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High-Fidelity Agent-Based Modeling to Support Prevention Decision-Making: an Open Science Approach

Wouter H. Vermeer, Justin D. Smith, Uri Wilensky & C. Hendricks Brown

Prevention Science

Preventing adverse health outcomes is complex due to the multi-level contexts and social systems in which these phenomena occur. To capture both the systemic effects, local determinants, and individual-level risks and protective factors simultaneously, the prevention field has called for adoption of system science methods in general and agent-based models (ABMs) specifically. While these models can provide unique and timely insight into the potential of prevention strategies, an ABM’s ability to do so depends strongly on its accuracy in capturing the phenomenon. Furthermore, for ABMs to be useful, they need to be accepted by and available to decision-makers and other stakeholders. These two attributes of accuracy and acceptability are key components of open science. To ensure the creation of high-fidelity models and reliability in their outcomes and consequent model-based decision-making, we present a set of recommendations for adopting and using this novel method. We recommend ways to include stakeholders throughout the modeling process, as well as ways to conduct model verification, validation, and replication. Examples from HIV and overdose prevention work illustrate how these recommendations can be applied.

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