Great Problems, Great Minds Seminar Series: System Thinking When Modeling Complex Systems — Covariation Mining and System Dynamics Simulation

Join the Social Sciences Colloquium at the Department of Social Sciences for this Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series event featuring guest speaker Danlin Yu, a professor of geography in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Montclair State University, who will give a presentation on “System Thinking when Modeling Complex Systems—Covariation Mining and System Dynamics Simulation.” This event is open to the public and will take place on Friday, September 22, from 3:15–4:30 p.m. over Zoom.


Complex systems often cannot be predicted from the properties of individual components when the relationships among variables are nonlinear and intricate. However, the covariation-mining technique can leverage the observable components of a complex system to discern patterns and infer the underlying relationships and dynamics, thereby providing a means to simulate and predict the system’s behavior for latent or unobservable variables. This talk explores the application of covariation-mining in simulating system dynamics with a testing algorithm. Ten-year land use land cover classification data is used to test the algorithm, producing both covariations and high-dimensional connections among components. The resultant covariations are fed into a system dynamic modeling framework and verified with observed classification data with high resemblance, which suggests that covariation mining is critical to support successful system dynamics modeling and simulative studies of complex, high-dimensional, and highly nonlinear systems.


Danlin Yu holds a Ph.D. degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, a master’s degree in geography from Lanzhou University, and a B.S. degree in geography from Changsha Electric Power University. His research focuses on geographic information analysis, urban remote sensing, cartographical design and presentation, statistical analysis, urban and regional planning, and system dynamic modeling for complex systems. He has published over 90 journal articles in high-caliber journals, such as Land Use Policy, Habitat International, and Public Health. His research has been funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Chinese National Science Foundation, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Department of Education, and the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium. He serves as the associate editor of the Journal of Urban Planning and Development.

This event is part of the Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series which explores the major problems facing humanity as we move into the heart of the twenty-first century. To see the full schedule and videos from previous events, visit the seminar series page.