Exploratory Modeling and the Use of Simulation for Policy Analysis

by Steven C. Bankes

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Abstract

This Note describes how "exploratory modeling" provides a rationale for how computer models can be fruitfully employed in support of policy studies. The goal of exploratory modeling is to construct a compelling argument illuminating the choices among policy options. Three innovations in the methodology of model construction can help exploit exploratory modeling's potential: (1) model design driven by the question being asked rather than by details of the system being studied; (2) use of multiple models rather than a single "monolithic" model; and (3) model development by a process of "selective resolution." The Note also suggests improvements to computer technology that taken together would provide support for interactive and adaptive modeling; assistance in managing the complexity of numerous models, cases, and relationships between them; and a means for portraying the results of exploratory modeling. Exploratory modeling can motivate better use of computers in support of policy analysis, provide for a better allocation of resources in dealing with the real problems, and afford some protection against fooling ourselves.

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