A system “…is composed of interacting parts that operate together to achieve some objective or purpose. It is intended to absorb inputs, process them in some way and produce outputs defined by goals, objectives or common purposes.” — University of Missouri at St. Louis
Complex systems “…cannot be understood by studying parts in isolation. The very essence of the system lies in the interaction between parts and the overall behavior that emerges from the interactions. The system must be analyzed as a whole.” — Northwestern University
Systems analysis is “…a systematic investigation of a real or planned system to determine the functions of the system and how they relate to each other and to any other system.” Its objective is “to provide information to … decision-makers that would sharpen their judgment and provide the basis for more informed choices.” — RAND Corporation
Argonne’s systems analysis work has been used to guide decisions on issues of national, regional, local, and global significance. Argonne is known as a center of excellence for multidisciplinary systems analysis. Our research focuses on:
- Physical Infrastructures
- Business and Market Operations
- Social and Cultural Group Interactions
- Environmental Systems
- Legal and Regulatory Structures
In its most general form, the systems analysis approach involves the generation of information for use by decision makers.
The methodology seeks to answer key questions:
- Problem Formulation: What is the problem we are trying to solve? What are the system boundaries?
- Establish Objectives and Select Criteria: What are we trying to achieve? What will we use to determine what is good or bad?
- Determine Resources and Constraints: What resources are available to us? What limitations do we face?
- Develop Alternatives: What options do we have?
- Apply Evaluation Methodology: What do the numbers show?
- Present Results to Decision Maker: What are the alternatives and how do they compare to each other?
Argonne has developed state-of-the-art tools and methodologies for conducting systems analyses, including:
- Computer simulation models to conduct “electronic experiments” on system behavior
- Decision analysis techniques to quantify objectives and risk preferences
- Information management tools to handle large volumes of data
- Agent-based modeling of complex adaptive systems
Argonne has applied its systems analysis expertise to a wide range of issues, including:
- Energy system operation and capacity expansion
- Critical infrastructure protection
- National security
- Emergency planning and response
- Consumer behavior
- Hazardous material transport
- Climate change
For more information, contact:
Decision and Information Sciences Division
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Ave., Bldg. 900
Argonne, IL 60439
E-mail Michael Samsa