Emulating a System Dynamics Model with Agent-Based Models: A Methodological Case Study in Simulation of Diabetes Progression


An agent-based simulation model hierarchy emulating disease states and behaviors critical to progression of diabetes type 2 was designed and implemented in the DEVS framework. This model was built to approximately reproduce some essential findings that were previously reported for a rather complex model of diabetes progression. Our models are translations of basicelements of this previously reported system dynamics model of diabetes. The system dynamics model, which mimics diabetes progression over an aggregated US population, was disaggregated and reconstructed bottom-up at the individual (agent) level. Four levels of model complexity were defined in order to systematically evaluate which parameters are needed to mimic outputs of the system dynamics model. The four estimated models attempted to replicate stock counts representing disease states in the system dynamics model while estimating impacts of an elderliness factor, obesity factor and health-related behavioral parameters. Health-related behavior was modeled as a simple realization of the Theory of Planned Behavior, a joint function of individual attitude and diffusion of social norms that spread over each agent’s social network. Although the most complex agent-based simulation model contained 31 adjustable parameters, all models were considerably less complex than the system dynamics model which required numerous time series inputs to make its predictions. All three elaborations of the baseline model provided significantly improved fits to the output of the system dynamics model, although behavioral factors appeared to contribute more than the elderliness factor. The results illustrate a promising approach to translate complex system dynamics models into agent-based model alternatives that are both conceptually simpler and capable of capturing main effects of complex local agent-agent interactions.

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Schryver, J. , Nutaro, J. and Shankar, M. (2015) Emulating a System Dynamics Model with Agent-Based Models: A Methodological Case Study in Simulation of Diabetes Progression. Open Journal of Modelling and Simulation, 3, 196-214. doi: 10.4236/ojmsi.2015.34019.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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