Special Issue "Systemic and Quantitative Methods for the Analysis of Societal Threats"

A special issue of Systems (ISSN 2079-8954). This special issue belongs to the section "Systems Theory and Methodology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2022) | Viewed by 16726

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Stefano Armenia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Research, Link Campus University, 00165 Rome, Italy
2. System Dynamics Group and The Modeling & Simulation Lab, Link Campus University, 00165 Rome, Italy
3. President of SYDIC, The System Dynamics’ Society Italian Chapter, Rome, Italy
4. Policy Council Member and VP Chapters and SIGs (2019-2021) of The System Dynamics Society, Littleton, MA 01460-0542, USA
Interests: system dynamics; systems thinking; ABM; Social network Analysis; modeling and simulation; model driven architectures; BPM/BPR; economics; finance; systems analysis;operations research; public policy; public governance; policy modeling;change management; strategic decision making; Agenda 2030; SDGs; sustainability; decision support systems; smart model-based governance; project management; risk management; innovation; cyber risk; natural resources management; climate change
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. George Tsaples
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Business Administration, University of Macedonia, 546 36 Thessaloniki, Greece
Interests: system dynamics modeling; multiple-criteria decision analysis; decision analysis
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Dr. Eduardo Ferreira Franco
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Complex System Research Group & System Dynamics Group, Computer Engineering Department, Polytechnic School - University of São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-010, Brazil
Interests: software & system engineering; complex system; modeling; simulation; system dynamics; agent-based
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent years, our society has been challenged by numerous societal threats that have emerged from different sources. Many events have threatened democratic values, such as online election manipulation, radicalization, the “normalization” of extreme behavior, and the re-emergence of racist phenomena across all the spectra of social life. Additionally, other events have brought political instability, conflicts, and terrorist activities, while others are still posing significant challenges for dealing with climate change, appropriately responding to global epidemics, and sustainably managing natural resources. For example, the recent events in Afghanistan illustrate how fringe, extremist groups can still rise to prominence with blind attacks (Kabul airport), while at the same time, the world is still trying to understand how the Taliban will govern and what the consequences in the area, in terms of both the power dynamics (the power balance in the Middle East) and the exploitation and management of natural resources (oil and gas lines, rare minerals, etc.), will be.

Thus, it has become critical to design policies that mitigate these threats without producing unintended consequences for our society or planet, or infringing on fundamental human rights, which the United Nations proclaimed in 1948 in a document entitled the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights) (UDHR).

We believe that addressing and better understanding these issues could benefit from the application of systemic and quantitative methods (e.g., analytical methods, different simulation paradigms, optimization techniques, probabilistic approaches, etc.), regardless of whether such challenges are not easily quantified, are dynamic and history-dependent, are composed of many tightly coupled interdependent factors, and contain many nonlinear relationships and delays. Addressing these issues is challenging because they are often counterintuitive, as cause and effect are distant in time and space, resistant to intervention policies, and commonly characterized by trade-offs between short- and long-term impacts and goals.

Examples of such approaches are neither new nor isolated. For example, Sandberg (2000) used system dynamics to investigate the routes of democracy’s global diffusion from 1800 until 2000. Stave (2002) used simulation to illustrate how public participation in environmental decisions can be improved, while Hirsch et al. (2007) modeled how educational reform can impact society. Só et al. (2017) used a system dynamics model to investigate the vicious cycle of low human development observed in Guinea-Bissau, in which the authors found political instability and several coups among its root causes. Finally, Armenia et al. (2020) used systemic thinking and system dynamics to illustrate how racism permeates football and how it can be dealt with.

The methodology is not limited to such general societal issues; specific problems are also addressed. Armenia and Sellito (2014) asserted that quantitative methods can be used to detect acts of opinion manipulation in online forums, Armenia and Tsaples (2017) used epidemiological models to analyze how individual behavior could help or hinder the diffusion of cyberthreats, and finally, Pruyt et al. (2015) used system dynamics to help policymakers to design and test the effectiveness of policies enacted to mitigate the consequences of foreign fighters.

However, such issues are not addressed only through simulation and system dynamics. Armenia and Sellitto (2014) outlined a framework that combines simulation, network analysis, and control theory with the purpose of supporting regional impact analysis. Finally, other methodologies such as game theory have a long tradition in dealing with issues, from voting (Brams, 2008); (Kling, Kunegis, Hartmann, Strohmaier, & Staab, 2015) to designing strategies for searching communities in networks (Narayanam & Narahari, 2012).

Our society is facing severe environmental challenges that threaten our survival and endanger the future of our planet. One iconic study was published by Meadows et al. (1972), where the authors, using a computer simulation model, concluded that, without drastic changes to resource consumption patterns and due to the uncontrolled population and economic growth, the Earth would be doomed to ecological overshoot and pending disaster. Since then, several studies have explored many aspects of these environmental challenges, such as global warming, severe climate changes, water supply crises due to climate-change effects, energy transition (i.e., aiming at renewable and sustainable sources), etc.

The Special Issue is focused on applying such methods to subjects that somehow impose threats to our society, our planet, and proclaimed fundamental human rights, which can manifest in several domains. Studies that use these methods in the following areas (for example, but not limited to these) are sought:

  • Bullying;
  • The management of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources;
  • Global warming and climate change;
  • Energy transition and decarbonization;
  • Epidemics and health policies;
  • Online meddling in elections;
  • Political instability and conflicts;
  • Racism in society and racism in sports;
  • Radicalization and measures to prevent it;
  • Terrorist organizations and activities;
  • Waste management.

The methods could include but are not limited to the following:

  • Agent-based modeling;
  • Discrete events;
  • Optimization;
  • Multi-criteria decision aids;
  • Game theory;
  • Graph theory;
  • Probabilistic methods;
  • Network analysis;
  • System dynamics;
  • Hybrid approaches and combinations of all the above.

Dr. Stefano Armenia
Dr. George Tsaples
Dr. Eduardo Ferreira Franco
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Systems is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Article
Exploring the Dynamic Characteristics of Public Risk Perception and Emotional Expression during the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sina Weibo
Systems 2023, 11(1), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems11010045 - 13 Jan 2023
Viewed by 360
Abstract
(1) Background: Risk perception is a key factor in motivating people to comply with preventive behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Appropriate risk perception is important to enhance beliefs and promote emergency management response to public health events. (2) Objective: This study developed a [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Risk perception is a key factor in motivating people to comply with preventive behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Appropriate risk perception is important to enhance beliefs and promote emergency management response to public health events. (2) Objective: This study developed a public risk perception measurement method for social media data to understand the dynamic characteristics of risk perception and emotional expression during public health emergencies. (3) Methods: Utilizing text-mining techniques and deep-learning algorithms, risk perception was calculated from two dimensions (dread and unknown) as well as the emotional expression characteristics of 185,025 posts from 10 January 2020 to 20 March 2020 on Sina Weibo. We also analyzed the characteristics of risk perception at different stages of the crisis life cycle. Furthermore, drawing on arousal theory, we constructed dynamic response relationships between emotion type (angry, fearful, sad, positive, and neutral) and risk perceptions by a vector autoregressive (VAR) model. (4) Results: The results revealed that the public expresses significantly more dread words than unknown words in shaping the risk perception process. As for the characteristics of evolution, public risk perception had been at a high level since the outbreak stage, and there was a sudden increase and a gradual decrease in the level of public risk perception. We also found that there is a significant response relationship between positive emotion, angry emotion, and risk perception. (5) Conclusion: This study provides a theoretical basis for more targeted epidemic crisis interventions. It points out the need for health communication strategy makers to consider the public’s risk perception and emotional expression characteristics during public health emergencies. Full article
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Article
Long-Term Strategies for the Compatibility of the Aviation Industry with Climate Targets: An Industrial Survey and Agenda for Systems Thinkers
Systems 2022, 10(4), 90; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10040090 - 28 Jun 2022
Viewed by 1082
Abstract
Aviation is responsible for nearly 2.5% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon emissions. Despite a commitment to reduce these emissions, it is a challenging industry to decarbonise. Very little is known about the attitudes of those working in aviation towards climate change and whether [...] Read more.
Aviation is responsible for nearly 2.5% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon emissions. Despite a commitment to reduce these emissions, it is a challenging industry to decarbonise. Very little is known about the attitudes of those working in aviation towards climate change and whether they are motivated to support decarbonisation initiatives. This uncertainty highlights several threats to the industry, with cascading impact on the economy and inequality. To deal with these challenges, this study explores long-term strategies to support compatibility between the evolution of the aviation industry and climate constraints. Using surveys, in-depth interviews, and thematic analysis, this research investigates the views of professionals towards climate change, and the role that they perceive aviation plays. The results of the interviews allow the development of a system map composed of ten self-reinforcing and three balancing loops, highlighting ten leverage points to inform strategies for the industry to respond to threats. This research concludes that the aviation industry should encourage a new generation of sustainability-aware innovators to decarbonise aviation. It also concludes that collaboration both internationally and within the industry is essential, as is the need to encourage an open-minded approach to solution development. It also presents the modelling results in terms of the multilevel perspective technological transition framework and suggests ways forward for modelling using the risk–opportunity analysis. Full article
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Article
Evaluating the Impact of Institutional Improvement on Control of Corruption—A System Dynamics Approach
Systems 2022, 10(3), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10030064 - 12 May 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3076
Abstract
Political and bureaucratic corruption is a societal threat in every country. It allows organised crime to flourish, slows economic growth, increases income inequality, reduces government effectiveness, and threatens citizens’ confidence in the rule of law. This study uses a “System Dynamics model” from [...] Read more.
Political and bureaucratic corruption is a societal threat in every country. It allows organised crime to flourish, slows economic growth, increases income inequality, reduces government effectiveness, and threatens citizens’ confidence in the rule of law. This study uses a “System Dynamics model” from a framework based on econometric analysis wherein the causal relationships between the economic and governance institutions were established. The calibrated model uses the data on institutional quality from 1996 to 2020 from “the World Bank and the World Economic Forum” to project institutional quality and control corruption in the future. The control of corruption was trending downward in the nations studied. The model shows that improving institutional quality can reverse this downward trend. However, improving institutional quality and controlling corruption requires a country-specific approach. This model suggests the most efficient ways that national leaders and policymakers can improve institutional quality and thereby control corruption in their country. Full article
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Article
Exploring the Effect of Misinformation on Infectious Disease Transmission
Systems 2022, 10(2), 50; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10020050 - 15 Apr 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2027
Abstract
Vaccines are one of the safest medical interventions in history and can protect against infectious diseases and ensure important health benefits. Despite these advantages, health professionals and policymakers face significant challenges in terms of vaccine rollout, as vaccine hesitancy is a global challenge, [...] Read more.
Vaccines are one of the safest medical interventions in history and can protect against infectious diseases and ensure important health benefits. Despite these advantages, health professionals and policymakers face significant challenges in terms of vaccine rollout, as vaccine hesitancy is a global challenge, and varies greatly with context, i.e., place, time, and vaccines. The internet has rapidly become a widely used information source for health-related issues, and a medium where misinformation in relation to vaccines on social media can spread rapidly and influence many. This research models the impact of vaccine confidence on the transmission of infectious diseases. This involves two interacting contagion models, one for the disease itself, and the other for the public’s views on vaccination. Sensitivity analysis and loop impact analysis are used to explore the effects of misinformation and vaccine confidence on the spread of infectious diseases. The analysis indicates that high vaccine confidence has a reinforcing effect on vaccination levels and helps to reduce the spread of an infectious disease. The results show that higher vaccine confidence can mitigate against the impact of misinformation, and by doing so can contribute to the enhanced control of an infectious disease outbreak. Full article
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Article
Decision-Makers’ Understanding of Cyber-Security’s Systemic and Dynamic Complexity: Insights from a Board Game for Bank Managers
Systems 2022, 10(2), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10020049 - 14 Apr 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3564
Abstract
Cyber-security incidents show how difficult it is to make optimal strategic decisions in such a complex environment. Given that it is hard for researchers to observe organisations’ decision-making processes driving cyber-security strategy, we developed a board game that mimics this real-life environment and [...] Read more.
Cyber-security incidents show how difficult it is to make optimal strategic decisions in such a complex environment. Given that it is hard for researchers to observe organisations’ decision-making processes driving cyber-security strategy, we developed a board game that mimics this real-life environment and shows the challenges of decision-making. We observed cyber-security experts participating in the game. The results showed that decision-makers who performed poorly tended to employ heuristics, leading to fallacious decision approaches (overreaction strategies in place of proactive ones), and were not always aware of their poor performances. We advocate the need for decision support tools that capture this complex dynamic nature. Full article
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Communication
A Systemic Analysis of Vestigial Racism in Housing Finance
Systems 2022, 10(2), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10020048 - 11 Apr 2022
Viewed by 1607
Abstract
Systemic racism, which exists when minorities experience harmful outcomes from implicit or explicit bias, has recently been a much-discussed phenomenon. Systemic racism may exist, even though explicit bias is mostly illegal, because of structures of policy or behavior that generate deleterious outcomes. Bank [...] Read more.
Systemic racism, which exists when minorities experience harmful outcomes from implicit or explicit bias, has recently been a much-discussed phenomenon. Systemic racism may exist, even though explicit bias is mostly illegal, because of structures of policy or behavior that generate deleterious outcomes. Bank financing for housing purchase or improvement is one such structure. An overtly discriminatory policy facilitated by an agency of the United States government, “redlining” on “residential security maps” depicted supposedly high-risk lending areas in red. These historical maps have led to low housing values today in formerly redlined areas. Even though the practice has been illegal for decades, traditional lenders nowadays decline loans in those areas because they are too small to be profitable. A system dynamics model shows the systemic structure of this situation. The model simulates various policies for its solution. Robust (but expensive) policies involve subsidies to lenders or lending from governments or nonprofits. Less robust but potentially cheaper policy would require lenders to make small loans anyway. Any of these policies would help break the adverse reinforcing loop of declining housing, inability to borrow to improve the housing, and further housing decline. Full article
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Article
Can Good Government Save Us? Extending a Climate-Population Model to Include Governance and Its Effects
Systems 2022, 10(2), 37; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10020037 - 16 Mar 2022
Viewed by 1588
Abstract
Many believe good government to be essential for a nation’s progress, but, in fact, governance is a multidimensional concept with uncertain implications for economic development and global sustainability. The World Bank has tracked six country-level Worldwide Governance Indicators since 1996. Statistical regression analysis [...] Read more.
Many believe good government to be essential for a nation’s progress, but, in fact, governance is a multidimensional concept with uncertain implications for economic development and global sustainability. The World Bank has tracked six country-level Worldwide Governance Indicators since 1996. Statistical regression analysis across 150 countries identified two of these indicators, Government Effectiveness and Regulatory Quality, that consistently help to explain changes in economic growth and CO2 emissions. The regression results provided the evidence needed to incorporate the effects of governance in an existing climate-population simulation model. Policy testing of the revised model led to findings about what improved governance can and cannot do. The testing suggested that the best combination of such improvements could boost progress on emissions reduction without hindering economic development—but not enough to strongly mitigate climate change. Achieving the double goal of economic development and strong climate change mitigation would thus require some kind of extra effort that does not fall under the usual definitions of good national governance. Full article
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Article
A Systems Thinking Archetype to Understand, Analyze, and Evaluate the Evolution of International Political Crises
Systems 2022, 10(1), 18; https://doi.org/10.3390/systems10010018 - 13 Feb 2022
Viewed by 1919
Abstract
Crises are a relevant element of the modern political, economic, and social landscape. To better understand them and their potential dynamic evolution, and thus allow decision makers in turn to design more effective intervention measures, a more comprehensive understanding of their complexity is [...] Read more.
Crises are a relevant element of the modern political, economic, and social landscape. To better understand them and their potential dynamic evolution, and thus allow decision makers in turn to design more effective intervention measures, a more comprehensive understanding of their complexity is necessary. Framing a political crisis, especially one where conflicts might ensue, can be crucial for dealing with it. Consequently, there is the need to adopt a new paradigm that can reveal and contextualize the fundamental factors that can give rise to a political crisis, thus allowing for a more accurate description of it and, in turn, ensuring that every stakeholder will perceive it similarly. The present study proposes such a paradigm, to understand how a political crisis emerges, how it might evolve, and how the intertwined relevant factors can be communicated clearly, and yet be layered, which was the Systems Thinking approach. A set of case studies is presented to demonstrate the added value of such an approach. The performed analysis also draws inspiration from international relations theories, through which the Systems Thinking approach shows its capability in effectively evaluating the potentially underlying dynamics of crises and providing an analytical ground for their management and prevention. Full article
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