The search for deformation mechanisms in nanocrystalline metals has profited from the use of molecular dynamics calculations. These simulations have revealed two possible mechanisms; grain boundary accommodation, and intragranular slip involving dislocation emission and absorption at grain boundaries. But the precise nature of the slip mechanism is the subject of considerable debate, and the limitations of the simulation technique need to be taken into consideration. Here we show, using molecular dynamics simulations, that the nature of slip in nanocrystalline metals cannot be described in terms of the absolute value of the stacking fault energy-a correct interpretation requires the generalized stacking fault energy curve, involving both stable and unstable stacking fault energies. The molecular dynamics technique does not at present allow for the determination of rate-limiting processes, so the use of our calculations in the interpretation of experiments has to be undertaken with care.