
Spencer and his colleagues thus developed a tool to extract insight into the emergent behaviour of a system that does not require any understanding of the underlying mathematics or programming by the user. At the moment the user interface is under development and we currently testing for some social-ecological models.
As soon as the tool is released we will let you know!