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Land 2015, 4(2), 281-299; doi:10.3390/land4020281

Agent-Based Models as “Interested Amateurs”

Centre for Research in Social Simulation, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK
Academic Editors: James Millington and John Wainwright
Received: 28 January 2015 / Revised: 10 March 2015 / Accepted: 8 April 2015 / Published: 14 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Agent-Based Modelling and Landscape Change)
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Abstract

This paper proposes the use of agent-based models (ABMs) as “interested amateurs” in policy making, and uses the example of the SWAP model of soil and water conservation adoption to demonstrate the potential of this approach. Daniel Dennett suggests experts often talk past or misunderstand each other, seek to avoid offending each other or appearing ill-informed and generally err on the side of under-explaining a topic. Dennett suggests that these issues can be overcome by including “interested amateurs” in discussions between experts. In the context of land use policy debates, and policy making more generally, this paper suggests that ABMs have particular characteristics that make them excellent potential “interested amateurs” in discussions between our experts: policy stakeholders. This is demonstrated using the SWAP (Soil and Water Conservation Adoption) model, which was used with policy stakeholders in Ethiopia. The model was successful in focussing discussion, inviting criticism, dealing with sensitive topics and drawing out understanding between stakeholders. However, policy stakeholders were still hesitant about using such a tool. This paper reflects on these findings and attempts to plot a way forward for the use of ABMs as “interested amateurs” and, in the process, make clear the differences in approach to other participatory modelling efforts. View Full-Text
Keywords: agent-based models; participatory modelling; policy making; soil and water conservation; interested amateurs agent-based models; participatory modelling; policy making; soil and water conservation; interested amateurs
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Johnson, P.G. Agent-Based Models as “Interested Amateurs”. Land 2015, 4, 281-299.

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