Can we learn how systems work?

Document Type

Journal Article


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management




Boschetti, F., Yves-Hardy, P., Grigg, N., & Horwitz, P. (2011). Can we learn how systems work? . Emergence: Complexity and Organisation. , 13(4), 47-62. Available here


Insights gleaned from scientific analysis of complex problems risk being lost unless they are successfully communicated and understood by those making decisions. Traditionally scientists have focussed on the technical analysis of the problem, and have left it to others to ensure uptake and application of their work. Yet for many years now studies across a range of disciplines have pointed to some wide-reaching and fundamental barriers to wise decision-making in complex situations. These barriers have more to do with human cognition and psychology than the physical complexity of the problem at hand. We draw on this literature and recent preliminary studies to highlight the value of scientists paying more attention not only to the dynamical analysis but also to the human, organizational and cognitive dimensions of complex problems.

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