Tuesday, June 5, 2018

PolicySpace: agent-based modeling for public policy analysis

I've posted before about the "Humans of Simulated New York", a comprehensive agent-based model (ABM) of city life that is being led by Francis Tseng.

On a similar vein, my colleague from Ipea Bernardo Furtado has been developing the PolicySpace project, an agent-based modelling platform for public policy analysis. According to Furtado:

"PolicySpace is an agent-based model, including families, citizens, residences, businesses, markets, taxes, mobility, and municipalities, that allows “what-if” questions. It is an in silico laboratory, of extremely low relative cost. Yet, it is flexible, adaptable, that anticipates trajectories and, quantitatively, measures horizontal effects across sectors, places and times. The book reviews the literature, explains concepts, and describes the methodology. It details the model, its parameters, and the full process. It validates the proposal and illustrates with applications."

The platform allows for the ex-ante evaluation/simulation of public policy alternatives in a way that takes into account the emergent complexity of the interactions between portions of society and institutions, in space and time. PolicySpace was originally designed for the Brazilian case but it is easily adaptable to other contexts. The code is written in Python, it is open source and the full code is available on Github. The platform is also modular, so it can expanded in a flexible way to gradually incorporate different aspects considered to be relevant for a variety of policy realms. For example, Francis Tseng is further expanding the PolicySpace platform to incorporate public and private urban transportation at fine spatial scale.

Earlier this year, Bernardo published a book where he presents a literature review of ABM and where he introduces, validates and demonstrates applications of PolicySpaceThe book PDF is freely available both in English and in Portuguese.

Give Bernardo a shout if you would like to collaborate on the project, use it in your own applications or just give him some feedback.  He is co-organizing a special issue on Complexity Science and Public Policy, so some of you might be interested in that as well.

image credit: Francis Tseng and Bernardo Furtado

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