Research in System Dynamics

Research relating to System Dynamics at the Center for Policy Research is carried out in the context of a number of cooperating units that all work broadly within the context of the programs in Decision and Policy Sciences at the University at Albany. 

A cadre of affiliated professionals carries out research that pursues topics in a number of closely related research themes.  The Initiative for System Dynamics in the Public Sector provides consulting and training support to local, state, and federal agencies as well as NGOs operating in the public sector.  Applied work is supported by a series of academic programs that provide coursework at the undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. level. 

This program of applied and basic research is supported by the presence of the home office of the System Dynamics Society, the international professional association for system dynamics that sponsors the System Dynamics Annual Research Conference and publishes the System Dynamics Review.  The research staff in system dynamics participates in a number of regular research meetings.  Every Thursday we meet for the Decision and Policy Science Brown Bag Lunch (DAPS), the longest continuously active research brown bag on the University at Albany campus.  In addition, each semester Ph.D. students from UAlbany cooperate with their counterparts at MIT to put on the MIT-Albany Ph.D. Colloquium.

The combination of academic programs, applications, affiliated professionals, the Initiative for System Dynamics in the Public Sector, and the System Dynamics Society provides a unique research and learning environment for students and scholars.  The System Dynamics Program at the Center for Policy Research plays host to visiting scholars in the field of system dynamics who come to give lectures as well as those who stay for extended periods of time to work, conduct collaborative research and develop a better understanding about system dynamics modeling and theory.

Research Themes

Dynamic Decision Making.  Research in dynamic decision making combines the University at Albany’s strengths in system dynamics and judgment and decision making to explore the performance of human judges in decision situations where decisions at one point in time create a future set of decision situations.  This research program often relies on experimental investigations involving simulated policy environments and games.

Group Model Building.  Group model building involves teams of managers working in small face-to-face groups to collectively create dynamic simulation models that are analyzed to help create a dynamic vision for the future of their organization.  This thread of research is based on research that involves live management teams working with researchers in action-research settings.

Public Sector Applications.  Creating system dynamics models for public sector clients is the stock-in-trade of the system dynamics program at the Center for Policy Research.  Applications provide grounding for dissertation work and much of the action research published in system dynamics.  Current application areas include social services administration, traffic safety, criminal justice administration, tobacco control policies, and development of large scale information systems for networks of public agencies.

Methods for Model Analysis.  This thread of research has been dominated by a search for automated algorithms that can detect dominant feedback structure in complex dynamic systems.  This research develops and test methods based on mathematical analyses of dynamic models and can be embedded in software to support model analysis.

Security and Safety.  This emerging research thread contains studies relating to hazard mitigation and clean up efforts as well as studies of cyber-security for complex information-intensive systems.


For more information contact:

General Information: | 518-442-3865
Roberta L. Spencer, Executive Director:
Robin S. Langer, Assistant to the Executive Director: