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Economic and Social Research Council (1998)

Complex and Dynamic Processes

Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation vol. 1, no. 4, <http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/1/4/4.html>

To cite articles published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, please reference the above information

Received: 14-Oct-98      Published: 15-Oct-98

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Forum Editor's note: In the previous issue of JASSS, we published an item about the German research programme on Socionics. Below, we reproduce the UK's Economic and Social Research Council's Call for proposals for a "Priority Network" on the topic of "Complex and Dynamic Processes". Further details are available. Although the Call is only open to UK applicants, its focus (and, indeed, its existence) may be of wider interest. The deadline for the Call is January 11, 1999 and projects can be expected to start late in 1999.

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* Objective

There is a major opportunity to address a number of the Council's priority themes using radical approaches based on theories of complex processes, which are grounded in the development of rigorous models - whether mathematical or computational. The Research Priorities Board has decided that in view of the capacity of the UK research community for work in this area an investment may be most appropriate as a Priority Network.

* Rationale

There is no single theory of complex processes, but several theories arising from the different approaches of physics, chemistry, biology, computer simulation and mathematics. A Network in this area should draw in researchers from a range of social science disciplines which might include (but is not limited to) sociology, psychology, linguistics, social statistics and economics - and mathematicians and natural scientists so far supported by other Research Councils such as EPSRC and NERC, where such participation in projects will add value to social scientific understanding. There is very little research actually using these theories within UK social science but there is a rapidly expanding international literature. A Priority Network in this area would be expected to have clear potential for contributing to the international leading edge of research in this area, e.g. there are teams within the USA and in Germany where collaboration might be especially beneficial, and a new initiative is planned in Switzerland. The costs of UK participation in such international collaboration can be included in proposals.

Complex processes arise from the inter-relationship, inter-action and inter-connectivity of elements within a system and between a system and its environment, over time. A decision or action by any one element will affect all other related elements. That effect will not have equal or uniform impact but will vary with the status of each individual related element at that time. The status of an element will include its history, organisation and processes. Moreover, these impacts will take place dynamically within a "complex evolving system" ie where systems are able to adapt, learn and change within, or as part of, a changing environment. Change needs to be seen in terms of co-evolution with all other related systems, not as an adaptation to a separate and distinct environment.

Application and further development of theories of complex processes may challenge a number of conventional social scientific approaches, including – for example – those set out below:

Note: There is no requirement for discrete projects in the Network to address separately specific applications drawn from the examples or generic issues set out above. The Network will be assessed for its contributions to the topic as a whole – although individual projects must also be of high scientific quality.

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© Copyright Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 1998