Comparison of empirical methods for building agent-based models in land use science

Derek T. Robinson, Daniel G. Brown, Dawn C. Parker, Pepijn Schreinemachers, Marcus Janssen, Marco Huigen, Heidi Wittmer, Nick Gotts, Panomsak Promburom, Elena Irwin, Thomas Berger, Franz Gatzweiler, Cécile Barnaud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


The use of agent-based models (ABMs) for investigating land-use science questions has been increasing dramatically over the last decade. Modelers have moved from ‘proofs of existence’ toy models to case-specific, multi-scaled, multi-actor, and data-intensive models of land-use and land-cover change. An international workshop, titled ‘Multi-Agent Modeling and Collaborative Planning—Method2Method Workshop’, was held in Bonn in 2005 in order to bring together researchers using different data collection approaches to informing agent-based models. Participants identified a typology of five approaches to empirically inform ABMs for land use science: sample surveys, participant observation, field and laboratory experiments, companion modeling, and GIS and remotely sensed data. This paper reviews these five approaches to informing ABMs, provides a corresponding case study describing the model usage of these approaches, the types of data each approach produces, the types of questions those data can answer, and an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of those data for use in an ABM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-55
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Land Use Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • Agent-based model
  • Companion modeling
  • Empirical parameterization
  • Experiments
  • Household surveys
  • Human–environment interactions
  • Participant observation
  • Spatial data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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