Table of Contents

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series

Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney

Though its roots in the natural sciences go back to the early 20th century, complexity theory as a scientific framework has developed most rapidly since the 1970s. Increasingly, complexity theory has been integrated into the social sciences, and this groundbreaking Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy has brought together top thinkers in complexity and policy from around the world. With contributions from Europe, North America, Brazil and China this comprehensive Handbook splits the topic into three cohesive parts: Theory and Tools, Methods and Modeling, and Application.

Chapter 10: Complexity modelling and application to policy research

Liz Johnson

Subjects: politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


The goal of this chapter is to keep complexity simple and to provide the basic theories, vocabulary, and applications of complexity science methodologies for extending and advancing policy research beyond the limitations of traditional research methods. Yet there are currently no agreed upon or rigorous definitions of complexity and what it entails (L. Johnson, 2009; Rescher, 1998). Complexity means unique things to various people within and across disciplines (L. Johnson, 2009; N. Johnson, 2009). What complexity means to the discipline of policy studies will be reviewed, as well as what it could mean in the future. To start, simple definitions of the types of systems are helpful for clarity and for developing models.

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