The central premise of our research is that there is a tension between the urgency of system change – in domains such as water, climate change, energy, cyber security, mobility, transport and infrastructures, humanitarian response and resilience – and the options to effect that change. This tension stems from a number of central hallmarks of modern society.
- There is a variety of players, often with conflicting interests, who are almost all interdependent;
- There is great uncertainty and an abundance of ambiguous information on the performance of both systems and actors;
- Socio-technical systems have no clear boundaries and different actors will define the system in various ways, depending on their perspective on reality;
- Parties develop conflicting moral judgements concerning the performance and governance of both systems and actors;
- The environments are extremely dynamic and disruptions increasingly affect systems which further complicates decision making and change;
- There are institutional voids where the rules and institutions lag behind the development of the systems.
The research at MAS addresses the question of how, in such an environment, decision-making, change and coordination of and in socio-technical systems happen. In doing so, we describe system processes empirically, we model and analyse systems using a variety of approaches such as system dynamics, multi-agent systems or discrete event simulation, and we design intervention arrangements to improve the systems we study. We are interested in governance issues in which a tension exists between systems and values on one hand and governance structures and mechanisms on the other.
As is inherent in the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, MAS brings together insights from the engineering sciences with insights from the humanities and the social sciences. Cooperation across the various disciplines and expertise areas is a core value at the Department, and MAS fosters a culture in which people are encouraged to work together. We have some labs at MAS, Game Lab for instance, which provide excellent opportunities to design, develop and test new approaches with the active involvement of different stakeholders.