Complex systems science changes the way we think about science and its role in society. It goes beyond the traditional, reductionist approach of focusing on the parts of a system, to integrating the network of relationships within and between systems. These relationships produce the "emergent" behaviors we see in all physical, biological, social, economic and technological systems. This approach allows researchers to address questions once considered to be outside the reach of science, including human behavior, social interactions and the consequences of policies and decisions of our society.

The New England Complex Systems Institute is at the forefront of this field. We develop novel mathematical approaches and apply them to issues important to science and society, such as preserving biodiversity, understanding the origins of altruism, improving the healthcare system, and preventing ethnic violence or economic crises. We combine a quantitative foundation in physics, computer science and mathematics with computer simulations and high dimensional data analysis to describe real world patterns of behavior. We model the evolution of complex systems and how they can best achieve their goals.

Through its research, NECSI is expanding the boundaries of knowledge and reframing social problems as scientific ones.

Teams: A Manifesto

Society is facing a new and unprecedented challenge — responding to its own overwhelming complexity. The structure of our society must change.

Multiscale Information and Universality

Multiscale analysis can glean important information from Big Data. These articles provide an introduction to the multiscale ideas of information and universality.

Evolution of Lifespans

Do we need to age? NECSI challenges the mathematical assumptions of traditional evolutionary theory and shows aging is programmed, and not an inherent biological breakdown.

Ending Pandemics

In the era of global connectivity, it is easier than ever for epidemics to spiral into pandemics. NECSI analysis shows how best to contain them.

Stopping Zika and Microcephaly

The Zika virus spreading through the Americas has been linked to a rise in birth defects. NECSI has drafted a response plan for affected communities.

Social Complexity

Hierarchal social systems continue to fail in the face of ever-increasing complexity. As NECSI research demonstrates, distributed organizational structures are needed.

Precautionary Principle

Policy makers today are making decisions that have global consequences. If an action has a suspected risk of causing severe harm globally, then it should not be taken in the absence of scientific near-certainty about its safety. NECSI analyzes when such precaution is warranted.

Social Media

NECSI has its finger on the pulse of social networks, tracking sentiment in real time mapping news-sharing, and studying their dynamics and their roles in societal movements.

Ethnic Violence

NECSI research into the causes of ethnic violence have identified one factor that strongly predicts sectarian strife: the spatial geography of different cultural, religious and ethnic groups.

Financial Crisis

The financial crisis raised questions about the role science can play in the analysis of policy. NECSI has shown that crashes are related to panic, characterized the network of economic interdependence and analyzed market regulations.

Food Crisis

Increases in food prices have driven vulnerable populations to desperation. NECSI analysis reveals two main forces driving the global food price upward: ethanol conversion and speculation. This work has direct and immediate policy implications.

Social Systems

Food riots, revolutions, ethnic violence, urban health, fads and panics arise from collective actions. Complex systems science provides new opportunities to understand these collective behaviors by describing the patterns of behavior of individuals interacting through social networks.


The financial crisis raises questions about the role science can play in the analysis of policy. Here we show that crashes are related to panic, characterize the network of economic interdependence and analyze market regulations.

Economic Dynamics

NECSI has begun a detailed analysis of the dynamic flow of money in economic systems. Our models can begin to guide monetary and fiscal policy towards sustained economic growth.

Multiscale Methods

The scales of a system’s behavior determine what it can do. By comparing these scales to the tasks for which the system is designed, we can see whether or not it can achieve its goals and why. Multiscale Analysis proves useful in the study of large organizations, such as healthcare, the military, and corporations.


From social networking to neural pathways to the increasingly networked structure of the economy, complex networks are an integral part of our lives. NECSI research on the structure and dynamics of networks expands our understanding of how biological, social, and technological networks behave.

Evolution and Systems Biology

NECSI’s research into evolution clarifies basic issues in evolutionary dynamics such as how altruism arises, the origin and characterization of biodiversity, as well as the interplay of evolution with ecology.


Rising costs, medical errors, and low quality in healthcare reflect problems with system organization. NECSI's healthcare systems research focuses on improving the structure of provider organizations: how to lower costs, improve preventative medicine, and enhance patient care — including dramatic reductions in medical errors.


Researchers at NECSI examine the dynamics of team building, as well as the science of winning soccer.


Engineering today's highly complex real-time systems in uncertain environments requires new approaches. NECSI complex systems engineering research differs from traditional systems engineering by focusing on the roles of interdependence and evolution to create a process whereby local actions can build on each other to create a functioning system.


Modern military actions are highly complex encounters between hidden, distributed networks of individuals. Urban conflict, terrorist networks, cybersecurity, and peacekeeping demand new strategies, organizational structures and capabilities.


NECSI studies the network of communication in organizations and how that network is well or poorly suited to the tasks it performs. NECSI negotiation studies identify specific protocols that enable negotiators to achieve the best possible outcomes.

New England Complex Systems Institute



Phone: 617-547-4100 | Fax: 617-661-7711 | Email: office at

277 Broadway Cambridge, MA USA