Category Archives: Publications

Book now available via SpringerLink

Good news everyone!  Well, maybe not everyone, but at least people who love academic books about agent-based modelling might be happy about this news.

My book is now available, open access (free, in other words), via SpringerLink.  You can download the whole thing as a PDF or an ebook in EPUB format.  The website is mobile-friendly, too, so if you’re slightly mad and want to read this on your phone, you can certainly do so.

You can also download individual chapters, if you want, but I’d recommend *not* doing this; each chapter pretty much builds on the previous one, so you’ll get more out of it if you read the all the chapters in sequence.

Hardcover copies are not yet available, but I’m told they will be soon, and it seems like you can order print-on-demand softcovers via the Springer website now if you feel like it.

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February update

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I’ve just been sent a preview of the cover for my book, now due to be released in early March — so get your pre-orders in now!

Or don’t, it’s open-access and you can just download a PDF for free when it comes out.  I’ll post here again once it releases for real.

In other news:

  • Our team submitted a funding proposal for a cross-disciplinary network focused on the use of agent-based modelling for designing complex public health interventions
  • I contributed to another proposal, part of which will use ABM to study environmental and policy changes that might encourage more people to take up walking and cycling rather than driving
  • We’re working on a position paper for the public health crowd, to clear up some misconceptions and concerns about the use of ABM in health research
  • Another paper is in the works on a free simulation platform under development
  • Last but by no means least, John Bryden and I have a really exciting paper under review at the moment — watch this space!

I’m also excited about our ongoing work modelling social care provision in Scotland — we’ve just hit a major development milestone.  We’re planning to submit a paper on this first stage in March, and follow that up with further development of the model with help from social care experts here in Glasgow and in Stirling.  We’ll soon start producing  detailed documentation for the model — I’ll post some of those details here in the next month or two.


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My book will be released soon — and it will be open-access

Good news, open science fans — my upcoming book from Springer is now in editing/typesetting, and on track for a spring release under a Creative Commons with Attribution licence.  This means you can download, share, adapt and modify the work however you see fit, so long as you cite the original and link to a copy of the licence.

I have to take a moment here to thank the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, my new home, for supporting open science and widening the audience of this book.

Springer is keen to get this moving along so they’ve put up a website for the book here!   You can even pre-order it, if you want.

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Some light reading recommendations

So I just handed in the final draft of my upcoming book for Springer’s Methodos Series, which is about the application of agent-based modelling techniques to the social sciences, with some specific applications to demography.

I thought I’d share two other books related to this topic that just came out recently, both of which are open-access and freely downloadable as PDF or epub ebooks:

Model-Based DemographyEssays on Integrating Data, Technique and Theory by Thomas K Burch.  Tom has been in demography a long time (six decades, in fact), and has brought together this volume based on his methodological critiques of demography in recent years.  I very much share his view that demography is far more than applied statistics, and that the field has a lot to say about the development and evolution of society and the behaviour of those within it.  If you’re interested in a detailed examination of demography as a science I can highly recommend this book.

Agent-Based Modelling in Population Studies: Concepts, Methods and Applications edited by André Grow and Jan Van Bavel.  This is a collection of papers on agent-based modelling in population studies presented at the University of Leuven in 2014 — and, full disclosure, I’m an author on one of the papers so my views here may be biased!  Having said that, I think this weighty tome (over 500 pages) offers some fascinating perspectives on the use of ABMs to study population, as well as some interesting examples of the methodology in action.  

As for my book — it should appear in early 2018, from what I understand — I’ll post here of course when Springer sets a final publication date.


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Paper submitted to ECAL 17

Just submitted a new paper to ECAL 17, the European Conference on Artificial Life.  I wrote this together with Richard Shaw, Mark McCann and Laurence Moore in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow.

The goal here is to get some of the Alife community interested in some key problems in population health to which we think Alife can make a strong contribution.  The paper describes the current state of computational modelling in population health, the reasons behind the growing popularity of ABMs/complex-systems-based approaches, and describes in detail some specific key problems where complex social and environmental determinants play important roles.

And before anyone asks, yes we’re already working on stuff like this, we just want more people joining the fun!

A little preview snapshot below:


In other news:

Major projects: We’re still working on some significant attempts at gaining funding for longer-term projects in agent-based modelling for population health.  Watch this space.

Game development: Somewhat predictably, development on my game has been stalled since spring semester started and teaching took up all my energy and most of my research time.  I’m making an effort to read up on design principles, both for roguelikes specifically and in general, to improve the gameplay whenever I have the time to get back to it.

Music: I discovered recently that some old DJ mixes I had online for years now that I never promoted in any way actually attracted a decent number of listens and some very positive comments in my inbox, so I’ve dug my DJ kit out of the closet and am getting caught up on new DnB and hardcore releases.  I’ll put something new up on MixCloud or somewhere when I’m back in the groove.

On a side note, I’m so out of touch that I only just found out that Vestax, makers of my beloved DCI-300 DJ controller and my turntables before that, went out of business in 2015.  RIP Vestax, you made great gear that lasted forever and I loved you for that, although in retrospect maybe that’s why you had trouble keeping sales up!

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Paper submitted to Agent-Based Modelling of Urban Systems workshop

Just submitted a new paper with several colleagues from Teesside to the ABMUS 17 workshop at this year’s AAMAS conference in Brazil.  This is an overview of early-stage work on an agent-based modelling framework incorporating a 3D virtual environment.  The intention is to create an ABM that can be used as a research tool, simulating the actions and interactions of simulated agents in order to study some pressing problems in public health, and also as a learning tool that allows users to interact with the virtual world and see the health impact of changes to agent behaviour or their environment.

Here’s a little preview in the form of a screenshot of the paper itself — I’ll post the whole thing as usual if it’s accepted.


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Alife XV Presentation

I’ve been attending Alife XV all week in extremely hot and sweaty Cancun, Mexico.  Yesterday I gave a talk on my paper with Nic Geard and Ian Wood titled Job Insecurity in Academic Research Employment: An Agent-Based Model.

I really enjoyed giving the talk — I spent a great deal of time beforehand thinking about how to introduce the work in proper context, and in the end I felt it worked reasonably well.  I had some great questions which raised important points that we’ll be taking into account in the next iteration of the model.  I’ve had a number of colleagues share their enthusiasm about the topic since the talk, so I’m really pleased and hopeful this work will keep advancing.

Thinking about the feedback I received, I think the most important next step is to develop the competitive funding aspects of the model in more detail:

  • Instead of an optimistic world with research funding that scales with population, have a pot of funding which grows at a slower rate, leading to a gradually more selective competitive process
  • Test possible implementations of more varied grants — larger/smaller grants which can produce more postdocs, grants of a longer duration, etc.
  • Possibly too ambitious for the near future, but implementing a system of teaching quality/student funding which also requires time allocation from the agents would be an interesting direction to take this

I’ve uploaded the presentation slides, and the final published paper is available here.  The full Alife XV Proceedings volume is available open-access via MIT Press.

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Paper accepted to Alife XV

I’m pleased to say that the paper I’ve been going on about now for some time, titled Job Insecurity in Academic Research Employment: An Agent-Based Model, has been accepted to Alife XV in Cancun this summer.  I’m currently working on some revisions to the paper to account for some helpful suggestions from the reviewers — as soon as the final camera-ready preprint is available I’ll post it here and the usual places (ResearchGate,, etc.).

Hope to see some of you in sunny Mexico come July 🙂

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Paper Submitted To Alife XV

I’m happy to report that I’ve recently submitted a first paper on the postdoc simulation I’ve been plugging on these pages for some time.  I’ve been working in collaboration with Nic Geard of the University of Melbourne and Ian Wood, my officemate at Teesside.

The submitted paper is titled Job Insecurity in Academic Research Employment: An Agent-Based Model.  Here’s the abstract:

This paper presents an agent-based model of fixed-term academic employment in a competitive research funding environment.  The goal of the model is to investigate the effects of job insecurity on research productivity.  Agents may be either established academics who may apply for grants, or postdoctoral researchers who are unable to apply for grants and experience hardship when reaching the end of their fixed-term contracts.  Results show that in general adding fixed-term postdocs to the system produces less total research output than adding half as many permanent academics.  An in-depth sensitivity analysis is performed across postdoc scenarios, and indicates that promoting more postdocs into permanent positions produces significant increases in research output.

The paper outlines our methodology for the model and analyses a number of different sets of scenarios.  Alongside the comparison to permanent academic hires mentioned above, we also look closely at unique aspects of the postdoc life cycle, such as the difficult transition into permanent employment and the stress induced by an impending redundancy.  For the sensitivity analysis we used a Gaussian process emulator, which allows us to gain some insight into the effects of some key model parameters.

The paper will be under review for the Alife XV conference very shortly, so I don’t want to pre-empt the conference by posting the full text here.  If — fingers crossed — it gets accepted, I’ll post a PDF as soon as it’s appropriate.  If you want a preview or are interested in collaborating on future versions of the model, please get in touch!

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Rethinking UK Research Funding

This Wednesday I’ll be traveling to Manchester for a conference titled Rethinking UK Research Funding which is part of the University of Manchester’s Policy Week 2015.  The speakers include representatives from UCEA and Research Councils UK — I hope they are prepared for rather pointed questions from the academics in the room!  The University and College Union is also supporting the conference (Michael MacNeil will be there, for those of you familiar with the union’s names and faces).

Today the blog for the conference updated with a reading list which includes a number of interesting papers.  I wrote to the organisers with two additional citations from the ‘Simulating the Social Processes of Science’ angle, in the hopes that we might gain some more interested parties on the back of this:
Modelling Academic Research Funding as a Resource Allocation Problem

Innovation Suppression and Clique Evolution in Peer-Review-Based, Competitive Research Funding Systems: An Agent-Based Model

Update: The organisers have just written to say they will add these two papers to the website as well.

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