Global Systems Science and Policy

Dum, Ralph and Johnson, Jeffrey (2017). Global Systems Science and Policy. In: Johnson, Jeffrey; Nowak, Andrzej; Ormerod, Paul; Rosewell, Bridget and Zhang, Yi-Cheng eds. Non-Equilibrium Social Science and Policy: Introduction and Essays on New and Changing Paradigms in Socio-Economic Thinking. Understanding Complex Systems. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, pp. 209–225.




The vision of Global Systems Science (GSS) is to provide scientific evidence and means to engage into a reflective dialogue to support policy-making and public action and to enable civil society to collectively engage in societal action in response to global challenges like climate change, urbanisation, or social inclusion. GSS has four elements: policy and its implementation, the science of complex systems, policy informatics, and citizen engagement. It aims to give policy makers and citizens a better understanding of the possible behaviours of complex social systems. Policy informatics helps generate and evaluate policy options with computer-based tools and the abundance of data available today. The results they generate are made accessible to everybody—policymakers, citizens—through intuitive user interfaces, animations, visual analytics, gaming, social media, and so on. Examples of Global Systems include epidemics, finance, cities, the Internet, trade systems and more. GSS addresses the question of policies having desirable outcomes, not necessarily optimal outcomes. The underpinning idea of GSS is not to precisely predict but to establish possible and desirable futures and their likelihood. Solving policy problems is a process, often needing the requirements, constraints, and lines of action to be revisited and modified, until the problem is ‘satisficed’, i.e. an acceptable compromise is found between competing objectives and constraints. Thus policy problems and their solutions coevolve much as in a design process. Policy and societal action is as much about attempts to understand objective facts as it is about the narratives that guide our actions. GSS tries to reconcile these apparently contradictory modes of operations. GSS thus provides policy makers and society guidance on their course of action rather than proposing (illusionary) optimal solutions.

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