Over the years we've built a number of simulation models, for a variety of reasons. Broadly speaking they fall into three categories:
- Mainstream practice. Our "bread and butter" model consulting practice areas - energy, emissions, urban and regional planning - where we've done a significant amount of modelling and have accumulated a body of subject matter expertise. These models often build and innovate upon an already mature "layer" of model structure and data.
- Custom commercial. From time to time we get clients in new (to us) subject domains. In many of these cases, previous applications of modelling have been limited and therefore our work takes on a more exploratory - but still practical - flavour.
- Fun, etc.. Sometimes we'll build a model without a paying client. We might be driven by our personal research interests, or we want to demonstrate some unique capabilities of the whatIf? modelling platform. Or both.
And so we've decided to start showcasing some of these models in a more organized manner than we've done previously - we're starting a Model Profile series. Periodically, we'll chose an interesting model that we've built and describe its motivation, structure and implementation. The profiles will cover models from all three of the above categories but will give special attention to the custom commercial and fun models - which historically have had less exposure than our mainstream models. The profiles will be added to our main website, but they will be introduced here on the blog.
Without further ado, we are pleased to present the first installment of the series - a profile of the Global Systems Simulator - which belongs to the fun class of models. Ironically, the fun ends there, as the model has been developed to explore the daunting challenges of global sustainability.
Stay tuned for our next profile: the Real Property Pathway Planner - an operations research approach to reducing office space costs for large organizations.
The New York Times recently ran a piece on modelling and simulation (M&S) in their Jobs section. Somewhat oriented towards military applications — although the author does cite use of M&S across many fields — this excerpt from the article applies quite nicely to the skills required for socio-economic M&S:
Simulation “overlaps engineering, math and computer science, but it isn’t the same as any one of those,” Mr. Waite said. “The discipline is extremely ecumenical and moves gracefully from representing lots of different things in different ways, while requiring a core set of skills.”
Those skills include a facility with technology but mainly an aptitude for “conceptualizing the world,” he said. Developing a simulation requires enough native intelligence to view a problem abstractly, research the issues and tease out the myriad key elements. Then they must be incorporated into a model in which they are poked, prodded and tweaked to reach useful solutions.
The results must then be presented so that colleagues who use them — engineers, scientists and marketing staff, not to mention the suits upstairs who pay the bills — can follow. An ability to communicate is deemed essential.
If you've found this blog then you're wondering what it's about, naturally. This blog is a cyberspace placeholder for what may become a channel for our team - a channel to share thoughts on modelling, simulation and related matters.
- The whatIf? Team