GSD Blog


GSD publications: where are they and where should they be?

Steven Bishop, GSD Project Co-ordinator, was recently invited to Amsterdam by the publisher Elsevier to discuss the proposal to adapt an existing journal or start a new journal.

The background revolved around the journal ‘Chaos, Solutions and Fractals’, which started life as an interdisciplinary journal in the area of nonlinear science.

Such a background would be ideal to report activities in the area of GSD, but of late the contributions have become more ‘esoteric’ and there is an option to start a new journal in the field. Elsevier were open to new ideas in the area of complexity science and a small group of people, including Prof Bishop, put forward ideas. The views of this group are now being put forward to wider reviewers for comment.

As part of the objectives of GSD, we aim to provide as much material as possible for download on this site, to facilitate the discussion of ideas relating to the project.

However, due to copyright, not all related publications are available for download.

Therefore I would like to use this blog as an open forum to provide full listing of all publications, which include papers and articles by GSD partners, and those relating to the project.


Thoughts on the GSD Venice Workshop: Agent-Based Modeling for Sustainable Development

The first day of the workshop was largely dedicated to discussion of the main variables and determinants of the multi-agent models. In particular, it was emphasised that it is very difficult to take into account the learning curve of each agent and their corresponding behaviour, which results from such an iterative learning process.

Some experts emphasised (in particular those who develop programming code for such models) that it is difficult even to define “agent”.

The second day was largely dedicated to presenting examples of multi-agent models and explaining their key assumptions and limitations.

The third day was the most interesting for me. Dr John Finnigan, Director of the CSIRO Centre for Complex Systems Science, Canberra, Australia, delivered one of the best talks. He presented a systems’ view on key problems and drivers in our society. In particular, he linked key social, economic and environmental problems with demographic factors and climate change. Though, most of these interconnections are known to scientists and policy-makers, presenting such an integrated view was of particular interest and had a profound impact on the workshop’s participants.

Another talk, which presented particularly interesting examples on climate change implications for business, was given by Prof. Peter Hoeppe, Head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research.

There are major challenges in defining not only key factors to be included in multi-agent models, but also in defining key agents themselves. These are the major challenges that need to be overcome to allow successful applications of multi-agents models for sustainable development.

There was little discussion on why this kind of model is better than other instruments in order to identify policy options for sustainable development and/or to decision-making process.

As for me, this workshop helped to understand key characteristics of multi-agent models. So far my research has been based mostly on systems’ approach for environmental policy-making. I am interested to learn more about agent-based models’ applications for my field.

At the immediate practical level, the workshop helped in two areas. First, I have an on-going research collaboration with Julian Hunt and Steven Bishop, and this workshop helped me to get better understanding of some of their research interests and projects. In particular, I have some inputs and new thoughts for the paper that we are working on at the moment. Second, the third day of the workshop allowed me to get a more integrated view on interlinks on business, food, growing population and climate change. I have already started to use some of these ideas in my immediate research (in collaboration with Julian Hunt) on sustainable water management and climate change policies in Ghana and Uganda.

Yulia Timoshkina
Cambridge University, UK

The GSD Venice Workshop: Agent-Based Modeling for Sustainable Development, took place from 2-4 April 2009. Full details of the workshop agenda and downloadable documents are available here.


Science Beyond Fiction: Thoughts from Prague on FET09

This event celebrated 20 years of funding through the EU Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programmes. 500 people attended the meeting: they enjoyed plenary lectures, specialised lectures, posters and a large exhibition with many working demonstrations.

The main emphasis was directed towards FET funded projects in computer science and robotics, but there were also plenty of talks and discussions on the wider issues of modelling and in particular how to approach inter/multi/trans-disciplinary research.

Relating to the GSD project, I had the pleasure to meet a number of delegates to discuss GSD objectives and I was glad to spread the word about future GSD activities.

Of particular scientific interest, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi gave a talk on network models and levy flights, which is of direct relevance to the work of Alan Wilson and others on Networks. It also touched on issues of social networking, which could also be a strong contender for follow on work from the GSD project, since any policy models must take into account how social interactions can help to promote the success of alternative policies.
GSD is keen to see how simulations can be utilised to assist policy makers. In this respect the conference was extremely useful in showing some of the results that can be achieved with modern technology.

In particular Henry Markham showed how visualisations were being used in health and safety training, allowing the user to vary parameters. There were several informal discussions about the use of modelling concepts similar to those proposed in GSD for use in problems of social interaction, especially conflict modelling.

One of the most enjoyable talks was given by Philip Ball on music, particularly addressing the problem of which combination of sounds do we find appealing and why. While not specifically relevant to GSD, I have never experienced a more carefully thought out and well delivered argument.

Prof. Steven Bishop
GSD Project Coordinator
24th April 2009

FET09 took place in Prague from 21-23 April 2009 full details of the speakers and the conference programme.

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