Skip navigation

Pardee Logo International Futures at the Pardee Center

International Futures Help System

Parameter Types

Parameters are numbers that determine relationships among variables in the equations of IFs. You often set parameters to a single value across time and they therefore do not always "vary" as do "real" variables. Many parameters are "policy handles." More generally, parameters can actually be thought of as a special type of variable, the value of which you set in order to determine the behavior of the model. See the IFs project document called Guide to Scenario Analysis for much more information on parameter types and especially on the important parameters of IFs, organized by the models of the IFs system.

Multipliers: They have a normal value of 1, and to increase whatever they multiply (say agricultural yield) by 50 percent you increase the parameter to 1.5. To decrease it by 25 percent you would decrease the multiplier parameter to 0.75. You will almost always spread such changes out over time, keeping the multiplier's value at 1 in the base year and gradually increasing or decreasing it over a period of years. You should almost never change a multiplier in the initial year because the model is set up to provide accurate results for that year and will compensate for and thereby offset your change. For instance, if you set a multiplier on agricultural production equal to 1.5 for the first year and all years thereafter, you might find that the results were no different than in the base case. You must instead gradually introduce your change, preserving the multiplier value of "1" in the initial year. Examples of multipliers include: agdemm, enpm, freedomm, mortm, protecm, qem, rdm, resorm, tfrm, and ylm. Note that multipliers typically end with the letter "m".

Additive Factors: Most have a normal value of 0, thereby leaving that to which you add them unchanged. How much you would add to achieve a 50 percent increase might depend on the amount to which you added it to. Some additive parameters are, however, applied multiplicatively to the quantity they modify (that is, 1 plus the parameter is multiplied times the quantity), thereby scaling the parameter. In that case, the base or normal value of the parameter will be zero, but one can achieve a 50 percent increase in the quantity modified with a value of 0.5 and a 50 percent decrease with -0.5. You will very seldom want to change the base year value of additive parameters because it will either incorrectly change model results in the base year or, more likely, will result in model compensation to protect initial model results. An example of an additive parameter is: xshift (export shift as result of promotion of exports). Although early versions of IFs used additive factors and multipliers with comparable frequency, most additive factors have been replaced by multipliers to standardize most parameter changes.

Exponents: For instance, many "elasticities" raise something to a power. For these parameters the "normal value" will vary greatly, but they will most often fall between -2 and 2, with many clustering around 0. In most cases it will make sense to change these parameters for all years including the first - generally the model will not use them in the first year and they will affect results only in subsequent years. Elasticities in IFs include: elass and engel.

Reactivities: These are factors that relate growth in one process to growth in another. Although many will range between -2 and 2 (with 0 eliminating linkage of the processes), some have very large values. They are very much like elasticities, but the formulations that use them do not have exponential form. Reactivities include: cdmf, cpowdf, cwarf, nwarf, and reac.

Growth Rates: It is possible to force some processes to grow at specified rates. More commonly, the specified rates serve as targets and the dynamics of the model often shift actual growth rates somewhat, necessitating experimentation with targets to achieve a desired growth. Examples include: eprodr and tgrld.

Allocating Coefficients: Coefficients are often used in multiplicative relationships with other variables, but many such coefficients are not what were earlier called multipliers (with a base value of 1). Instead they can serve an allocating role. For instance, you can use parameters to allocate governmental spending to health, education, and the military. Allocating coefficients frequently have values between 0 and 1. Again, you should generally not change these parameters in the initial year because the model will often compensate for changed values in the first year. Instead, change them by series over time. Allocating coefficients in IFs include: aidlp, carabr, drcpow, drnpow, nmilf, and rfssh.

Transforming Coefficients: Some coefficients transform units of variables or link variables in other ways. Examples in IFs are: carfuel1, carfuel2, and carfuel3.

Switches: These parameters turn something on or off. They generally take on values of 1 (on) or 0 (off), but can have additional settings. For instance, some switches not only turn on some process, but set a key value within it (like the level of energy exports). Switches are most often on or off for the entire run, but it sometimes makes sense to "throw a switch" in the middle of a run. Switches allow you to fundamentally alter the structure of a model. Switches include: actreaon, agon, ally, enon, enprix, and squeez.

Variables: This category should technically not be called parameters at all. They could and would be computed endogenously, if the model included the appropriate theoretical structure. They generally do not determine the interaction of other variables. Such variables include: AQUACUL and EDPRIPTR.

Initial Conditions: Again, these are not strictly parameters, but rather first-year values for variables subsequently computed by the model. Although many initial conditions, like the population (POP) of the U.S., are sufficiently well-known that they should not be changed by model users, others, like the ultimate availability of oil and gas resources are only reasonable guesses. Thus users should feel free to change some initial conditions based on new data or even simply to test the implications. This category includes a great many variables, such as: AIDSDTHS and RESER.

The focus here is on exogenous parameters only - on those elements of the model that you can change. Many computed variables are used in the computation of other variables in the same way that parameters are, as multipliers, additive factors, coefficients, and so on. You can display those, but unlike true parameters, you cannot change them.