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Global Systems Science and Policy: an Introduction

Learn how Global Systems Science can inform and model the impact of social, economic, political and environmental policy making.

14,487 enrolled on this course

Global Systems Science: a crowd of people interacting
  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Policy seeks desired outcomes given differing priorities and constraints. But which policy options will work? Working together for better outcomes, the elements of Global Systems Science are:

  1. Policy at all levels: from individuals to the world
  2. Complex Systems Science: a new, interdisciplinary approach to modelling social and physical systems
  3. Policy informatics: data science and computational modelling for policy
  4. Citizen engagement: societal behaviour emerges bottom-up in the context of top-down policy and individual citizens must be involved

We discuss and critically evaluate GSS.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds Financial markets all around the world plunged yet again. In Rome, they made no progress on the controversial issue of biofuels. Ebola cases are now in the tens of thousands. We live in an increasingly complex, confusing, and multilayered world. Within pockets of London, there is still trouble tonight. The sheer interconnectedness of all our lives has thrown up massive challenges for policy makers. And the most controversial is that fossil fuels, like coal, to be phased out by the end of the century. But fresh thinking is allowing us to untangle complex issues and create much better models of potential outcomes of policy decisions, from worldwide to local levels. This approach is Global Systems Science.

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds Global Systems Science brings together traditional science, social sciences, mathematics, and information and communication technologies. It finds ways of combining different kinds of data to create simulations of the impact of policies.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds In this course, you will learn the key features of the Global Systems Science approach, and how it can be applied to the areas of finance, cities, the internet, climate change, and epidemics. These are all entangled systems of systems, with unclear boundaries. Those first carriers had scattered all over the world, before anyone even knew about SARS. Let’s take the case of SARS. How could the authorities best control transmission? A Global Systems Science approach brought together epidemiology, understandings of air transport, and analyses of individual behaviour to throw light on the best course of action. Now it’s standard practise to use this approach.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds In this course, case studies will help you better understand how local microdynamics interrelate with the global macrodynamics, from the bottom up and top down. But not only that, we’ll also show you how computer modelling can shed new light on policy consequences before they’re implemented.

What topics will you cover?

Global systems science has four main elements:

  • Policy problems at local and global scales
  • The transdisciplinary science of complex systems
  • Policy informatics
  • Citizen engagement

The course addresses the question of how policy makers can be confident that proposed policies will have the intended desirable outcomes and not have undesirable unintended consequences.

Social systems have multilevel dynamics and policies interact at all levels, from local to global. Complex systems science can help to formulate and design policies, and to investigate and evaluate their possible outcomes.

It does this through policy informatics, which makes its transdisciplinary theory operational through computer-based tools and new data sources enabled by information and communication technologies. These tools include computer simulation, visualisation and analytics for integrating large heterogeneous data sources.

Citizen engagement is a key feature of Global Systems Science to address the local and global instabilities that can arise when citizens are distant from the policy process. While science cannot provide solutions to all problems, Global Systems Science provides ways for citizens, policy makers and scientists to work together to address the increasingly complex problems of the modern world.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain how Global Systems Science integrates policy, complex systems science, policy informatics and citizen engagement
  • Identify a policy challenge and explain how the science of complex systems can inform policy makers addressing that challenge
  • Explain how policy informatics can be applied to policy problems
  • Suggest ways of encouraging citizen engagement in the policy making process
  • Identify classes of people involved in policy making
  • Identify how multidisciplinary teams collaborate to find solutions to complex policy problems
  • Experience participating in crowd-sourced data collection
  • Explain that policy options must be 'satisficed' rather than 'optimised'.

Who is the course for?

No prior knowledge is required for this course. It is aimed at:

  • policy makers;
  • officials in the European Commission;
  • UNESCO officials and field workers;
  • members of local, national and international charities and NGOs;
  • national and local government civil servants and politicians;
  • social scientists;
  • information and communications systems developers;
  • students with the UNESCO UniTwin Complex Systems Digital Campus;
  • or anyone interested in how new scientific approaches can support policy.

Who will you learn with?

I am Professor of Complexity Science and Design at the Open University & Deputy President of the UNESCO UniTwin Complex Systems Digital Campus. I am interested in interdisciplinary science for policy.

My background is in Physics (BS, PhD), and Applied Math (MS). I have worked on modeling reaction-diffusion and epidemic systems.

I teach Computer Science at the ISCTE-IUL - Lisbon University Institute. My research interests concern modelling complex social systems through intensive data collection and analysis.

Senior researcher at the Global Climate Forum; background: maths, focus: economic modelling for understanding green growth; involved in the Centre of Excellence for Global Systems Science (coegss.eu)

A postgraduate degree holder of Physics, with research interests in computational simulations of complex systems and intertwining it with policy and decision making.

Who developed the course?

UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus

The Complex Systems Digital Campus is an international network of individuals and institutions working together to promote research and education in complex systems science and in integrative sciences

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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