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Call for Paper Abstracts – Special Issue on “Advances in Causal Systems Mapping”

Dec 14, 2023 | News


For a special issue on “Advances in causal systems mapping” in the International Journal of Social Research Methodology.

Guest editors:

Alexandra S Penn (University of Surrey), Pete Barbrook-Johnson (University of Oxford), Jesús Siqueiros García (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), and Carolyn Blake (University of Glasgow)

We are guest editing a special issue on ‘Advances in causal systems mapping’ which has been tentatively accepted by the International Journal of Social Research Methodology. Please submit extended abstracts and titles for papers you would like to publish in this special issue. We envisage the issue being published in late 2024 or early 2025.


  • 31st January 2024:               Title and 2-page extended abstract due
  • 31st March 2024:                   Decision on accepted abstracts communicated to authors
  • 30th June 2024:                     Full paper for peer-review due
  • Approx July-December:       Peer review process
  • End 2024 / Early 2025:          Accepted papers to be published

Submission and process

Please submit by email your title and extended 2-page abstract to a.penn@surrey.ac.uk and peter.barbrook-johnson@ouce.ox.ac.uk

Your title and abstracts will be reviewed by the guest editors. The selected titles and abstracts will be put to the journal for final sign-off before we progress to requesting full papers by the end of June 2024.

Topic and scope

The focus of the special issue is methodological and practice-based innovations in causal systems mapping.

Systems mapping methods are increasingly being used in policy, organisations, and civil society as means to engage with societal challenges or wicked problems that span the social and natural sciences. These methods can act as boundary objects to bring together different expertise and evidence, as well as different disciplines and non-academic actors. They are a new focus of attention in how social research can impact policy and how social sciences can engage with complexity and data sciences. Recent innovations in causal systems mapping merit a compilation and reflection on the state of the art.

For this special issue, we define ‘causal systems mapping’ broadly, to include any method which uses networks of nodes and edges to represent and analyse causal relationships in systems. Examples may include, but are not restricted to: Causal Loop Diagrams, Theory of Change diagrams, Participatory Systems Mapping, Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping, Bayesian Belief Networks, and System Dynamics models.

We define methodological innovations as new approaches to the construction or analysis of causal system maps. This may include entirely novel approaches or new combinations/hybrid use of existing approaches with other systems mapping methods, or the novel integration of systems mapping methods with other research methods.

We define practice-based innovations as new examples of the use of causal system maps. This does not include case studies of standard systems mapping approaches being used on a particular topic. Rather, examples should include innovations in the use or design of mapping methods, or their analysis, visualisation, or research process, responding to the needs and context of applied projects. We encourage authors to include reflections on how maps are and can be used, and how they deliver value.

We expect a range of actors to be involved in any application of these methods, but do not wish to crudely focus on only highly participatory applications of these methods. Rather, we want to focus on innovations that have the potential for enabling more socially innovative ways of working.

Please direct any enquiries about scope and topics to a.penn@surrey.ac.uk and peter.barbrook-johnson@ouce.ox.ac.uk

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