thinking about research questions

Succinct discussion of framing research questions…


I’ve been asked a few times to post about research questions. My response up to now has been that there is already a lot out there on the topic and I’m not sure what I could add. But of course that’s a bit of a cop-out. So I’ve been thinking about what people get stuck on when developing their questions. And this week, as a bit of a break from blogging the conferences I’m at, I thought I’d have a go at research questions. As it’s also the time of year when people are starting doctorates, or taking on new doctoral researchers and/or writing bids, maybe my timing is right!

I reckon it’s pretty helpful to understand and use the fact that there are are different kinds of research questions. They’re not all the same. Questions can do different things. Let me explain… You can investigate a topic using a…

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Scalability – not generalizability – of findings is what distinguishes truly valuable health systems research

A lesson for policymakers searching for a one-size fits all solution…

Strengthening Health Systems

It may be stating the obvious to say it, but health systems are context-specific. Every country’s system is a hotch-potch of features. Some created by deliberate decisions; some stop gap-turned-permanent solutions; and many organic arrangements that have grown to fill gaps, with interesting arrays of unintended effects.

These systems usually have similar goals – to deliver effective, impactful health care equitably and accessibly – but the ways those goals are achieved are necessarily idiosyncratic. More often than not, it is the approach to implementation that determines eventual outcomes, rather than the intervention itself.

For these reasons, research that focuses on finding the “right” way to organise a health system by comparing settings is intellectually interesting but not necessarily directly useful for policy or programme design. There are many lessons that can be learnt by looking at the experiences of countries with common features, but aiming for generalizable conclusions often means…

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Melanie Mitchell Introduction to Complexity online course starting March 31

Dear friends and colleagues,

Please let your students and colleagues know about Santa Fe Institute’s free online course, Introduction to Complexity, which I teach at  The course has no prerequisites and is open to anyone with an interest in complex systems.  The course is free of charge.
The next offering starts on Monday, March 31, and people can enroll anytime during the course.  Some reviews from past students can be seen here.    
If you haven’t already seen our site, please check out our “Explorer” section, which may be useful to you as a teacher or researcher in complex systems.  
I encourage you to forward this to anyone you think will be interested.  Thanks for your help in getting the word out about our courses.    
All the best,
Melanie Mitchell
Professor, Portland State University and Santa Fe Institute

New! Journal of Policy and Complex Systems (JPCS)

The Journal of Policy and Complex Systems (JPCS) has published its inaugural issue. The JCPS aims to promote professional and public understanding of the relationship between policy studies and complex systems thinking, evolving greater understanding and engagement. Through its publication, JPCS hopes to establish a venue for reporting results of exploring, developing, and evaluating policies using cutting edge computational approaches to policy research, including complexity theory, agent-based modeling/simulation, chaos theory, fractals, dynamical systems, and the science of networks. It also aims to establish a repository of data and systems developed through research efforts reported in the journal. It is the hope of the journal and all of those involved in its publication, to bring together a community of multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary scholars to address common societal concerns, including social scientists, natural scientists, computational scientists, humanists, policy analysts, public administrators, and policy makers.

The first issue can be found at:

Mirsad Hadzikadic, Ph.D.
Editor in Chief, Journal of Policy and Complex Systems
Professor, Department of Software and Information Systems
Director, Complex Systems Institute
Faculty Director, Health Informatics Professional Science Master’s
Director, Data Science and Business Analytics Professional Science Master’s
UNC Charlotte/SSST Program Director
College of Computing and Informatics / The Graduate School
343-A Woodward Hall
UNC Charlotte
Charlotte, NC 28223<;

Blog Roll added to Orgcomplexity

As you will see, I have a new blog roll for the new year. It includes: personal health and policy related blogs, think tanks of all sides (left/right/nonpartisan), systems associations, health policy academic sites, anything that tickles my fancy…Let me know if I missed some biggies. My space is limited however…