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Summer school

ESSA Summer School in Social Simulation: "Models in the real world"

Welcome to the 9th ESSA Summer School in Social Simulation, arranged by Linnaeus University and held in Växjö, Sweden, in August 2018. The theme chosen is Models in the real world.

Photo: Mats Samuelsson

The 9th ESSA Summer School in Social Simulation is organised by the Linnaeus University Centre for Data Intensive Sciences and Applications and takes place in Växjö, Sweden, on August 13-17, 2018.


The summer school is primarily intended for PhD students and other young researchers from within and outside academia. The school is open to all who are interested in the method, regardless of their discipline and specialisation. We actively seek cross-fertilisation between research fields and between academia and other organisations.

A maximum of 30 participants will be accepted. They will work in small teams. Each team will have the task to deliver by the end of the week a working ABM that tackles a specific research question identified at the beginning of the summer school.

This year's theme

The theme chosen for the 9th ESSA summer school is Models in the real world. The focus will be on linking ABMs with empirical data and building cognitively sound agents' decisions and behaviours. While "first generation" ABMs often were highly abstract and only presented vague analogies with specific aspects of the social and natural world, one of the most crucial challenges for social simulation today is to find robust and well controlled evidence of the model micro-foundations – to set the agents' characteristics, behaviour and interaction networks, etc – and to clearly validate the resulting model against empirical data. Various kind of data can be used for both purposes – qualitative, survey, experimental, big data, etc – each posing specific challenges to the modeller.

Besides practically introducing the use of ABMs, the ESSA Summer School will address questions such as why it is important to use empirical data when doing social simulation, which kind of data better suits the various objective(s) that models have, and how to overcome the most common obstacles facing a more systematic use of data in simulation models.

Guest speakers

  • Olivier Barreteau (IRSTEA, Montpelier, FR): Qualitative data and participatory modelling
  • Wander Jager (Groningen U, Groningen, NL): Agents' cognition
  • Matthias Meyer (Hamburg U of Technology, Hamburg, Germany: Model validation and experiments
  • Davide Natalini (Anglia Ruskin U, Cambridge, UK): Complex systems + group work
  • Gary Polhill (James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, UK): Survey data in ABMs
  • Nanda Wijermans (Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm, Sweden): Modelling social- ecological systems

Local speakers

Learning strategy

At the application, participants should submit a short statement of intent including a small proposal of what they would like to work on during the summer school. These documents will be used to select a few research questions that will be developed into actual models during the summer school week. Students will hence execute a full research cycle using agent-based modelling. This includes the following steps:

  • pinpoint a simplified research question of interest
  • create a simulation in Netlogo able to answer to the research question
  • do a sensitivity analysis and elementary validation of the developed ABM
  • present the results of the work to the other students and the speakers

Each morning during the school will be spent on presentations. These will be a mixture of talks by reputed speakers to place agent-based modelling in a wider context, and of more practical lectures about using data to inform ABMs. The afternoons will focus on learning the NetLogo programming language and working on the team projects. A mix of social activities is foreseen for the evenings.


The summer school will be held at the Evedals värdshus, located in a nice natural area 6 km from the centre of Växjö with good cycling and bus connections. The Evedal area offers many touristic and recreational opportunities, including a nice lake beach, hiking, canoeing, horse riding, and visiting the historical ruins of the Kronoberg castle.

Lodging for most participants will be at the Evedal's hostel, which is located 50 m from the venue and 50 m from the beach and related facilities.


The local Växjö Småland airport is connected by daily flights with Amsterdam (KLM) and Stockholm-Bromma (BRA). Other direct connections – only flying a few days in the week – include Düsseldorf/Weeze and Alicante (Ryanair), Berlin (BRA), and Prague (Czech Airlines).

From many places, flying to the Copenhagen international airport is the most convenient way to reach Växjö. Direct trains leave every hour from the airport and the trip takes approximately 2 h 20 min.

Application and fees

The summer school fees are 650 Euro (single room) or 550 Euro (double room) VAT not included. Fees cover the school activities, lunches and coffee breaks, lodging and breakfasts at the Evedal's hostel.

Click here to apply for the summer school.

Related activities

The 2018 Social Simulation Conference will be held in Stockholm August 20-24th. Stockholm is easy to reach by train from Växjö and offers plenty of touristic opportunities for the weekend between the two events.


The summer school is organised by the Linnaeus University Centre for Data Intensive Sciences and Applications.