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From Bergen to Global: UiB’s System Dynamics Group

From Bergen to Global: UiB’s System Dynamics Group

The System Dynamics Group, an autonomous research group at the University of Bergen (UiB) was established in 1971 by professor emeritus Svein Nordbotten. Inspired by the work of Jay W. Forrester, Nordbotten taught a course called Cybernetics and System Dynamics at UiB and collaborated with other scientists at the Christian Michelsen Institute. That motivated several graduate students to write theses using the SD methodology. Years later, a former student (and now professor emeritus), Pål Davidsen went to MIT as a Visiting Scholar and worked with Forrester and other prominent system dynamicists on several projects. Not long after returning to Bergen, Davidsen was asked by the university president to establish an international Master’s and Ph.D. program in System Dynamics, and the first students enrolled in the fall semester of 1995.

 The System Dynamics Group at UiB has since grown into the European hub for System Dynamics, hosting several visiting scholars and Ph.D. students each year. The group, chaired by Professor Birgit Kopainsky, is presently made up of three faculty members, several doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, research assistants, and a sizeable cohort of master’s students. Specializing in System Dynamics modeling, the group is involved in numerous research projects related to sustainability and climate change adaption, common pool resource management, socioecological development and justice, and public health policy analysis.


Master’s in System Dynamics

The System Dynamics Group offers a two-year master’s degree program. It is the most extensive master’s program in the world for System Dynamics and is taught entirely in English. Over the two years, students are provided with the tools and knowledge required to become competent system dynamicists. With an emphasis on quantitative simulation modeling, our courses are designed to train students to diagnose dynamic social problems, build explanatory system dynamics models, derive dynamics of the system by way of simulation, and analyze the system’s performance for policy development. This program focuses on System Dynamics methodology, which is domain agnostic, allowing students from virtually any disciplinary background to be admitted. The master’s program is tuition-free for Norwegian and EU students. As of 2023, non-EU students have to pay tuition fees to the University. 

Additionally, we jointly founded the European Master Program in System Dynamics (EMSD) in 2010 with Radboud University in the Netherlands, the University of Palermo in Italy, and the New University of Lisbon in Portugal. EMSD students begin their studies in Bergen with us, where they are introduced to quantitative modelling in the first semester. In the second and third semesters, they move on to partner universities. They have the option to return to Bergen to write their theses in the final semester. Students pay tuition fees to each university they are enrolled in.

The System Dynamics Group at UiB has been a proud sponsor of the System Dynamics Society and the International System Dynamics Conference (ISDC) over the years. We have been program chairs several times, the organizing chair for ISDC 2000 and 2020 and we will organize the next ISDC 2024 in Bergen.

Each year, a sizeable number of our students and faculty participate and present their work at the conference. High-quality work from our staff and Master’s students has been recognized by the System Dynamics Society with numerous awards. Most recently, Pei Shan Loo was awarded the Lupina Young Researchers Award and Ismay Bax received Honorable Mention for the Dana Meadows Award in ISDC 2022. Our students have also been selected as Plenary Speakers for the Student-Organized Colloquium for their outstanding work: Mahla Rashidan (2021 & 2022), Ismay Bax (2022), and Anna Siemer (2023). Congratulations to our students! We are committed to continue nurturing future talent within the System Dynamics community. 

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