Course in Global Systems Science and Policy: an Introduction


Program Description

Course in Global Systems Science and Policy: an Introduction


Policy is the art of achieving the desired outcome in the presence of constraints and differing priorities.

Policy is largely a coordination problem. Here data and models can help. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa did not spread worldwide because science-based policies were implemented, replacing ineffective policies such as restricting movement by closing borders.

Model policy problems with Global Systems Science

The science of epidemics is one of the successes of Global Systems Science (GSS) – an interdisciplinary approach to modelling the complex, multi-faceted and intertwined problems of the modern world. Another example is the use of network science in financial regulation dealing with many interconnected financial actors.

As its name suggests, most of those problems have a global context, but GSS addresses policy issues at all levels – from the individual to local communities to nations to regions.

Understand the four main elements of Global Systems Science

This free online course will help you understand the four main elements of Global Systems Science, and how they can work together to create a better formulated policy with better outcomes:

  1. Policy at all levels, from individuals to the world: we will begin with policy problems at global and national scales. How can these problems be tackled? How can we know which, if any, proposed policy options will work.

  2. The new, interdisciplinary approach: we will explore how the science of complex social, economic, political, biological, physical and environmental systems can inform policymakers in their work.

  3. Data science and computational modelling for policymakers: we will look at so-called “policy informatics” – the new, policy-oriented methods of modelling complex systems on computers.

  4. Citizen engagement: a central concept of GSS is that the behaviour of social systems emerges bottom-up, from the interactions of individuals and institutions, in the context of top-down policy constraints. We will explore what this means in practice – why individual citizens must be involved in decision making and policy formulation.

Because no method can provide perfect knowledge of the outcomes of policy, we will end with a critical evaluation of Global Systems Science, helping you understand its capabilities, limitations and future development.

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 policymakers 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, policymakers and scientists to work together to address the increasingly complex problems of the modern world.

What will you achieve?

  • 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 policymakers 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 'satisfied' rather than 'optimised'.

Who is the course for?

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

  • policymakers;
  • 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.
This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated February 17, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Online
Start Date
Start date
Jan. 2019
Mar. 2019
2 weeks
Part time
United Kingdom - UK Online
Start date : Jan. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Start date : Mar. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
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Jan. 2019
United Kingdom - UK Online
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Mar. 2019
United Kingdom - UK Online
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info