Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Modelling and Simulation of Complex Socio-Technical Systems

Date: 30 October 2017 - 08 December 2017
Location: Wageningen


This is an advanced course which is part of the WASS graduate programme aimed at students in the MSc programmes MME, MID, MDR and MCH. It provides an overview of simulation and modelling approaches for socio-technical systems. It offers hands-on experiences with the most widely used: Agent-based modelling, Discrete event / time simulation, System dynamics. Aimed at those who want to select appropriate methods for their study. We provide the method, the student provides the case in their subfield of the life sciences. The course is dense in both abstract thinking and speed of the computer labs.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • describe their own research topic as a complex socio-technical system;
  • select which actors to include in their models;
  • evaluate the application scope of a range of analytical modelling approaches;
  • select an appropriate approach for their own case;
  • create simple models for their own case, neither too complex nor too simple.


1. Week 1-2: Lectures in design-oriented methods from the participating groups INF and ORL, using sample tutorial cases. The cases will allow to compare the methods and show their merits and limitations.

2. Week 3-6: Hands-on (small group) work on their own case, using one or two of the methods offered, depending on the case. The conscious choice of method is part of the work.

Methods used are Soft Systems Methodology, System Dynamics, Agent-based modelling, Discrete Time and Discrete Event Simulation. Methods discussed but not used in the case studies range from semi-formal (e.g. simulation games) through to highly quantitative (e.g. optimization).


50% of grade: Assessment of a final report on the models created by the student for their own case. The reports will be created by small groups of students (2-3 persons). 50% of grade: Individual participation score, to be determined in mutual consultation by the teachers based on individual performance in class.


Literature: recent texts that introduce or discuss the methods used in the course.

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