Mapping validity and validation in modelling for interdisciplinary research

Guus ten Broeke*, Hilde Tobi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) is an interdisciplinary and dynamic modelling approach for the study of today’s global challenges. It is used for the explanation, description, and prediction of behaviours of system components and the system at large. To understand and assess the quality of research in which CAS models are designed and used, a thorough understanding of the meanings of ‘validity’ from social science research methodology and ‘validation’ from simulation modelling is needed. In this paper, we first describe the modelling process. Then, we analyse the concepts ‘validity’ and ‘validation’ as used in a set of research methodology textbooks and a set of modelling textbooks. We present one single map that integrates validity as characteristic of the model input, the modelling process, model validation, and the validity of the model built. The map is illustrated by means of one example. The terminology proposed in the map allows to describe and distinguish between the validity of primary research used for input in the model, how the quality of the modelling depends on structural and behavioural validation, and, how the assessment of the validity of the model is informed by these types of validation plus research with independent data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1613-1630
JournalQuality and Quantity
Issue number5
Early online date20 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Agent-based model
  • Generalizability
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Internal validity
  • Measurement validity
  • System dynamics


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