Documenting Social Simulation Models: The ODD Protocol as a Standard

  • Volker GrimmEmail author
  • Gary Polhill
  • Julia Touza
Part of the Understanding Complex Systems book series (UCS)

Why Read This Chapter?

To learn about the importance of documenting your simulation model and discover a lightweight and appropriate framework to guide you in doing this.


The clear documentation of simulations is important for their communication, replication, and comprehension. It is thus helpful for such documentation to follow minimum standards. The “Overview, Design concepts and Details” document protocol (ODD) is specifically designed to guide the description of individual- and agent-based simulation models (ABMs) in journal articles. Popular among ecologists, it is also increasingly used in the social simulation community. Here, we describe the protocol and give an annotated example of its use, with a view to facilitating its wider adoption and encouraging higher standards in simulation description.


Design Concept Inference Engine Relative Agreement Opinion Interaction Social Simulation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to Bruce Edmonds for inviting us to contribute this chapter, and for his helpful comments and suggested amendments to earlier drafts. Gary Polhill’s contribution was funded by the Scottish Government.


  1. Amouroux E, Gaudou B, Desvaux S, Drogoul A (2010) O.D.D.: a promising but incomplete formalism for individual-based model specification. In: Ho TB, Zuckerman DN, Kuonen P, Demaille A, Kutsche R-D (eds) 2010 IEEE-RIVF international conference on computing and communication technologies: research, innovation and vision for the future, Vietnam National University, Hanoi, 1–4 Nov 2010Google Scholar
  2. Bithell M, Brasington J (2009) Coupling agent-based models of subsistence farming with individual-based forest models and dynamic models of water distribution. Environ Model Software 24:173–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Deffuant G, Amblard F, Weisbuch G, Faure T (2002) How can extremism prevail? A study based on the relative agreement interaction model. J Artif Soc Soc Simulat 5(4):1. Google Scholar
  4. Gilbert N (2007) Agent-based models. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Grimm V, Railsback SF (2005) Individual-based modeling and ecology. Princeton University Press, PrincetonzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  6. Grimm V, Railsback SF (2012) Designing, formulating, and communicating agent-based models. In: Heppenstall A, Crooks A, See LM, Batty M (eds) Agent-based models of geographical systems. Springer, Berlin, pp 361–377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Grimm V et al (2006) A standard protocol for describing individual-based and agent-based models. Ecol Model 198:115–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Grimm V et al (2010) The ODD protocol: a review and first update. Ecol Model 221:2760–2768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hales D, Rouchier J, Edmonds B (2003) Model-to-model analysis. J Artif Soc Soc Simulat 6(4):5. Google Scholar
  10. Heine B-O, Meyer M, Strangfeld O (2005) Stylised facts and the contribution of simulation to the economic analysis of budgeting. J Artif Soc Soc Simulat 8(4):4.
  11. Heppenstall A, Crooks A, See LM, Batty M (eds) (2012) Agent-based models of geographical systems. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  12. Livermore M (2010) MR POTATOHEAD framework: a software tool for collaborative land-use change modeling. In: Swayne DA, Yang W, Voinov AA, Rizzoli A, Filatova T (eds) International Environmental Modelling And Software Society (iEMSs) 2010 international congress on environmental modelling and software: modelling for environment’s Sake, Fifth Biennial Meeting, Ottawa.,Proceedings
  13. Parker DC et al (2008) Case studies, cross-site comparisons, and the challenge of generalization: comparing agent-based models of land-use change in frontier regions. J Land Use Sci 3(1):41–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Polhill JG (2010) ODD updated. J Artif Soc Soc Simulat 13(4):9. Google Scholar
  15. Polhill JG, Parker D, Brown D, Grimm V (2008) Using the ODD protocol for describing three agent-based social simulation models of land use change. J Artif Soc Soc Simulat 11(2):3.
  16. Polhill JG, Gimona A, Aspinall RJ (2011) Agent-based modelling of land use effects on ecosystem processes and services. J Land Use Sci 6(2–3):75–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Railsback SF, Grimm V (2012) Agent-based and individual-based modeling: a practical introduction. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  18. Rouchier J, Cioffi-Revilla C, Polhill JG, Takadama K (2008) Progress in model-to-model analysis. J Artif Soc Soc Simulat 11(2):8. Google Scholar
  19. Triebig C, Klügl F (2010) Elements of a documentation framework for agent-based simulation. Cybern Syst 40(5):441–474Google Scholar
  20. Wheeler S (2005) Beyond the inverted pyramid: developing news-writing skills. In: Keeble R (ed) Print journalism: a critical introduction. Routledge, Abingdon, pp 84–93Google Scholar
  21. Wilensky U (1999) NetLogo.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecological ModellingUFZ, Helmholtz Centre of Environmental Research – UFZLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.The James Hutton InstituteAberdeenUK
  3. 3.Applied Economics DepartmentUniversity of VigoVigoSpain

Personalised recommendations