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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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nfentosi's picture

Global Networks

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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njohnjef's picture

The NESS 2014 GSS Roadmap

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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nbattisn's picture

Example of Policy Application of Global System Science

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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ncaldagi's picture

Global System Science and Policy

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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nkiddkpu's picture

Global Systems Science, Art, RRI and Behavioural Issues

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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nserferm's picture

GSS - Collective Intelligence - Citizen Science

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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nmarcojs's picture

Suggestion for an open platform to address GSS challenges

Hi, my (naive) view is that many of the objectives are already being addressed by the companies who have not only access to the data and resources for processing it, but also software tools. Two examples are Google and Microsoft, and the results of their research start to appear in many cross-disciplinary research forums (like RDA, the Research Data Allianz, or AGU, covering most teledetection systems)
In my opinion the record of the human and non human activities available now is enough to advance in many GSS areas.
However a common open platform integrating:
-data sources
-processing resources
-simulation models (like multi-million agents systems) with adequate multi-level support
-analytic tools
could be applied now to many fields in GSS and get new realistic results.
The "good" point is that many of that components are already there. The "bad" side is that large companies with a clear business focus and enough resources and expertise are doing it, and they may exhaust the field.
Linked to the platform the need for a common training, or even better "formation", not only for researchers but also for high level technicians with multi domain expertise is needed.
So my suggestion is to make an effort at EU level in a core team, not so many resources are needed, to identify the existing options for the components and propose an integration in an open platform. Then, setup a call to exploit the platform in different lines. I know it is not very original, but it could work.

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nherrric's picture

GSS and policy applications

GSS is a relevant and necessary topic in the context of European research. The intrinsically holistic and eclectic approach advocated by GSS fills a gap that is not addressed by the policy-oriented topics of the EC mainstream programmes (Transport, Energy, Environment, etc.), which are typically focused on incremental, piecemeal measures and leave little room for transdisciplinary approaches.

In terms of the orientation of research, broadly speaking, I think GSS should be based on two main pillars:
- An integrative approach to data analysis and theoretical modelling: with the emergence of big data there is a risk of focusing on descriptive work and on predictive, non-explanatory models, abandoning theory. In a first stage, big data may be an opportunity to calibrate and validate existing models with richer data, but in the future it may also lead to new modelling approaches that make the best use of new, emerging data sources.
- Policy interfaces. Ultimately, the benefits of GSS will only be realised if the newly developed models and tools are integrated into decision making processes. The development of the models needs to be accompanied by an effort to understand such processes and a continuous dialogue between scientists and decision makers.

A detailed discussion of these questions for the particular case of urban planning can be found in the position papers of the GSS projects EUNOIA ( and INSIGHT (, as well as in the report on GSS and Urban Development prepared by the EUNOIA consortium and already mentioned by Maxi in a previous comment (the three documents can be downloaded from:!publications/caud).

The construction of transdisciplinary research teams able to integrate knowledge on data analysis and complex systems with domain-specific knowledge and real-world experience in policy making processes is a key condition for GSS projects to deliver actual benefits for policy decision making. On a more personal note, I think a good example of this is the EUNOIA project, which has delivered a number of interesting scientific results, but has also managed to transfer some of these results into products and services for urban planners and transport practitioners that we in Nommon ( are now bringing to the market. In my opinion, although the focus of FET is mainly on medium- to long-term research, some of the research elements included in GSS are now mature enough to deliver practical applications. At the same time success stories like this would not have been possible without the sort of transdisciplinary collaborations enabled by GSS.

Finally, regarding the practical implementation of hypothetical future GSS calls, I think projects should remain open in terms of the domain of application so as to leave room for new ideas and initiatives, with the only condition of justifying their potential to contribute to addressing relevant policy questions. The composition of the research teams should reconcile the ability to produce new knowledge with the delivery of innovative ‘quick wins’ in the nearer term, as well as to link with other related initiatives at international level (an example in the area of human development is the UN Global Pulse initiative,

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nkiddkpu's picture

Global Systems Science - The Sum of Things

Most people are familiar with the image of a kettle being heated over an open fire. The kettle in this image is a proven classic design whose origin is lost in time. The form of this kettle is the way it is, because of the requirement to be able to suspend the kettle over a fire, which, in the distant past, was how people cooked. The handle enables the metal body of the kettle to be suspended from a hook over the fire, and the spout of course provides the route by which the boiled water can be poured into another receptacle. Surprisingly though, this design survived the transition from the open fire to the cooking stove with its hot plates, and then, in the early 20th century, the transition to the electric kettle. By this stage though, the design was no longer relevant, because the source of the heat had been built into the kettle. Yet externally nothing changed. It was only in the 1980s that someone understood that this iconic design was no longer necessary, and then had the courage to propose a new design – thus the modern tower kettle was born.

A similar thing happened in the early days of the film industry. Early movies were just, in effect, filmed versions of stage plays, that followed a linear chronological sequence of events, which represented the norm at the time. Yet in this case, very quickly people released that the camera liberated the script from the constraints of time and place, and that no longer was it necessary to follow a linear flow of events, and that also the camera enabled illusions that were not otherwise possible. And so it goes with literature too. For centuries people wrote novels as a linear chronological order of events, until someone, just after the Great War, wrote a novel that jumped about in a time sense, moving backward and forward, from present time to past time, and thus modernism arrived in literature.

The message of the above is clear – we are indeed creatures of habit. And what goes for kettles, films and novels, is also a summary of a large number of the inputs to the consultation on Global Systems Science – many just accept the kettle as it is and propose adjustments and refinements. A few people however have proposed radically new designs. These new designs consider: the use of art as part of the methodology; inclusion of what is called citizen science; adding behavioural (social science) aspects to the recipe; introducing time as a central element of GSS; generalising GSS towards a new way of undertaking scientific research; integrating Responsible Research and Innovation as an integrated aspect of method; moving beyond interdisciplinary thinking to encompass transdisciplinary operation in the sense of transcending the traditional organisation of knowledge; and shifting the focus away from policy towards the design of new systems.

So what is FET about? Will we stick with the kettle design as it is, or reinvent it completely? Which best captures the spirit of FET? Which is higher risk? Which is more visionary? Which is more likely to lead to transformational impacts and the much talked about disruptive effects? At this challenging point in Europe’s long history, what does Europe most need – an old design that is no longer necessary or a new one that can contribute to the making of a different future?

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nedmonbr's picture

Understading complex socio-ecological interactions

Both ecological and social systems are complex, but the interaction between them even more. Many previous societies have killed themselves off and, in the process, devastated their environments. Perhaps the most famous of these is that of “Easter Island”. This suggests a grand challenge: that of helping discover what kinds of rationality and/or coordination mechanisms might allow humans and the greatest possible variety of other species to coexist. As their contribution towards this, the GSS community could investigate these questions within simulations to suggest hypotheses as to how this could be done. The particular problem for our community is that of designing and releasing a society of plausible agents into a simulated ecology and assessing: (a) whether the agents survive and (b) if they do survive, what impact they have upon the diversity of other species in the simulation. No other community is currently in a position to explore this problem as a whole. The simulated ecology needs to implement a suitably dynamic, complex and reactive environment for the test to be meaningful. In such a simulation, agents (as any other entity) would have to eat other entities to survive, but if they destroy the species they depend upon they are likely to die off themselves. Up to now there has been a lack of simulations that combine a complex model of the ecology with a multi-agent model of society – there have been complex models of society but with simple ecological representations and complex ecological models but with little of human social complexity in them. In order for progress to be made with humanity’s challenge, we will have to move beyond simple ideas and solutions and embrace the complexity of the socio-ecological complex as a whole. A suitable dynamic ecological model would be the first step towards a meaningful test bed to under pin the implied research programme.

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