Abstract for:Formal Methods Using Mental Data Part I: Breaking Ground for the Path Ahead

The practice of using mental data in system dynamics is still an informal part of the methodology, leaving a gap between our theory and our formal methods. This article describes some practical and theoretical problems which this causes. It also presents a novel theoretical framework to visualize this gap and proposes that closing the gap will involve formal methods which more rigorously use mental data, and briefly describes new methods which do this. (Part II of this article presents these new methods’ purpose and design, and then applies them to a case to illustrate their practical usefulness.)  The framework synthesizes the ideas of numerous philosopher-practitioners to visualize four possible ways of seeking knowledge – scientific paradigms – and four transition zones between them. Theoretically, it is possible in system dynamics to seek knowledge from all four ways of knowing and to transition smoothly between them – in an integrative methodology. By including the stages of a system dynamics research process, the framework permits reflecting on how we used mental data, and then testing the results against requirements of scientific paradigms. This information can then be used for framing the results and the epistemological appropriateness of the process.