Eric Russell has released an early-development version of an extension for using GIS data in the NetLogo agent-based modeling environment. This is fairly large good news to a fairly small group of people. I’m one of them.
In addition to bringing raster-based data into NetLogo models (such as using USGS elevation data in this Grand Canyon model that Eric previously contributed to) the extension allows for import of vector data in the form of shapefiles. The shapefile format is openly-documented, but that still can’t have been easy to build. Assuming it works, doing so should substantially lower the barrier to integrating truly interesting real-world data into agent-based models, especially for people who don’t want to dedicate the bulk of their effort to that task.
I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t speak to stability. Installation looks to be pretty easy though. It’s very possible this will come in very handy with my pending research.
(insert routine when-will-NetLogo-go-open-source gripe here.)