This course is discontinued

MILEN9014 – Agent-based modeling as a tool to answer complex problems: an interdisciplinary PhD course

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Computational agent-based models (ABM) have become increasingly popular in political science, economics, sociology, and biology, as well as in other fields. The purpose of an ABM is to simulate the emergence of system dynamics based on the interaction of individuals. These individuals are often humans, but they may also be animals, or simple biological organisms. ABMs are especially useful for understanding complex phenomena, for example when behavior of one actor influences the actions of others, or when there are strong feedback effects with the environment.

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to ABM, drawing on examples across the social and natural sciences. Using the free NetLogo software, students learn how to design agent-based simulation models from scratch and evaluate their output.
The course starts with a discussion of ABM principles, and proceeds with a step-by-step introduction of essential ABM building blocks and their corresponding implementation in NetLogo.
Further topics include the integration of empirical data, and the automatic execution of multiple simulation (“batch”) runs. In supervised lab sessions, students develop their own implementation of an ABM. The exercises are based on the simple NetLogo programming language, and no prior experience in programming is required.

This course is designed in an interdisciplinary way to attract PhD students coming from different fields, such as political science, economics, biology, or sociology. This will give all participants the opportunity to work on interdisciplinary problems, exchange ideas, and engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue. This setup satisfies the growing demand for young re-searchers that are able to work on the complex interaction between natural and human systems. The students will participate in group projects and work on selected assignments.

Learning outcome

The course will give a comprehensive introduction to the basic principles and the implementation of an ABM. Using the free NetLogo software, students will learn how to design agent-based simulation models from scratch and evaluate their output. The students will learn:

1. How to use agent based modeling as a tool of research in political science, political economy and biology
2. How to design and implement agent-based models in NetLogo
3. To conduct computational experiments and integrate empirical data into agent-based models
4. How to develop network models and models using spatial data (GIS).


The course is primarily intended for PhD students admitted to a program at a Norwegian University or University College, but post docs can also apply for the course.

For registration please contact the MILEN administration, see contact information below.

PhD students from other Universities than UiO must in addition apply s a visiting PhD students. Priority is given to students involved in the MILEN research school and students in the NorMer project.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

No obligatory prerequisites beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway.


This is an intensive course over five days (November 5th - 9th).

Each course day consists of a lecture part in the morning, and a lab session in the afternoon. The lecture introduces the theoretical background relevant for the day, and discusses the “Model of the Day” that will be used throughout the lecture and exercises. In an interactive demonstration, core features of the NetLogo toolkit will be introduced. In the afternoon lab sessions, students work on NetLogo exercises that deepen and extend the “Model of the Day”. The lab sessions are supervised by the instructor, and solutions to the exercises will be provided.
The course will also include lectures covered by researchers who have used agent-based models for scientific work in the field of ecology, natural resource management, environmental governance and climate change.

The participants will form small project groups and work on selected assignments after the week with lectures. A written group project report has to be submitted. A supervisor will be made available for each group assignment.

Nils B. Weidmann, Centre for the Study of Civil War, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) will be responsible for teaching ABM and the NetLogo program.

This is an intensive course over five days (November 5th - 9th).


Students are graded on their participation in group project assignments and the submitted group project report. The report is written after the week of lecturers. Students will on an individual basis present the completed assignment.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Every other autumn starting 2012


Every autumn

Week 45, November 5th. - 9th. 2012

Teaching language



UiO Energy