Category Archives: In the News

CAPS 2017 Complexity-Based Analytics and Policies for Social Good

The JPCS recently hosted CAPS 2017: Complexity-Based Analytics and Policies for Social Good Organizer.

The conference was held at The Center for Complexity in Business Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland on April 12-14, 2017.

CAPS 2017 is the first International Conference on Complexity-Based Analytics and Policies for Social Good. This is a cross-disciplinary conference for research in which the tools of Complex Systems and/or Agent Based Modeling are used to examine a wide range of policies and procedures that promote, emphasize, contribute to, improve, or otherwise positively affect social good. This scope includes new definitions and measures of social good, methodologies for tracking impacts and trends, data sets, analytical methods, actors and populations, dynamic models, or social-level analysis.



The following photos capture some of the panels and discussions held:

Jeremy Throne

Bill Rand

Chris Barrett

Gizem Bacaksizlar

Roundtable discussion

Martin Schmidt

Rob Axtell

Announcing new publication: Agent-Based Model Basics: A Guidebook & Checklist for Policy Researchers

Dr. Liz Johnson has recently published, Agent-Based Model Basics: A Guidebook & Checklist for Policy Researchers. With ABM (agent-based model simulations, researchers can observe the dynamics of agents, the collective, and the interrelating environment, in relation to policy. ABM simulations are well suited for capturing relationship connections and interaction processes from heterogeneous agents in operation during the policy process. ABMs allow for generating models and policy scenarios that can identify and show leverage points of policy drivers and policy regulators of what works and how it works in policy. Policy levers are not enacted in isolation. ABMs, if effectively applied, extend the limits of traditional input-output policy research providing insight into processes, mechanisms, and agent interactions in the mysterious policy black-box. ABMs are built based on theories, assumptions, rules, algorithms, and data. Developing an ABM starts with assumptions about agents, agent behavior, and the environment. Computer simulations then create scenarios with the capacity to reveal the dynamic consequences about the policy from the model’s assumptions. ABM is a methodology that can transcend traditional policy research, while capturing the dynamics of simple, complicated, complex and chaotic systems. This Guidebook provides an overview and a simple step-by-step “how to” use ABMs effectively in policy research.

Liz Johnson formerly worked as a news anchor, reporter, and PR specialist. She currently works with the Complex Systems Institute in Charlotte, NC. She has been conducting research and publishing on complex systems for over six years in the areas of policy, nanotechnology, human-centrism for species survival, education, sports, agent-based modeling, AI, hybrid engineering, qualitative research, and policy theory. She approaches resagentbasedearch problems combining qualitative, quantitative, network science, and agent based modeling methodologies. In addition, she teaches critical thinking and courses on complexity internationally at conferences and academic institutions. Johnson co-founded the Journal on Policy and Complex Systems and serves as the Managing Editor. She holds masters in human development/ learning and ethics/applied philosophy, as well as a doctorate in educational policy and leadership.

To purchase, visit Amazon or CreateSpace.

The JPCS at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting

The JPCS was active at the recent American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco over Labor Day.  Liz Johnson, Managing Editor, taught a short course on Complexity Applications to Policy Research.

The JPCS’ APSA group of Complexity & Public Policy also presented:   Roundtable on Complexity in Policy: The Missing Link

left to right: Paul Cairney, University of Stirling; Richard Beth, Congressional Research Service; Rober Geyer, Lancaster University
Roundtable presenters at APSA, Lucas Almeida & Liz Johnson
Roundtable presenters at APSA, Lucas Almeida & Liz Johnson

JPCS at the MESM’ 2015 GAMEON-ARABIA Conference at the Arab Open University in Bahrain on March 2-4


We are pleased to announced the Liz Johnson, Managing Editor of the Journal on Policy & Complex Systems, and Prasun Bhattacharyya are going to be offering tutorials on Understanding Complexity at MESM, the Middle Eastern Simulation and Modeling Conference in Manama, Bahrain. The tutorials are offered on Tuesday March 3, 2015.


“Understanding Complexity I: Simple Applications for Political Science and Policy Research & Theory Development

9:30 AM-1 PM

Complexity science and the study of complex systems focus on how independent parts interact with the environment, giving rise to aggregate system behavior. Complexity science allows social science researchers to move beyond the myth of isolated systems. Due to advances in computing, researchers can now account for novel and rare events, along with understanding trends and indirect impacts of system parts, whole, and interrelationships.

The goal of this session is to provide you with a basic understanding of systems and how they interact at the local and global level. Concepts like agents and how they interact with the environment in simple, complex, adaptive, and emergent systems will be presented in the form of political science and policy simulations. Sample political science and policy problems will be presented and broken down into theory and assumptions, in order to expand skills required for a successful simulation modeling. Strategies behind identifying appropriate agent types, behaviors, and attributes, along with establishing system rules, will be presented for model inclusion. The role of energy, learning, feedback, information, scaling, and fitness will be discussed in order to add to modeling dynamics.

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to better understand how to incorporate complexity theory into research and recognize the significance of pattern formation in social phenomena. Additionally, participants will be supplied with the base knowledge to move into developing agent-based models and complexity simulations for political science and policy research. An in-depth course curriculum guide will be supplied for additional information and resources on complexity.

“Understanding Complexity II: A Simple Guide to Using & Developing Agent-Based Models for Research”

1PM-5 PM

This course is a must for those who want to add to their research toolkit, the hot new analytical method of agent-based modeling from complexity science. Research questions about parts, whole, and relationships will be transformed into dynamic models of systems, in simulation form. Complex, adaptive, and simple models will be demonstrated with participants developing skills to expand models. This course includes hands-on learning, simple step-by step methods, and interactive exercises in order gain the skills for understanding, conceptualizing, creating, developing, implementing, and analyzing policy and political science simulation models. This analytical tool can be used in addition to traditional triangulation strategies, to operationalize quantitative and qualitative variables, or a combination of both into simulation.

NetLogo, a free downloadable popular programmable modeling program, will be used to develop elementary skills for direct application to political science and policy research. Participants will have the opportunity to practice the ease of changing system variables and parameters and analyze outputs. Additionally, participants will expand existing models through simple programming. The basics of how to program a new model will be presented.

Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to access NetLogo and navigate basic areas like the models library of social science, interface, information, and procedures. Additionally, participants will be capable of planning, creating, building, and reporting the basics of an agent-based model. An in-depth course curriculum guide will be supplied for additional information and modeling resources.


For more information on the panel and conference, please see:

News from Complexity Explorer

Updates from Melanie Mitchell, Program Director of Complexity Explorer:

New  Tutorials:

We are offering a new kind of educational resource:  a tutorial.  A tutorial is like a course, except that its units are relatively independent, and it does not have a start or end date, and is available indefinitely.   Anyone can enroll at any time.  The units are entirely self-paced.   There are no end-of-unit tests or grades.

We have moved our “Mathematics for Complex Systems” course into this tutorial format.   If you were enrolled in this course, you don’t have to change anything, and you won’t see much difference, except that there is a new listing on the “Online Courses” page for tutorials.

Mathematics for Complex Systems tutorial:  Upcoming units:

As those of you following it know, this tutorial is a work in progress!    We currently have two units on differential equations posted.

We are continuing to work on getting new units ready to post online.  We will be posting two new units before the end of February:  Vector and Matrix Algebra (prerequisite: High School Algebra) and Maximum Entropy Methods (prerequisites: Calculus, Basic Probability).

We will be (slowly) adding additional units to this Tutorial, as soon as they are ready.  For a more complete schedule of upcoming units, see

Upcoming courses:

We plan to offer (or re-offer) the following courses in Summer and Fall 2015:

Agent-Based Modeling in Netlogo (Uri Wilensky):  Summer 2015

Introduction to Complexity (Melanie Mitchell):  Fall 2015

Information Theory and Network Biology (Hector Zenil and Narsis Kiani): Fall 2015

Fractals and Scaling (David Feldman): Fall 2015.

Stay tuned for detailed course descriptions and dates.

News Stories:

Complexity Explorer is now featuring original news stories related to complex systems on our home page.  New stories will be posted approximately every two weeks.  Our most recent story is about Dr. Jon Wilkins, who founded the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, which studies and supports “non-traditional” research paths for non-traditional scholars.  You can read this and other stories on our news page:

Complexity Explorer Job Opening:

The Santa Fe Institute will be hiring a Program Manager for Online Education, who will manage the Complexity Explorer project.  The job description and application instructions are at   Deadline for applications is February 20, 2015.  Please forward this link to anyone you think might be interested!