Monday, November 06, 2006

System Dynamics for Cheapskates

That was the title of a presentation I gave last week at the American Evaluation Association's Evaluation 2006 in Portland, Oregon, although it would have been more appropriately named System Dynamics with MCSim. There was an incredible number of great sessions at Evaluation 2006. The systems in evaluation thread was notable for its breadth, covering a broad variety of systemic approaches rather than focusing on one or a few as the only ways to work. Bob Williams is perhaps the champion of systems approaches for program evaluation, and he repeatedly emphasized the importance of multiple methodologies, not just multiple methods, for thinking effectively about the sorts of complex issues that evaluators face.

As I said in Portland, MCSim first attracted my attention because it is free software. It's kept my attention as I've used it for the past eight months because I continue to find it helps me think more effectively about the important issues surrounding problems I'm addressing.

You can see the slides of my talk; they're probably of most use for those of you who heard the presentation and would like to see them again. They go hand in hand with System Dynamics with MCSim: A Facilitated System Quick Reference, a reference card that I passed out.

Trajectory Plot, a 3-D generalization of a phase plane plot

Not surprisingly, the trajectory plot, a generalization of a phase plane plot, seemed to attract attention as a potentially useful and novel way to look at data (this example is from a simple SIR model as initially developed by Kermack and Kendrick). Perhaps more surprisingly, the stereogram of the trajectory plot, shown on page 20 of the slides, attracted attention as a useful way to visualize 3-D data in general.

I do have left-over quick reference cards, some of which I'll be using in an upcoming, related presentation. I'm willing to give away some of the remainder afterwards for free; send me an email with your address if you'd like one.


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