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