Model-based Analysis and Policy Design

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

This is an introduction to System Dynamics analysis of non-linear, dynamic systems with emphasis on the relationship between system structure and behavior, and on policy design. Students learn to build, simulate and test models of social, natural, and hybrid systems, to analyze the structural causes of dynamic problems, and to develop and evaluate policies aimed at addressing such problems. The students gain a deep understanding of the intimate relationship between structure and behavior in complex, dynamic systems, i.e., how structure gives rise to behavior and how the resulting behavior may feed back to change the relative significance of the structural components of the system. This enables the students to analyze dynamic problems and to develop and evaluate policies of their own choice to resolve the problems. The students will learn how to translate qualitative and mathematical models (e.g., Adam Smith's theory of converging rewards, Robert Solow's model of economic growth, etc.) into system dynamics models, expose them to further scrutiny, and prepare them for policy design and analysis. The students also learn to distill the essence of a modeling experience and to communicate their analysis and design conclusions in the form of summary reports.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the students will be able to:

Express knowledge and understanding

  • develop reference modes of behavior for a dynamic problem;
  • formulate dynamic hypotheses that involve feedback loops to explain the reference modes of behavior;
  • translate the dynamic hypotheses into system dynamics models;
  • formulate human and physical decision rules including nonlinear relationships;
  • explain the relationship between structure and dynamic behavior in non-linear systems;
  • explain the shifts in the dominance of a system's feedback loops;
  • formulate model-based policies to tackle dynamic problems; and
  • identify and apply important and widely-used generic structures to common issues in different application areas.

Apply knowledge and understanding

  • apply their knowledge of system dynamics modeling in a series of problems that will be presented in class;
  • recognize dynamic patterns of problem behavior and the corresponding underlying structures;
  • investigate the turbulent dynamics arising from an underlying, non-linear structure by way of computer-based modeling and simulation; and
  • propose and evaluate policies to address the presented dynamic problems.

Make judgements

  • make judgements about how well a model structure contributes to the explanation of an observed or hypothesized dynamic behavior;
  • distinguish the policies that improve the system's dynamic behavior from those that deteriorate it; and
  • make policy recommendations based on the modeling and simulation results.


  • participate actively in class
  • write convincing reports of their modeling, simulation, and analysis activities;
  • explain the relationship between structure and dynamic behavior in non-linear systems;
  • distill the essence of their insights and present it in the form of system diagrams and accompanying summary explanation;

Develop learning skills

  • be equipped with relevant scientific literature in the field of system dynamics;
  • recognize materials and resources for further development as a skilled modeler, problem identifier, and a policy designer; and
  • to identify pathways for further system dynamics modeling.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
Recommended Previous Knowledge
GEO-SD302 or other adequate background in modelling
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
GEO-SD203 - 10 ects
Access to the Course
The course is open to students enrolled in the Erasmus Mundus master program and to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Bergen if they have taken GEOSD302 or another course that provides an adequate introduction to System Dynamics.
Teaching and learning methods
The course consists of live-streamed, recorded and stored lectures with active participation by students on introductory materials and assignments, and with classroom modeling and simulation activities both by lecturer and teaching assistants. Course meetings include three lectures and two labs per week over a five-week period. The exam is in the last (sixth) week of the course.
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Four homework assignments.
Forms of Assessment

7 days take home exam (100% of grade).

The exam assignment will be given in the language of instruction in the course.

The exam answer must be submitted in the same language as the exam assignment.

Grading Scale
An ECTS grade is provided to the student at the end of the course according to the A-F scale.
Assessment Semester
Reading List
The reading list will be ready before 1 July for the autumn semester and 1 Decemeber for the spring semester. 
Course Evaluation
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses
Course Administrator
The Department of Geography at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course