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Simulation modelling is 50! Do we need a reality check?

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Simulation modelling is a fascinating research field. The techniques and tools of simulation modelling have been used to research and investigate the behaviour of various systems in a wide range of areas such as commerce, computer networks, defence, health, manufacturing and transportation. Indeed, the study of the use of these techniques and tools, and the development of new forms of these, are a rich source of research in their own right. Simulation modelling is about to reach the 50th anniversary of the development of GSP (General Simulation Program), the first simulation modelling language (Tocher and Owen, 1960). There have been several historical accounts of simulation modelling research. To complement these, we have performed a review of the recent history of simulation modelling. This study targeted three leading journals dedicated to this field. These are the ACM Transactions of Modeling and Computer Simulation, Simulation: Transactions of The Society for Modeling and Simulation International and Simulation Modelling Practice and Theory (formerly Simulation Practice and Theory). The study covered the first 6 years of this century (2000–2005) and included 576 papers. The key observation of this work was the relative lack of ‘real world’ involvement in simulation modelling research and an even greater lack of evidence of ‘real world’ benefit, arguably very alarming outcomes for an applied field. To further investigate this observation two additional surveys were carried out, one to study if real world papers appeared in the more widely known OR/MS literature (837 papers in 12 journals) and one to study if such papers appeared in Manufacturing and Logistics, an application area closely associated with simulation modelling (1077 papers in 10 journals). The results of these surveys confirmed our observations. We ask if this is the natural evolution of a field that has existed for half a century or an indication of a worrying problem? This paper reports on our findings and discusses whether or not simulation modelling research urgently needs to face a ‘reality check.’Journal of the Operational Research Society (2009) 60, S69–S82. doi:10.1057/jors.2008.196
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK 2: Brunel Business School, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UK 3: Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, USA 4: Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK

Publication date: 01 May 2009

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