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 co-lead – Dr Jonathan Moizer

Dr Jonathan Moizer is an Associate Professor in Business Operations and Strategy. 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. 

<p>Jonathan Moizer</p>

M&S3 Research Initiative co-lead – Dr Jonathan Lean

Dr Jonathan Lean is Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Plymouth Business School. His research interests include: simulations and games; management learning; enterprise education; entrepreneurial learning and development. He is Associate Editor for the International Journal of Management Education and an Honorary Fellow of Enterprise Educators UK.

<p>Dr Jonathan Lean</p>

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, games and gamification
  • 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

Structural Equation Modelling training delivered at Plymouth by expert team

Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) is an established research methodology which features in many peer reviewed academic journals. An interactive two day introductory course on using SEM using AMOS software was organised by Professor Sheela Agawal (PBS Research Coordinator) and Dr Jonathan Moizer (M&S3 Research Initiative Coordinator). This was delivered between 13–14 September to 15 University Faculty of Business academics and postgraduate research students by Professor Paul Bottomley (Cardiff University), Dr Rob Angell (University of Southampton) and Dr Martin Toon (Cardiff University) – 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. This was the second time that the team delivered this training.

<p>Structural Equation Modelling training delivered at Plymouth by expert team<br></p>

Entrepreneurial Intent of NEETS: a European Study

You A.C.E.! (Active Citizen in Europe) is a transnational project funded by the EU Erasmus+ Youth Key Action 2 programme. It seeks to develop the knowledge, basic and transversal skills, competences and attitudes of young people who are not in employment, training or education (NEETS) through using non-formal education methods. The University of Plymouth was one of the 5 European partners to work on the project.

As part of project research was undertaken with young people in Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the UK and Poland. The research aimed to find out what young people who are not currently in education, training or employment think about entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and active citizenship and how they might best learn about opportunities in these fields.

An online survey was administered to 1,643 young people across the 5 nations to explore issues such as attitudes to entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and active citizenship; attractiveness of entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, active citizenship and employment; experience of work and entrepreneurship; self-reported entrepreneurial abilities and preferred approaches to learning.

Findings indicated that in all countries, participants considered themselves to be active citizens. There was reasonable awareness of general entrepreneurship but a lack of understanding of social entrepreneurship. Financial and economic literacy were consistent needs across all countries with learning approaches were very diverse.

The findings were part of a training needs analysis which informed the design of a non-formal education programme targeted to NEETS which was trialled with 40 young people from across Europe. The final non-formal education programme is available as a free resource for NEETs, trainers and educators to use to promote understanding of entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and active citizenship (see

Doctorate awarded for supply chain modelling

Dr Jindu Chizea was recently awarded his doctorate for his supply chain modelling research based on his thesis entitled: ‘Downstream Automotive Supply Chain Simulation: A System Dynamics Approach to Improve Performance’. Working with several Nigerian automotive dealerships, Jindu was able to use system dynamics simulation to model a number of alternative decision rules to suggest policies that could be applied to dampen down recurrent supply chain oscillations. 

Jindu was supervised by Dr Jonathan Moizer, Dr Yi Wang and Chukwuneke Okorie.

<p>Dr Jindu Chizea <br></p>

Postgraduate wins best poster award for gamification poster

Ali Sen, a PhD candidate in Plymouth Business School and member of M&S3, has won the best poster presentation during the University Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business of Plymouth Doctoral Conference. The conference was themed 'Research that Impacts Lives, Business and Societies’ and held virtually on 3-4 June 2021. 

Ali’s poster presented his work around a motivational model of gamification for e-learning.

<p>Research that impacts lives, businesses and societies postgraduate conference image.<br></p>

M&S3 welcomes Professor Graham Winch as a new member

Graham is presently Professor Emeritus with the Plymouth Business School. Following spells in industry and pursuing his own PhD research, his lecturing career began with ten years at the Durham University Business School. He subsequently came to Plymouth, first serving as Associate Dean and then as Research Professor. He also built a successful complementary consulting career, including holding the post of Vice President of a Boston USA based strategy modelling consultancy firm, serving a number of world class clients, especially in the global petrochemical industry. 

Always interested in the research and publishing processes, he founded the journal Dynamica and served as Executive Editor of System Dynamics Review, and has assessed proposals and evaluated project outcomes for both UK and Irish university research funding bodies. Graham has a long history of supporting early career researchers and doctoral students and is keen to advise on getting research going and overcoming research challenges.

Plymouth academics help organise Online Systems Dynamics Conference 

Dr’s David Carter and Jonathan Moizer (Plymouth Business School), as members of the policy council for the UK Chapter of the System Dynamics Society, helped organise the Chapter’s annual conference recently with David working in his capacity as Treasurer and Jonathan as Past-President. Plans were to hold the conference over two days at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow in early April; but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the conference was paired back and switched to a one-day online event. Chapter members benefitted from interactive system dynamics instruction in the morning on contemporary Susceptible-Infected-Recovered pandemic modelling, viewing online posters presented by student members in between guest speaker presentations during the afternoon illustrating various system dynamics modelling applications.

System dynamics modelling is a growing area of social research within Plymouth Business School, with two PhDs in the field being recently awarded in the areas of education policy and economics. A further three postgraduate researchers are currently using the approach to model decision rules within supply chain management at the University of Plymouth. System Dynamics affords researchers the opportunity to evaluate new policy rules applied to systems exhibiting challenging dynamic behaviours while offering many insights across interacting structures, both in business and beyond.

Plymouth Social Enterprise Network Discussion

Dr Jonathan Moizer was recently invited to talk to Plymouth Social Enterprise Network about the outcomes of the Erasmus+ YouACE project, in particular the training curriculum used to support young people into social entrepreneurial careers. The meeting was held at Moments Café, Plymouth (a dementia friendly social enterprise). Members of the PSEN were encouraged by the evidence presented from the project on young people’s levels of interest & engagement in active citizenship and social entrepreneurship.

<p>Plymouth Social Enterprise Network Discussion<br></p>

Plymouth represented at the final YOU ACE project transnational meeting

Dr Jonathan Moizer recently attended the final transnational partner meeting for the Erasmus+ funded YOU ACE Project in Rome to organise the final activities on the project. Partners from Italy, Greece, Poland, Lithuania and the UK were present (see photograph). The participant evaluation of the recent non-formal entrepreneurship training programme was foremost in discussions, alongside ideas for reaching out to more young potential entrepreneurs with the training resources. 

Programme learning resources are freely available to teach or learn with via the project website.

<p>Plymouth represented at the final YOU ACE project transnational meeting<br></p>

Project sees students visit Italy to help develop innovative youth training programme.

A group of local young people, including some about to graduate from the University, has benefited from a pilot training programme in Italy thanks to an EU-funded research project. You A.C.E is a collaboration involving partners in the UK, Italy, Greece, Lithuania and Poland, with Dr’s Jonathan Moizer and David Carter from Plymouth Business School leading the UK arm. A major element of the project is the creation of a training programme to increase young people’s knowledge and skills around entrepreneurship, particularly that involving social or environmental responsibility. The group was accompanied on the week-long trip to San Nicola dell‘Alto in Italy by David, who delivered part of the course, with participants able to give feedback and help develop the programme.

<p>Modelling and Simulation</p>

European survey reveals needs of young people around starting businesses

The University of Plymouth has just published research with European partners from Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Poland which shows that young people need help spotting opportunities and mobilizing resources if they are to start successful businesses. The study also found that, despite lack of understanding of social enterprise, there was strong interest in ethical business start-ups. From a survey of over 1,500 young people aged 18 to 34 across the five countries the research found that financial literacy, valuing ideas and creating ethical and sustainable models of business were also areas for development for young people. Other findings include discovering that young people preferred to learn using creative and artistic approaches but were put off by formal classroom teaching. Online and e-learning was more favoured in the UK than in the other countries.

University of Plymouth Research Fellow, Gareth Hart, said: “This was a significant piece of research and the findings show that unemployed young people have an appetite for starting businesses but that they need targeted support."

“It is also refreshing to find out that young people are interested in ethical and sustainable business models, something that the University of Plymouth is keen to promote.”

The research was delivered by the YOU A.C.E programme, and looked into needs of young people not currently working or in education. The research is funded by Erasmus+ and a full copy of the report can be found here.

Representing Plymouth in Greece on young people and entrepreneurship

Gareth Hart, Research Fellow at Plymouth Business School (PBS), took part in an EU-funded conference in Larissa, Greece on young people and social entrepreneurship last week. Gareth presented findings from EU research into young people’s attitudes to starting a business and active citizenship. Gareth also shared information about how Plymouth is developing as a leading 'Social Enterprise City' and how the University of Plymouth has played a leading role in creating the ecosystem of support for social entrepreneurs in the city. Partners from Lithuania, Poland, Italy, Greece and the UK surveyed over 1,500 young people who are not working or in education. Key findings include that whilst having low levels of awareness of social enterprise, young people are inspired by the idea once it is explained to them. The project - YouACE - is developing a training curriculum to support young people and is funded by Erasmus+.

<p>M&amp;S3 Greece</p>

Left to right: Marcin Czyzuk, WSB Poland, Gareth Hart, University of Plymouth, Stella Ioannou, IED Greece, Maria Skoufi, IED Greece, Indre Vaicekauskaite, Lithuania.

M&S3 Researchers exhibit research at Plymouth Festival of Social Science

Dr’s Yi Wang (left), David Carter, Sachin Kumar and Jonathan Moizer presented posters on their recent research at the University of Plymouth Social Science event on the Plymouth campus on November 6.

Follow the ESRC Festival of Social Science on Twitter at #esrcfestival.

Yi exhibited his work on the application of neuro-sensory marketing; David on educational policy modelling for school choice; and Sachin on Industry 4.0 and the circular economy for sustainable supply chains.


Dr’s Yi Wang (left), David
Carter, Sachin Kumar and Jonathan Moizer


Supply chain research recognised 

Plymouth Business School Lecturer in International Supply Chain Management, Dr Haiyan Lu, has recently won the James Cooper Memorial Cup for 2018, awarded by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport for best doctorate. The cup is awarded annually for PhD research that makes an original contribution to the field of logistics and distribution. Haiyan received the cup at the Logistics Research Network (LRN) annual conference dinner, held at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, for her thesis: Investigation of sustainable supply chains implementation: A social network perspective.

<p>Dr Haiyan Lu (left) receiving her award from Professor Richard Wilding, the CILT Chairman, Cranfield University (right).<br></p>

Dr Haiyan Lu (left) receiving her award from Professor Richard Wilding, the CILT Chairman, Cranfield University (right).

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.

<p>David Carter showcasing his research poster entitled&nbsp;‘Direct Action or Social Nudge?​ Effective policy levers helping families select schools​’ at the 36th International Conference of  the System Dynamics Society in Reykjavik


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.

<p>Nasser Al Hamar Al Kathiri<br></p>

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.


</p><p>From left to right:  Icy Leung Yuk Ping, Anne Wu Yuet Sheung,
Harreet Yiu Chi Man, Dr Jonathan Moizer, Kimberly Shum Taz Sang, &amp; Queenie
Tsang Wing Yin.</p><p></p>

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.

<p>Milo Hendriks<br></p>

Milo Hendriks

<p>Milo Hendriks<br></p>

Milo Hendriks

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.

<p>Local Social Entrepreneurs meet European Partners<br></p>

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.

<p>David Carter presenting on his PhD involving modelling multi-agency interventions to support mental health in schools</p>
<p>London hospital - image courtesy of Shutterstock</p>

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.

<p>Erasmus project team meeting in Vilnius</p>

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)


Plymouth GSeL Conference - 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).<br></p>

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.

Students and equation
<p>Mike Kennedy</p>

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

<p>Dr Jonathan Lean</p>
<p>Professor Bottomley, Dr Rob Angell and Dr Martin Toon from Cardiff University</p>

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.

Read the full article

Woman at a desk using mobile phone (iphone) with laptop