Modelling and Simulation for Social Systems

Abstracting the world in the form of models and mimicking its behaviour using simulation allows people to better understand the impacts of policy and decision making within a complex and interconnected world. Simulation models of managed systems can be used for forensic analysis, diagnostics, prediction, and learning and insight generation. 

Modelling and Simulation for Social Systems (M&S3) is a Research Initiative whose members are involved in Simulation and Modelling and Simulation Gaming for policy and decision making.

M&S3 Research Initiative lead - Dr Jonathan Moizer

Dr Jonathan Moizer is an Associate Professor in Business Operations and Strategy within the Faculty of Business. His research and consulting interests include the use of computerised simulation for both policy analysis, decision making and learning. He has particular interest in the use of system dynamics modelling as a simulation approach. 

To find out more about M&S3 contact Dr Jonathan Moizer


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Initiative aims and objectives 

The aim of M&S3 is to understand how management policies are designed and decisions taken.

Our objectives are to:

  • carry out applied and theoretical research in the fields of simulation modelling and gaming
  • increase the levels of awareness of good modelling practice within public, third sector and industry settings
  • influence how current (executives and managers) and future (students) problem owners frame thinking around management policy development and decision making.
Our diverse group prepares students for the world of policy and management decision making, consults and advises business and public bodies, and collaborates with co-researchers both nationally and internationally. We would welcome contact from individuals and organisations seeking consultancy support and advice, or collaboration on research challenges. We would also encourage enquiries from prospective doctoral students. 

M&S3 comprises two emerging themes:

1) Simulation and Modelling for Policy Evaluation and Decision Analysis, where models are built to test alternative assumptions about the world and their robustness. Applications can include problem domains where the outcomes of different interventions merit explanation.

The modelling approaches include, inter alia, system dynamics, agent based modelling, discrete event simulation, socioeconomic, econometrics, stochastic frontier analysis, and data envelopment analysis. Modelling applications would include, among other things, financial, economic, demographic, social and economic policy evaluation, and supply chain management.

2) Simulation Gaming and Gamification for Learning and Insight, where simulation games or gaming principles are used to help people learn about policy development and/or decision making within social systems. This strand of research is pedagogic (students) and andragogic (executives and managers) and seeks to measure levels of generative learning that immersive simulations can bring about.

The gaming approaches include, inter alia, system dynamics flight simulators, agent based modelling, spreadsheet based models, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Modelling applications include, among other things, economics, strategic awareness, entrepreneurship, soft skills development, and auction and latecomer strategy.

M&S3 news and events

Plymouth academics present at International Systems Dynamics Conference

Dr David Carter with support from Jonathan Moizer (Plymouth Business School) recently presented a research poster entitled ‘Direct Action or Social Nudge?​ Effective policy levers helping families select schools​’ at the 36th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society in Reykjavik, Iceland. David’s poster was based on his PhD study and was warmly received by conference delegates, particularly those working in the fields of education and social policy.

Postgraduate in national research paper contest

Nasser Al Hamar Al Kathiri, a PhD candidate in Plymouth Business School and university teacher in Oman, has won second prize in a research competition in the country for his paper Estimating Localisation-Performance Reciprocal Relationship in the Aviation Sector, the Sultanate of Oman.

The Faculty Research Paper Competition, FREPCO 2018, was run by the College of Banking and Financial Services in association with Oman’s Research Council, for national and international researchers with links to higher education institutions in Oman.

HKU Space-University of Plymouth deliver a world class performance

GLO-BUS is a strategy simulation game where groups of students compete head to head over time as companies that develop, distribute and sell wearable cameras and camera drones. Students take on the roles of directors and are responsible for charting a strategic course for their company. They have to operationalise their company strategy through decision making to attempt to secure a superior market position and higher profitability over companies in this industry (played by other student groups).

HKU Space students studying for the University of Plymouth BSc (Hons) Business Management module on Strategic Management: Theory and Practice participated in this exercise and were scored by the simulation game on a number of performance variables. By the end of the game, the following group of students: Queenie Tsang Wing Yin, Kimberly Shum Tse Sang, Ann Wu Yuet Sheung, Icy Leung Yuk Ping and Harrot Yin Chi Man simulated company was able to outperform 335 teams from 32 colleges/universities participating in the game worldwide as joint 1st in performance.

From left to right: Icy Leung Yuk Ping, Anne Wu Yuet Sheung, Harreet Yiu Chi Man, Dr Jonathan Moizer, Kimberly Shum Taz Sang, and Queenie Tsang Wing Yin.

Presentation by Milo Hendriks

On 29 May 2018, Milo Hendriks presented a short talk to the M&S3 academics.

This seminar was organised by Dr Anabela Soares and Dr Atul Mishra from the University of Plymouth as part of a series of talks from the iSPER Modelling and Simulation for Social Systems (M&S3) Research Initiative.

Milo Hendriks is the Director of Edumundo UK, a provider of online simulations used worldwide to teach students about a variety of topics: marketing, strategy, international business, finance and accounting, operations management and human resources, amongst others.

In his talk, he explained the various online based game-like simulations available for using games and implementing gamification in the classroom.

In these online simulations students manage their own companies and experience a series of challenges with regards to the various areas of business and management. They compete in groups against each other and affect each other’s results by playing the game as they co-exist in the same markets. This engages students in a real business-like environment where mistakes can cost them their competitive positioning.

He also presented other educational tools, such as the Edubook, that can be used to enhance teaching and learning. Edubooks allow you to personalise the content your students learn and include activities throughout the book, videos and other engaging elements that contribute towards students’ success. It also includes a platform that allows you to accompany students in their learning journey, checking how much they read and how many activities they completed so you can revise whatever was not initially understood.

European delegation visit Plymouth

A delegation from Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Poland visited Plymouth as part of a project aimed at inspiring young people into work.

The group attended a summit meeting with local social entrepreneurs on the morning of Saturday 26 May 2018, which looked into how young people who are not in education or work can be supported to volunteer or create their own businesses.

The meeting, held in Moments Café, part of dementia support community interest company Memory Matters South West, was the latest event in the €200,000 project Innovating Youth Work to Foster Youth Active Citizenship. The University of Plymouth is leading the UK part of the Europe-wide project, which is being paid for by Erasmus+, the European Union (EU) programme for education, training, youth and sport.

Local social entrepreneurs meet European partners

The overall aim is to give disadvantaged young people new skills, through non-formal education and training that will mean they can improve their lives and their communities through entrepreneurship, particularly social entrepreneurship. The project will also see research carried out into the attitudes of young people who may find it harder to access education or employment. These could include people with learning difficulties or disabilities, as well as migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. 

Dr Jonathan Moizer, Associate Professor in Business Operations & Strategy and the University’s project lead said: 

“We are delighted to welcome partners from the EU to our great city to find out more about some of the work going on in Plymouth, particularly around social enterprise development."

Dr Moizer, a former trustee of Gwellheans, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation charity based in Redruth, Cornwall added: 

“The project will bring young people from the UK together with those from the other countries to experience some intense training.

“We also need to find six mentors, ideally younger people who have been there and done it, so we can do a video story on each of them to help motivate others.”

The 22-month project will run until autumn 2019. Anyone who might be prepared to act as a mentor can contact the University of Plymouth team through Jonathan Moizer.

Plymouth academics organise National Systems Dynamics Conference

Dr Jonathan Moizer and David Carter, from the Faculty of Business, as members of the policy council for the UK Chapter of the System Dynamics Society, helped organise the Chapter’s annual conference recently in Cardiff University. Jonathan as Chapter President compèred the proceedings and David as Treasurer presented on his PhD involving modelling multi-agency interventions to support mental health in schools. System dynamics modelling is a growing area of social research within the Faculty, with five postgraduate researchers currently using the approach to model decision rules within areas as diverse as supply chain management and economics.

System Dynamics and Healthcare Networking Event

Tuesday 13 March, 14.00 - 16.00, Mast House, University of Plymouth, Plymouth

The University of Plymouth hosted a a System Dynamics and Healthcare Network Event for the purposes of healthcare planning and modelling. The event was organised by the UK Chapter of the System Dynamics Society, whose current President is M&S3 Lead Dr Jonathan Moizer.

Find out more about the event

Meeting in Vilnius to kick-off new Erasmus+ project 

M&S3 lead, Jonathan Moizer, attended the ‘kick-off’ meeting of the EU funded YOU ACE project in Vilnius, Lithuania. This project seeks to equip young people from disadvantaged groups across Europe with the skills necessary to become active citizens and work in entrepreneurship. Jonathan and Faculty of Business colleagues - Jonathan Lean, David Carter and Shaofeng Liu secured €43,450 for their work within the project. Plymouth will lead project activities around assessing the training needs of the young people involved in the project. A consortium of partners from five countries are working together to develop a suitable training mechanism.

To find out more about the ACE project please contact Dr Jonathan Moizer.


Partner representatives from left to right: Alessandro Gariano (Enjoy Italy); Aiste Kumponaite (JVSA, Lithuania), Piotr Juchniewicz (WSBT, Poland); Evangelia Papaioannoy (IAEAE, Greece); Jonathan Moizer (UoP); Anna Dziadkiewicz (WSBT, Poland)

From left to right: Martin Rich (Cass Business School), David Andrew (Queen Mary University of London), Jonathan Moizer (University of Plymouth), Michel Parsons (University of South Wales).

M&S3 at the Games and Simulation enhanced Learning (GSeL) Conference

The Plymouth GSeL Conference was held on 3 November 2017. Nearly 100 delegates, mostly from across UK universities, attended. Thought provoking presentations were delivered at the plenary and parallel sessions on how games can support the achievement of transformative education. M&S3 lead Jonathan Moizer was a member of the conference organising committee and also chaired a parallel stream with presentations from Martin Rich (Cass Business School) - Opportunities and Barriers to Low Cost Online Roleplaying Simulation in Leadership Education; Michel Parsons (University of South Wales) - Keeping it Real: Integrating Practitioners in a Public Relations Crisis Simulation; and David Andrew (Queen Mary University of London) - The Importance of Simplicity in Simulation Design.

Visit the conference website

Contact Jonathan Moizer for any enquiries

M&S3 members receive intermediate structural equation modelling training 

Following an introductory session in September 2017, M&S3 again invited Cardiff University's Professor Paul Bottomley, Dr Rob Angell and Dr Mark Toon, down to Plymouth to deliver a second module - this time on structural equation modelling at an intermediate level - on 15 December 2017. Participants learnt how to design models that most quality (3*/4*) journals are now asking authors for. Topics covered included: (i) multi-group analysis (moderation with a categorical variable), (ii) latent interaction effects (moderation with a continuous latent variable), and (iii) simple mediation. The course had a practical focus with AMOS programming taking centre-stage. The course was specifically for those who had taken an AMOS course before.

Professor Mike Kennedy

Using System Dynamics for Education and Pedagogy

Mike Kennedy, Visiting Professor, University of Bologna recently presented his research on the use of System Dynamics modelling in Education Policy and Pedagogy to an audience of Plymouth academics and postgraduate research students. Educational modelling is an area of research in which Mike is widely published. During questions and answers Mike was able to advise specific audience members on how to incorporate System Dynamics into their own pedagogic research. 

Modelling and Simulation for Social Science inaugural event

Tuesday 11 July, 2017

M&S3's inaugural event took place at Mast House, Plymouth in July 2017. The membership - comprising researchers at different stages of their research careers - was in full agreement on the aspiration to engage in, involve others in and disseminate good simulation and modelling practice. Presentations covered a broad range of including the importance of gamification, the impact of gamification on entrepreneurship education, macroeconomic modelling and education policy. 

Find out more about the event and the topics discussed

Academics from Cardiff University deliver Structural Equation Modelling training at Plymouth

Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) is a popular research methodology and features in many peer reviewed academic journals. A 'hands on' two day introductory course on using SEM using AMOS software was organised by Dr Jonathan Moizer (M&S3 Research Initiative Coordinator). This was delivered between 7 - 8 September to 25 University Faculty of Business academics and postgraduate research students by Cardiff University academics – Professor Bottomley, Dr Rob Angell and Dr Martin Toon (L to R in the photo).  Participants learnt how to (i) specify and test their constructs (i.e. measurement scales) and (ii) integrate latent variables into a (quasi) causal framework to test the hypothesised associative relationships between constructs.

Academics discuss new gamification app developed for teaching and research

Professor Mauro Figueiredo showcased new ERASMUS funded MILAGE LEARN+ App at iSPER MS3 event.

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