Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Global Systems Science – how can science support policy making on global challenges?


GSS addresses new ways of supporting policy decision making on globally interconnected challenges such as urbanism and migration, environmental issues and climate change, financial crises, or containment of pandemics. The ICT engines behind GSS are large-scale computing platforms to simulate highly interconnected systems including cross-cutting policy dependencies and interactions, data analytics for 'Big Data' to make full use of the abundance of high-dimensional and often uncertain data on social, economic, financial, and ecological systems available today, and novel participatory tools and processes for gathering and linking scientific evidence into the policy process and into societal dialogue. GSS will develop further the scientific and technological foundations in systems science, computer science, and mathematics.

What are we looking for?
•    What should be the orientation of research on this topic? As stated, do you feel it is too broad or, on the contrary, too narrow?
•    Have any recent scientific results been obtained relevant to this topic? Is there already a well-established community on this?
•    Do you know of related initiatives, for instance at national level, or in other continents?
•    What is needed at this point to advance this? More exploration of different ideas? More coordination among groups or related initiatives? A strong push for a precise technological target and, if so, which one? Anything else?

Background: Following the last FET consultation during 2012-13, 9 topics were identified as candidates for a FET Proactive. This topic has been selected for inclusion in the FET Work Programme for 2014-15. Comments are invited on whether this topic is still relevant, or if any changes would be necessary to take account of recent research results. We are also trying to understand better how to advance these areas.

To participate to the consultation:
- register to the group (create an ECAS login if you don't have one yet);
- then "log in" and enter your contribution in the "Add new comment" box, at the vey bottom of the page.
You can also participate by commenting on submitted ideas and/or voting for them.

If you wish to share with us additional documents or have any questions about the process, please send them to our FET mailbox.

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Simon Fenton-jones's picture

Hi Beatrice,

I think we can progress here if we focus, not on ICT, But Networks. That said, we have every National Research and Education Network manager attempting to interconnect. I'll just point at the conference materials for two of the largest continental associations. and

So here's the conundrum. The EC and nsf, and other funders, will fund these network managers, and various projects that will use and try and develop global interconnections, individually. And you can see the result. They, individually, will get together in rooms, scattered around the world, at different times, and talk about building global networks. So we get the great irony that, because they are funded individually, they will only compare what each silo is doing. They will never collaborate.

Let me illustrate just how silly this gets. We have people from around the world, who aspire to developing global networks, getting together in a little room F2F. Then they will do the same at other conferences, at a different time, in a different place, and bury their GROUP's ( I emphasize the point) conference materials on various web sites.

These comms managers have at their fingertips some Communication tools which would have every EC/nsf communications manager salivating. Video conference, video streaming, mini TV stations. You name it, their networks can provide it. Now, apart from scattering their group's recordings/presentations/reports all around different domains, (which is no way of sharing an ongoing global education) they end up using a toy like Skype. One couldn't make this up :) And this is no isolated incident. This is the way all institutions behave.

So the Catch 22 continues. (Groups of) Funders don't have the kind of global networks which will enable them to fund the building of global networks. Your approach here, in splitting the conversation into groups, is no different than any other institutional inquiry. Your peer groups are buried inside the domain just like every institution, because they've been funded on an institutional basis. And insiders and outsiders can share the same network services/apps by using ecas, like all groups must do when accessing some institutional network. That's why we/they all suffer the million password syndrome.

So let me just point to two presentation that will be given at terena's conference.
The second one is important as it focusses on the primary change in building global networks.
"3. Group provider centric, i.e., the attributes are provided by a group provider."

The challenge now is to see if we can't get you peers in other funders to share the same GROUPS directory. (e.g. and ) and services. If we can do that we can start developing some global networks.

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Joan David Tabara's picture

Dear all,

I just want to remind, as one of the authors who contributed to the first Orientation Paper on GSS, an essential way to frame and communicate the crucial importance of GSS which could be of help to move forward with it in some instances. In particular, in my view, GSS can be seen as one of the most robust ways to identifying and assessing 'systems of interlinked solutions to global problems', of course with the help of new -largely distributed- IT and computer technologies. Hence, GSS is indispensible to avoid the exponential multiplication of global problems derived from non-systemic, partial and short-term solutions to collective problems occurring in an increased interconnected world. At the moment we don't really have anything to help us mapping, quantifying and connecting that in a scientific way, despite the severity of the global challenges keeps on intensifying.

To discuss these issues we are organising the III Open GSS conference to be held simultaneously in Europe, US and China on the 8-9 (US & Europe) and 9-10 October 2014. Further information, including the procedure on how to submitt posters and abstracts, will be posted in the GSS blog and portal in the coming days ( ), But for the time being I just wanted to share the preminary program with you. (In Europe the event will take place in Brussels, at the EC premises in Berlaymont)

J. David Tabara (Global Climate Forum:


Hosted by:

Arizona State University
Development Research Center of the State Council
of the People’s Republic of China
Global Climate Forum

October 8-10, 2014

Global Systems Science (GSS) is about providing global systems of interconnected solutions to global problems. This involves not only looking at the whole of our planet and its societies, but also looking at it from a transdisciplinary and transformative perspective that connects all kinds of scientific knowledge, and engaging as many people as possible in collective action. The concept of green growth has been proposed as one of the few globally distributed, innovative and engaging systemic solutions to our current global predicament.

The ICT revolution that is currently ongoing will fundamentally reshape our societies, economies and institutions, as well as our environment. The current moment is therefore the right one to reflect on the kind of future we would like to see ahead of us, and the role of ICT in implementing a vision of a global sustainable society.

The future of global economic growth raises a whole range of questions, including, but not limited to, purely economic ones. Will the successes in reducing global poverty continue? Will inequality within key economies continue to increase? Will global and local environmental disruption continue? In the face of these questions, green growth has been proposed as an appropriate strategy. The vision of billions of poor people achieving a decent standard of living while economic activities become a force of environmental enhancement rather than disruption is certainly attractive. But is it feasible? What experiences have been made so far? What obstacles, what risks should be expected? What alternatives do exist?

On October 8-10, scholars and practitioners will meet in the US, China and Europe to share insights and discuss open questions about green growth. The three sub-events will be connected via Internet, and the conference as a whole shall help to develop the research needed to address global challenges like the one of green growth. The American and European sub-events will be held on October 8-9. The Chinese sub-event will be held in a scenic rural region during October 9-10 with a separate one-day sub-event on October 8 in Beijing.

Call for Papers and Posters

The overall conference will be structured roughly according to the following eight topics, each one with two sub-topics. Authors are encouraged to submit abstracts for papers or posters that reflect these topics and offer a significant contribution to the trans-continental discussions. At the present stage, this structure is relatively flexible to accommodate needs and opportunities that may arise in the coming months. Depending on papers and posters submitted and accepted, particular topics will be discussed in one, two or three of the locations of the conference.

1. Environment
- Complexities of climate policy
- Challenges of air pollution
The very notion of green growth answers to the reality of global environmental change and the risks that it engenders for the future. By focusing on climate change and air pollution, the conference shall foster research about the interaction between short and long term and between local and global problems.

2. ITC as a game changer
- Big data and high performance computing
- Social media and civil society
The rise of information technologies is changing the way we process material objects, the way we generate and use energy flows, and of course the way we gather, store and process data about all kinds of situations. Doing so in an effective way can open up major opportunities of green growth, not only in view of resource use, but also in view of making better individual and collective decisions about problems of global relevance. However, there is a great need to explore and realize these possibilities while being aware of the related pitfalls.

3. Green business models
- Material goods and energy
- Information services
Businesses experimenting with or actually implementing green business models find increasing attention in the media. However, little solid empirical evidence about their experiences is available, and theoretical analyses in the literature are full of unresolved conflicts. Clearly, research is warranted on this topic. It is obviously very important for businesses dealing with material goods and energy, but increasingly the role of information services nees to be investigated in view of the possibility of global green growth.

4. Pitfalls of green growth
- Greenwashing
- New inequalities
History is full of failures and disasters brought about in the name of lofty ideals. As with other global problems, we need an open conversation about green growth with plenty of space for critical analysis. Two kinds of critiques may be distinguished: on one hand there are analyses focussing on situations where green rhetoric is used to create mere illusions of sustainability, on the other hand there are those focussing on situations where green growth policies end up – perhaps unintentionally – worsening the situation they were supposed to improve. The latter issue is especially sensitive in view of the dynamics of inequality at different scales.

5. Sustainable finance?
- Measuring systemic risk
- Global financial governance
So far, the conversations about financial risks and the one about sustainability ake. develop largely separated from each other. This is unfortunate for many reasons. E.g., financial risks and the risks usually associated with sustainability show a similar pattern: short-term risks are often addressed by postponing them into a more distant future, often raising the stakes. Against this background, research about how to identify and measure systemic risks on financial markets may be relevant for other kinds of risk, too. And discussions about global financial governance should not be kept separate from the question of what kind of growth the world economy will experience in the 21st century.

6. Theory and models
- Beyond marginalism
- Enhancing the modeling toolbox
The literature on green growth illustrates a point of much broader relevance in the study of global problems: there is no really solid theory about these problems. In view of green growth – and of many other problems – the most influential theoretical approach is the marginalist one. In this approach, one focusses on marginal changes, studies the trade-offs they involve and then extrapolates these to much larger scales. While this is often appropriate, there is an urgent need to go beyond marginal analysis when thinking about such a profound shift as the one implied by the notion of green growth. Given the importance of simulation models for today’s policy debates, this is related to the challenge of enhancing the presently available modeling toolbox.

7. Regional dynamics
- Opportunities for rural regions
- Futures of urban systems
Ultimately, the future of green growth hinges on a whole set of global coordination problems. For a start, however, - positive and negative - experiences of green growth seem to be made mainly at the regional level. A key question is whether peripheral, rural, poor regions can realize new opportunities in a green growth perspective, e.g. by combining advanced information technologies with a new valorization of landscapes that inhabitants of urban regions may perceive as precious resources. A complementary question is how the majority of humankind that will live in urban agglomerations in the coming decades can do so in a sustainable and satisfying way. Case studies, broader empirical analyses and theoretical advances are all needed to address these questions.

8. Transition governance
- Governments and international institutions.
- Other actors and transnational complexes
Managing the transition towards a more sustainable pattern of global development is a daunting task. Governments and international institutions formed by them will play an essential, but certainly not sufficient role in this process. Examining their potential and limitations, especially in avoiding major conflicts and securing non-trivial levels of fairness, is a key research task. An indispensible, complementary task is to investigate how other actors - businesses, media, academic institutions, NGOs and many more - can contribute to transnational governance complexes addressing challenges and pitfalls of green growth. This need not be limited to actors existing today; at least as important will be enquires into new kinds of organizations that may contribute to an environmentally, economically and - last but not least - socially successful sustainability transition.

Submission of Abstracts

Electronic submissions of abstracts for papers and posters (300 words maximum) will be through EasyChair (link available in the coming days)

The official language of the conference at all three locations is English. Please submit abstracts in English.

Abstracts will be reviewed and accepted according to their order of submission and relevance to overall conference objectives. Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to participate at the conference location nearest to their place of work and residence. There will be no conference registration fees for presenters. Presenters will be responsible for their own travel and lodging. There may be a limited number of small travel grants for presenters who express need. Papers at the conference will be presented in a short oral version while the text will be available over the internet at all locations.

Posters at the conference will be presented electronically (pdf file format) and available over the Internet at all locations. Upon acceptance of the abstract, poster authors will be provided additional information on preparation of the poster for electronic presentation. The abstract should articulate the objectives of the presenter, a brief but thorough description of the research, and the expected gain by those attending the talk. When submitting an abstract, please identify your first and second choice of topics that best represent your work from the following list:

Overview of the conference topics:

- Complexities of climate policy
- Challenges of air pollution
ITC as a game changer
- Big data and high performance computing
- Social media and civil society
Green business models
- Material goods and energy
- Information services
Sustainable finance?
- Measuring systemic risk
- Global financial governance
Theory and models
- Beyond marginalism
- Enhancing the modeling toolbox
Theory and models
- Beyond marginalism
- Enhancing the modeling toolbox
Regional dynamics
- Opportunities for rural regions
- Futures of urban systems
Transition governance
- Governments and international institutions
- Other actors and transitional complexes.

Important Dates

June 15, 2014: Deadline for submission of abstracts of papers or posters.

July 15, 2014: Acceptance/Rejection notification.

September 15, 2014: Final abstracts due in electronic form. Accepted abstracts will be distributed to the conference participants, as will complete papers if submitted by that date.

September 15, 2014: Final posters due in electronic form. Accepted posters will be available on the Internet to the conference participants.

Review process
All submissions will be peer reviewed by at least two reviewers. Reviewers will be accepting only those abstracts that indicate high quality theory and research and are consistent with the objectives of the conference.
Conference Global Organizing Committee
Zhangang Han (Beijing Normal University)
Carlo Jaeger (Arizona State University)
Ulf Dahlsten (former EC Director and Global Climate Forum)
Yanli Lue (Beijing Normal University)
Antoine Mandel (Université Paris)
Diana Mangalagiu (University of Oxford)
Jahel Mielke (Global Climate Forum)
Franziska Schutze (Global Climate Forum)
Gesine Steudle (Global Climate Forum)
Joan David Tabara (Autonomous University of Barcelona)
Sander Van Der Leeuw (Arizona State University)
Saini Yang (Beijing Normal University)
Qian Ye (Beijing Normal University)
Yongsheng Zhang (Development Research Centre, PRC)


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Jeff Johnson's picture

THE NESS (Non-Equilibrium Social Science) coordination action is working on a roadmap for GSS to be published at the end of 2014, following on from the work done and roadmap of GSDP (Global System Dynamics and Policy). We welcome the widest possible participation and will try to represent the views of everyone. For more information contact

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Stefano Battiston's picture

Dear all,

We would like to comment on ax example of application of Global Systems Science for policy.

As part of the projects SIMPOL and FOC we have been working a lot on systemic risk in collaboration with central banks and other regulatory bodies. This months we were co-organizing a conference at the International Monetary Fund about the role of interconnectedness in financial networks. Here are the links to the conference page
and summary that was issued after the conference

The topic of interconnectedness is an important one because the policy discourse before the crisis was focused on the benefits of having a more interconnected financial system. This type of theoretical arguments were behind the wave of liberalization and deregulation that charaterized the years from early 90 until 2007. Therefore, the practical implications of this discussion cannot be overstated since they were a fundamental ingredient of the toxic mix that lead to the current economic situation.

A growing stream of research, to which FOC and SIMPOL have been contributing, has shown when and why interconnectedness is dangerous, thus contributing to create a different set of narratives among policy makers.

More in general, the vision emerging from the work of FOC and now from SIMPOL is that we have today concrete ideas on what to do with systemic risk, but that what prevents us to put them in place is a political dimension, namely an issue of economic interests that are too concentrated (moral hazard and Too-big-to-fail) and a coordination problem. These ideas have been elaborated thanks to the teaming up of network scientists, economists and policy makers and they are completely in line with the spirit of Global Systems Science.

In essence we argue that as a result of Global System Science approach policy we should put in place incentives to reduce *at the same time*: interconnectedness, correlation and complexity of instruments. Notice that, thanks also to our contribution, a similar point of view have emerged in the IMF conference mentioned above.

We report here below the discussion the Stefano Battiston and Guido Caldarelli have recently tried to summarize in a review paper on the topic. The full text is available at

Stefano Battiston (SIMPOL & FOC) & Guido Caldarelli (FOC & MULTIPLEX)

Most macro-prudential policies for financial stability focus on individual bank ratios such leverage or capital adequacy ratios or equity ratios. Then, in terms of assessing the systemic importance of the various institutions, most of the attention has been on bank size. The dimension of interconnectedness (meant as amount of exposures on the interbank market) has been included (along with others) in the IMF/BIS/FSB report submitted to the G20 Finance Ministers and central bank Governors in October 2009. Moreover, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (2013) has recently suggested to include the dimension of complexity, as a measure of the cost of resolving the bank, which depends on the amount of notional OTC derivatives held by banks.
In the context of such debate, three interrelated dimensions play a major role in the analyses presented earlier: interconnectedness, complexity and correlation.
As we have seen earlier, in the model of default cascades higher interconnectedness leads to higher systemic risk when coupled with illiquidity and low capital buffers. The DebtRank method also shows that a higher interconnectedness among banks increases the systemic impact of each bank over the others. In particular, if a bank keeps its amount of exposures and diversifies them over a larger number of counterparties, this is beneficial for the individual bank as it reduces the loss from any single counterparty. However, such diversification increases the chances that the bank will act as channel to spread the distress from a shocked bank to a third one. Overall, a fully connected network spreads around more distress than a sparse network.
More in general, besides the interconnectedness arising from the interbank lending, it is useful to think of the interdependence of balance sheets and payoffs of banks arising from various financial instruments. A general insight from the study of financial net- works is that interdependence is a source of systemic risk, as soon as positive feedbacks are present in the system (Battiston et al., 2012a). Now, positive feedbacks are very often present in financial markets, either visible or latent. An example is the procyclical spiral fire-selling-asset devaluation, which can be triggered by a change in agents’ expectations on the future value of that asset. Clearly this can also be seen as an effect the potential illiquidity of the market for assets. Another example is the fact that the very reaction of creditors (e.g. tightening credit conditions) to a first deterioration of an obligor’s equity ratio, is likely to induce its further deterioration. This is also a manifestation of a positive feedback. In the natural sciences, a system where positive feedbacks prevail is prototypical of a unstable system. If its units are also highly interdependent it is immediately recognized as prone to systemic risk.
The complexity of banks may well be seen as to contribute to their interdependence, due to the OTC derivatives contracts that a bank establishes with others. The argument that these contracts help to diversify and reduce risk is controversial (Battiston et al., 2013). While the dimension of complexity did not appear directly in the models presented above, the complexity of financial instruments is likely to contribute to the potential illiquidity of the market. Indeed when players start questioning the value of an asset, its complexity is not of help in making counterparties willing to buy it. Another problem of complexity is that it makes room for information asymmetries that in bad times can be exploited by market players as an argument for being too complex-to-fail (Battiston et al., 2013). This exacerbates the effect of the findings from the DebtRank method where in times of low capitalization all banks become systemically important.
Finally, the correlation of banks’ behavior is another important dimension that indirectly contributes to the potential for market illiquidity. Clearly, the more banks have made correlated choices in their portfolio, the stronger will be the effects when they all try to fire-sell the same type of asset.
Overall, in our view the literature suggests that in order to contain systemic risk, besides maintaining capital ratios, it is necessary (but maybe not sufficient) to decrease simultaneously the interrelated dimensions of interconnectedness, complexity and correlation. It remains an open and question how to achieve this objective. For instance, it is challenging to design mechanisms to contain interconnectedness and correlation. However, in our view, the various proposals to reform the structure of banks and the architecture of the financial system should be first tested against their ability to deliver progress in this direction. As an example, splitting banks in commercial and investment arms does not, per se, prevent the investment arms of various banks to remain too much connected, complex and correlated. Even if balance sheets of the two arms are virtually separated, once this compartment of the financial system gets in trouble, the distress will propagate to the commercial arms by some other channel. As an urgent future avenue of research, we advocate a thorough comparison of different proposals with respect to those three dimensions as a prerequisite for a more informed debate.

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Antoine Mandel's picture

Hi Beatrice,

I would like to share my impression about the emerging GSS community and some of the challenges it adresses that can make a big difference for European citizens.

To start on a personal, note GSS offers me the grand challenges I was looking for when I decided to become a researcher in order to have a positive impact on social organization through quantitative methods. The community is extremely interdisciplinary, allows one to develop tools and methods that are at the research frontier both in ICT and social science and encourages contacts with stakeholders and policy-makers. In this respect, the EU research policy is very well complemented by a range of private and public initiatives such ad the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative of the OECD or UNEP's financial initiative. This allows young researchers like me to get in contact with leading scientists, policy-makers and NGOs that share the same concerns about global sustainability on the one hand and economic and financial instability on the other hand.

I think the orientation paper on Global System Science edited by Carlo Jaeger, Patrik Jansson, Sander van der Leeuw, Michael Resch and J. David Tàbara gives a great overview of recent results and current challenges for global system science. Let me just highlight one example I am currently working on. There is today a major gap between the investment needs to finance large-scale mitigation of greenhouse emission gases and the demand for environmentally responsible investments that financial institutions seem unable to match by an adequate supply. In the SIMPOL project we are investigating the climate finance networks in order to understand how to fill the structural holes that prevent this necessary flow of funds. To address this issue, we need to bring together insights form network science, finance, environmental policy and integrate them via cutting-edge simulation methods. For me, this is only possible thanks to GSS.

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Guido Caldarelli's picture

In this new world where people work, communicate, travel, in an unprecedented way, also policy makers need new instruments to describe, forecast and possibly control social and economic phenomena.
These new instruments in my view must be based on the mathematic of graphs/networks and by using the data provided by the various ICT structures.
As an example I want to mention one topic on which we are working on. Queries ( present relevant information on the future volumes of trading.
Of course to extract such an information, different expertise are necessary. This is only one example of the challenges (theoretical and practical) that researchers must face.
For this reason a new generation of researchers is needed, they will need the modelling skills of statical physicists, a good knowledge of discrete mathematics, graph theory and algorithimcs, and finally the skills of computer scientists to handle a deluge of big data. Given the complexity of this task, we cannot think that policy makers could do this analysis on their own. It is therefore necessary to customize software platforms and modelling software to support them

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Paul Kidd's picture

Global Systems Science is self-evidently an important topic, but it is too narrowly conceived and needs to be broadened to become what I call a non-mechanistic and non-reductionist approach to science (it is not just a means of supporting policymaking). It is in this area, which can be called the reinvention of science, that the true potential of GSS will be realised.

GSS also needs to move beyond being interdisciplinary, to become transdisciplinary. It also needs to be founded on a better understanding that all actors involved in GSS are not as they might think, entirely rational, objective, and focused on evidence. There are important behavioural understandings that need to be incorporated into GSS, both in terms of those who practise GSS, and with regard to the subject matters that GSS addresses.

GSS also needs to be revised to take account of the H2020 Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) agenda. Again this is relevant to both GSS itself and the subject matters that it addresses. The means to address all five pillars of RRI should be explicitly built into the approach, and not just left to individual research projects to consider, which on the whole they will not, as RRI, to be realistic, is not on most people’s agenda, and few people truly understand it. RRI needs to become an explicit part of any GSS process or method.

GSS is also an area where artists should be integrated as key players, for this group of researchers are already exploring the above issues and one can say, transcending traditional disciplinary boundaries. Artists are at core, people who are constantly questioning that which others rarely think about, such as the relevance of science, as it is now, and ways in which it can be developed into something more sophisticated in terms of method and process. This is the value of art, for it offers different ways of seeing the world. And GSS is one area that needs to be seen differently.

I have more to say about GSS, art, and art’s role in FET and GSS, as well as the importance of Time for Time in a GSS context. All this I have explored in my input to the FET Proactive Time for Time consultation (, which I now invite you to read.

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Fermin Serrano's picture

It is already said here, so I want to endorse this position. Billions of people inter-connected may solve current global challenges in a collective manner by a) contributing with individual solutions b) selecting and evaluating existing approaches c) re-using and adapting others work; leading to the digitally-enabled evolution of emergent intelligence. It is a great challenge to conduct large-scale experiments in order to collect big-user-generated-data with the aim of model and conduct these complex behaviors.

In this sense, the citizen science approach, which is based on the contributions and collaborations of the general public with expert researchers, is fostering the trusted relationships required between all the societal actors. Therefore I suggest FET-GSS to include in its roadmap the recommendations that we will publish in the White Paper on Citizen Science for Europe, which we are creating as part of the Socientize EU-funded project, after the online-offline consultation of all the citizen science community actors.

These consultations are examples of complex challenges, and we usually see how hundreds of individual-bottom-up ideas arise. The development of new and open disruptive brain-based technologies and frameworks for the emergence of collective solutions should be also considered.

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Moreno Yamir's picture

I think that Global Systems Science is the right approach to many of the problems we face today. I agree with the previous comments by colleagues and would like to comment on a different aspect, perhaps influenced by my own research work.

For those that do research on complexity, it is becoming more than evident that the most challenging societal problems can only be tackled if we deal with the multilevel and interdependent nature of social, technological and economical, including financial, systems. To this end, projects like MULTIPLEX (funded by a FET Proactive initiative) are making significant contributions to subjects like multilevel and multilayer systems. The idea, that a priori is simple, is to consider that whenever you have more than one interacting system, the interdependency between them should be taken into account if you aim at a better understanding of the dynamics (functioning) of the global system. This principle permeates all fields mentioned above: social systems are made by many different layers in which we all interact, in general, in different ways and with different people, technical systems depend on the functioning of each other, and finally, economical and financial systems are tightly connected to each other. Another example is given by a system as complex as a city: you have different transportation modes defining mobility patterns, which in turn has a great impact on processes such as disease spreading, optimal distribution of resources and facilities, etc.

All the above examples constitute by themselves fantastic scientific challenges. Imagine then tackling all of them concurrently and with as much details as possible. This is precisely what GSS aims at, and that is the reason why I think this initiative should be extended and renovated. Otherwise, we will have closed the doors halfway, preventing the current advances to turn into significant technological and scientific breakthroughs.

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Giorgio Fagiolo's picture

Hi, Beatrice, I would like to make a brief comment on how Global Systems Science can shed light on important macroeconomic issues related to the interplay between human mobility, international trade, and country performance.

Our recent work on International Migration Networks (IMN, see Fagiolo and Mastrorillo, 2013) has shown that describing migration data using a complex-network representation allows one to capture the complexity of international migration linkages between countries and gives one the possibility to study migration from a systemic perspective, where both direct and indirect linkages are taken into consideration.

Furthermore, knowledge of the IMN structure can explain the patterns of trade among world countries. In particular, in a recent paper appeared in PlosOne (Fagiolo and Mastrorillo, 2014) we ask whether the centrality of countries in the IMN explains, in addition to bilateral-migration effects, their bilateral trade. We find that pairs of countries that are more central in the IMN also trade more. Interestingly, we find that also inward third-party migrants coming from corridors that are not shared by the two countries can be trade enhancing, in addition to common inward ones. We suggest that this can be due to either learning processes of new consumption preferences by migrants whose origins are not shared by the two countries (e.g. facilitated by an open and cosmopolitan environment) or by the presence in both countries of second-generation migrants belonging to the same ethnic group.

In a complementary research project, instead, we ask whether the level of integration of world countries in the international network of temporary human mobility can explain differences in their per-capita income and labor productivity (Fagiolo and Santoni, 2014). We disentangle the role played by global country centrality in the network from traditional openness measures, which only account for local, nearest-neighbor linkages through which ideas and knowledge can flow. Using 1995-2010 data, we show that global country centrality in the temporary human-mobility network enhances both per-capita income and labor productivity. Our results hold cross-sectionally, as well as in a dynamic-panel estimation, and take into account potential endogeneity issues. Our findings imply that how close a country is to the theoretical technological frontier, depends not only on how much she is open to temporary human mobility, but mostly on whether she is embedded in a web of relationships connecting her with other influential partners in the network. Our exercises also suggest that most of the gain in income and productivity can be attained if country centrality in the network comes mostly from influential partners that lie not too far away from, but neither too close to them in the network.

All these examples stress the importance to take a GSS view to macroeconomics, in terms of both positive analysis and policy implications.

- Fagiolo, Giorgio and Santoni, Gianluca (2014) “Human-Mobility Networks, Country Income, and Labor Productivity”. Available at SSRN eLibrary (

- Fagiolo, G. and Mastrorillo, M. (2014) “Does Human Migration Affect International Trade? A Complex-Network Perspective”, PLoS ONE 9(5): e97331, available at:

- Fagiolo, G. and Mastrorillo, M. (2013), “International migration network: Topology and modeling”, Physical Review E, 88, 012812. Available at:

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Group managers
Aymard DE TOUZALIN European Commission Future and Emerging Technology Unit Deputy Head of Unit
Walter VAN DE VELDE European Commission Future and Emerging Technologies Scientific Officer and FET Strategy
Beatrice MARQUEZ-GARRIDO European Commission Future & Emerging Technologies Unit Project Officer
Group Participants