The Theory-Practice Gap in the Evaluation of Agent-Based Social Simulations

David Enrique Anzola Pinzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Agent-based social simulations have historically been evaluated using two criteria: verification and validation. This article questions the adequacy of this dual evaluation scheme. It claims that the scheme does not conform to everyday practices of evaluation, and has, over time, fostered a theory-practice gap in the assessment of social simulations. This gap originates because the dual evaluation scheme, inherited from computer science and software engineering, on one hand, overemphasizes the technical and formal aspects of the implementation process and, on the other hand, misrepresents the connection between the conceptual and the computational model. The mismatch between evaluation theory and practice, it is suggested, might be overcome if practitioners of agent-based social simulation adopt a single criterion evaluation scheme in which: i) the technical/formal issues of the implementation process are tackled as a matter of debugging or instrument calibration, and ii) the epistemological issues surrounding the connection between conceptual and computational models are addressed as a matter of validation.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScience in Context
StatePublished - 2023


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