Do civil engineering systems need systematising? Tackling complexity – top 10 issues for civil engineering systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Civil engineering systems is crucially about promoting and developing ‘systems thinking’ to solve or
resolve civil engineering problems. The gaps between practice, theory and why things go wrong have
narrowed but there is still much to be done. Civil engineering systems thinkers have absorbed and applied
the ideas of others. But we have also developed ideas that are relevant outside of our own domain and
evidence of our influence is growing. Five examples are modelling, conceptions of uncertainty and risk, the
critical importance of the legal ‘duty of care’ and the relationship between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ systems. Ten
generic questions are discussed and tentative answers given. They include, what is the status of a model
compared to a theory? What constitutes practical rigour? Are hard and soft systems irreconcilable? What
is the nature of truth? How do we characterise and model uncertainty? Are risk and vulnerability different?
Do risks incubate or emerge?
Original languageEnglish
JournalCivil Engineering and Environmental Systems
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2013

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