A feast of new ideas: Systems Thinking in research

Joan O'Donnell
Published in
8 min readJan 1, 2023


Joan O’Donnell & Bob Williams

This blog is the first of a series of blogpost contributions outlining basic Systems Thinking concepts presented at the ADVANCE CRT Summer School that Joan and Bob helped to design in June 2022, held in Maynooth University Ireland.

‘The Systems Thinking summer school opened up little doors in my mind to paths that had been unexplored previously. It’s like an added tool to my repertoire and if I get back into old ways of thinking and get stuck, I remind myself of that door. It makes exploring topics more exciting also because it’s more of an adventure with this way of thinking’. Ashley Sheil, PhD Scholar, Maynooth University

The ADVANCE CRT Summer School focusing on Systems Thinking marked the largest and most ambitious event of the Science Foundation of Ireland PhD programme to date. It brought over 60 students and supervisors together for four days in a memorable event that was as much a celebration of being together in physical space as an opportunity to delve deeply into the richness that Systems Thinking offers research.

This introductory blog gives an overview of Systems Thinking and a sense of its importance for transdisciplinary research. It also outlines some of the topics that students experienced during that week.

Overview of Systems Thinking

Systems Thinking is a transdisciplinary field with many influences including biology, mathematics…