Michael D. Cohen (academic)

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Michael D. Cohen
Born (1945-03-22)March 22, 1945
Sheridan, Wyoming, U.S.
Died February 2, 2013(2013-02-02) (aged 67)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Fields Organization theory
Institutions University of Michigan
Alma mater Stanford University (B.A.)
University of California, Irvine (Ph.D.)
Known for Garbage Can Model

Michael D. Cohen (22 March 1945 - 2 February 2013)[1] was the William D. Hamilton Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Information and Public Policy at the University of Michigan.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Cohen received his B.A. in History at Stanford University in 1966, and his Ph.D. in Social Science at the University of California, Irvine in 1972.[2]


Cohen's research centered on learning and adaptation within organizations in response to changing environments. He wrote many articles and books which contributed to theories of organizational decision making. Much of his work employed computer simulation.[3]

Garbage Can Model[edit]

In 1972, as a NSF-SSRC post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University, Cohen worked with James G. March and visiting professor Johan Olsen from the University of Bergen. Together they published the paper; A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice.[4] The paper, since frequently cited, describes a model which disconnects problems, solutions and decision makers from each other. This was a novel approach compared to traditional decision theory.[5] The paper includes Fortran source code to demonstrate the model.


By 1981, Cohen was working at the University of Michigan.[6]

Cohen's research and publication continued to use computers to model complex organizational behavior. In 1995 he worked with Robert Axtell, Robert Axelrod and Joshua M. Epstein and compared two agent based models; Axelrod's model with Epstein and Axtell's Sugarscape.[7]

In 2000 Cohen and Axelrod went on to publish a book on complexity in organizations: Harnessing Complexity: Organizational Implications of a Scientific Frontier.[8]

Other works[edit]

Cohen's later work included studies in organizational behavior in hospitals, with a view to improving patient care.[9] Much of this work focused on "handoffs"; the transfer of responsibility for patients from one team or department to another.[10]

Selected publications[edit]






  1. ^ "Michael D. Cohen - CV" (PDF). The Internet Archive. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 25, 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Michael D. Cohen". University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Michael D. Cohen - People - Michigan Interactive & Social Computing". University of Michigan. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Michael D.; March, James G.; Olsen, Johan P. (1972). "A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice". Administrative Science Quarterly. 17 (1): 1–25. doi:10.2307/2392088. JSTOR 2392088. 
  5. ^ "Glossary G". Economic Geography Glossary. Washington University. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Cohen, Michael D. (1982). "The Power of Parallel Thinking". Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. 2 (4): 285–306. doi:10.1016/0167-2681(81)90011-1. 
  7. ^ Axtell, Robert; Axelrod, Robert; Epstein, Joshua M.; Cohen, Michael D. (July 1995). "Aligning Simulation Models: A Case Study and Results". Santa Fe Institute Working Paper. 1 (95–07–65): 123–141. doi:10.1007/BF01299065 Also published in Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, volume 1, number 2, February, 1996, pp. 123–141.) 
  8. ^ Axelrod, Robert; Cohen, Michael D. (May 12, 2000). Harnessing Complexity: Organizational Implications of a Scientific Frontier. Free Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-684-86717-5. 
  9. ^ "Investigator Awards " Investigators And Their Projects " Investigator Details". Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "Patient Handoffs between Emergency Department and Inpatient Physicians: A Qualitative Study to Inform Standardization of Practice - Projects - Michigan Interactive &amp Social Computing". University of Michigan. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 

External links[edit]