Modeling and Simulation as Boundary Objects to Facilitate Interdisciplinary Research

Luis F. Luna‐Reyes Laura J. Black Weijia Ran Deborah Lines Andersen Holly Jarman George P. Richardson David F. Andersen
Nov. 12, 2018


This paper describes Group Model Building (GMB) as an effective tool to bring together teams of researchers from different disciplines in theory‐building efforts.

We propose that the simulation models, as well as other artifacts used during the modeling process, work as boundary objects useful to facilitate conversations among researchers of different disciplines, uncover insights, and build consensus on causal connections and actionable insights.

In addition to providing a more robust theoretical basis for participatory system modeling as an approach to theory development in interdisciplinary work, we describe a study using GMB that illustrates its use.

The assessment of the case suggests that system models provide interdisciplinary teams with the opportunity to combine the strengths of qualitative and quantitative approaches to express theoretical issues, using an analytical meta‐language that permits iteratively building theory and testing its internal consistency.

Moreover, the GMB process helps researchers navigate the tension between achieving interdisciplinary consensus (which often involves adding details) and building a parsimonious theory of the phenomenon under study. 

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