Recently, we have seen a rising interest in the study of complex systems in public administration. This paper demonstrates how specific design interventions, also referred to as ‘probes’, can be used to investigate complex systems. The value of this strategy is demonstrated by probing three open data ecosystems in the Netherlands. The probes produce a new understanding of the interrelations between underlying patterns and dynamics of open government data practices. Our research shows that probing is a promising research strategy that can produce rigorous academic knowledge on the underlying patterns and dynamics of complex systems in public administration.