Technical Report: Multi-Level Modeling of Socio-Technical Systems

Report Number: Technical Report SERC-2012-TR-020-1

Report Name: Multi-Level Modeling of Socio-Technical Systems

Publication Date:  October 5, 2012


There is an enormous range of computational models and simulations for addressing a variety of analysis and design issues in complex systems. This report addresses systems where behavioral and social phenomena are significant elements of system performance. The report begins with an overview of the state of the art for multi-level modeling of such “socio-technical” systems. It then reports on an interview study of how four non-defense industries address computational modeling of complex aerospace, automotive, building equipment, and semi-conductor systems. The report concludes with several observations on the overall study of which this work was an element.

Report Number:  Technical Report SERC-2013-TR-020-2

Report Name: Multi-Level Modeling of Socio-Technical Systems – Phase 1

Publication Date:  June 6, 2013



This report presents a conceptual framework for multi-level modeling of complex sociotechnical systems, provides linkages to the historical roots and technical underpinnings of this
framework, and outlines a catalog of component models for populating multi-level models. This includes a description of the “systems movement,” a summary of philosophical underpinnings,
a review of seminal concepts, an overview of complex systems, discussion of complex adaptive systems, and contrasts of a range of systems approaches. Alternative modeling frameworks,
including multi-level modeling frameworks, problem structuring methods, and computational representations, are also addressed. A proposed framework is presented for multi-level modeling of socio-technical systems, including discussion of the phenomena typically associated with each level, as well as a wide range of models of human behavior and performance. A comparison is provided of multi-level representations of the domains of healthcare delivery, energy consumption, and military operations. An illustrative example is presented focused on counterfeit parts in the military supply chain, in terms of both the consequences of such parts and interdicting the motivations to counterfeit. Finally, a wide range of fundamental research issues underlying multi-level modeling of complex systems is summarized.

Keywords: Multi-level models, socio-technical systems, complex systems, complexity, models of human behaviors and performance, decision making