Community Events

ESSA Summer School in Social Simulation

The European Social Simulation Association’s official 2023 Summer School will be held at The James Hutton Institute’s Craigiebuckler campus in Aberdeen, Scotland in the week before the Social Simulation Conference in Glasgow.

The theme for the summer school is ‘Agent-Based Modelling for Wicked Problems’.


The introductory course is aimed at postgraduate students, early career researchers and analysts from academia, industry and policy, regardless of disciplinary background or specialism. No prior experience with agent-based modelling is required.

We will accept a maximum of 30 participants, who will work in small teams as part of the training, though individual exercises will also feature in the course. Working in teams is an important part of the training for agent-based modelling – it is an inherently interdisciplinary exercise drawing on diverse knowledge and experience.

Course organizers and lecturers

The course will be led by an experienced team of researchers who use agent-based models in their daily activities.

  • Gary Polhill has twenty-five years of experience working on agent-based models, and was the President of the European Social Simulation association from 2016-2020.
  • Matt Hare has extensive experience in academia and as a consultant on participatory modelling for environmental resource management.
  • Doug Salt has a background in industry as a professional computer scientist, and joined The James Hutton Institute in 2016 to work on agent-based modelling, after a Ph. D. on ontologies.
  • Nick Roxburgh has been developing agent-based models for a decade, working on projects around the world relating to agriculture, water, sanitation, and stressors.

Guest lecturers

The course will include lectures from leading researchers in agent-based modelling, demonstrating their work and the diversity of applications of the approach.

  • Nanda Wijermans (Associate Professor in Data Science, Stockholm University) is an interdisciplinary researcher who uses agent-based social simulation to explore the dynamics of human behaviour in its cognitive, social and biophysical contexts, particularly in social dilemmas.
  • Kavin Narasimhan (ESRC Policy Fellow, University of Surrey and Advanced Research Fellow and Data Scientist, Imperial College London) is an interdisciplinary researcher who works in the science-policy interface, interested in developing and applying computational models and communicating results for decision-making in Government and Industry.

Course Theme – Agent-Based Modelling for Wicked Problems

Rittel and Webber (1973) are generally credited with articulating why some problems are ‘wicked’ – not amenable to wholly rational solution and optimization. The reasons they give for such problems existing include: contested specification of the problem in the first place (including even agreeing that there is a problem); unique features of any particular situation seemingly mattering enough that they cannot be ignored or generalized away; and cascading waves of consequences from any implemented solution that also mean it is hard to experiment with proposals to test their effectiveness. Such issues are common to the challenges we face today around Net Zero, Just Transition, Circular Economy, Food Security, Energy Security, Migration, Epidemiology, and halting Biodiversity Loss.

In our own work at The James Hutton Institute, we have been looking in to how wickedness, and a related issue, complexity, affects our ability to make predictions, and how agent-based simulation can be seen as a tool to augment human cognition when deciding what to do.


The course is taught in English. No experience with agent-based modelling is assumed, nor is there a requirement to have had any programming experience. You will need to have a laptop with you, on which you have permission to install software. You can install the software in advance if you need to do so with your organization’s IT support. If this is a problem, we may be able to arrange a temporary laptop for you to use during the course.


The cost of the course is £500 for registered students; £600 otherwise. Lunches and two evening meals are included.


The Summer School in Social Simulation is sponsored by the European Social Simulation Association.

Reserve your place

To apply to attend the Summer School, please complete an application form. Though the final deadline for applications is 28 July 2023, we would appreciate receiving applications before 1 June 2023 to help with logistics.

You will be invoiced separately if your application is successful. You can cancel, with a full refund if you have paid, any time before 1 June; cancellations from 1 June to 1 August will get a 50% refund. After 1 August, no refund will be given.

Informal inquiries about the summer school can be sent to [email protected]


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