Events 2017-23. Center for BioComplexity

Photo: Musician Vân-Án Võ. Ms. Võ (pictured above) and the Blood Moon Orchestra performed the piece "Mekong: LIFE" at Princeton on October 27, 2022. Photo courtsey of the artist.
For past events, click here.
CBC Researchers and Fung Fellows Meet Over Lunch (April 18, 2023)
Center for Biocomplexity faculty and postdocs met with Fung Fellows from PIIRS over lunch on April 18, 2023 to discuss research interests and explore possible collaborations. Discussion was organized around three quesions: (1) How can academic scientists and sustainability practitioners interact with the business community to achieve common goals?; (2) How valuable are ESG criteria, and how can they be improved?; and (3) Is Eleanor Ostrom's idea of polycentric governance the best pathway to international cooperation? In the photo above, CBC postdocs Guillaume Falmagne and Woi Sok Oh and Fung Fellow Victor Zhuang focus on how more equitable and inclusive futures, especially around disability, can be built.
Critical Transitions Workshop III (March 22-24, 2023)
The Earth Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (ERSI) held its first in-person Critical Transitions Workshop at Princeton on March 22-24, 2023. This workshop followed two earlier virtual workshops and was attended by about fifty participants from universities in the United States and abroad. It focused on three core areas: foundational concepts, socioecological systems, and new methods. It facilitated the emergence of new collaborations by integrating project discussions and project pitches in its agenda on the third day. To read more about this workshop, click here.
Vân-Ánh Võ and the Blood Moon Orchestra Concert, Taplin Auditorium, Princeton University (October 27, 2022)
Emmy Award-winning Vietnamese composer, traditional multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and educator Vân-Ánh Võ, with the Blood Moon Orchestra and the Cambodian Royal Ballet Master Charya Burt, performed "Mekong: LIFE," a musical composition that is being developed in collaboration with scientists, including Simon A. Levin, director of the Center for BioComplexity. The concert took place in Taplin Auditorium on Thursday, October 27th, 7:00-8:30 pm.

Inspired by recent calls to action regarding climate change, "Mekong: LIFE" explores issues of natural resource exploitation. Humanity's relationship with natural resources is complex and ever-changing. Using traditional instruments from Southeast Asia, graphic global warming data, electronic music, live-media, and a modern interpretation of a traditional Cambodian myth about an ogre and goddess in perennial conflict (the goddess, a protector of the waters, defeats the ogre in their regular battles in the sky with the light of her glittering crystal orb, producing lightning and rain, and LIFE), "Mekong: LIFE" explores the push and pull between human and natural life and what the future holds for the next generation.

The world premiere of "Mekong: LIFE" took place on April 23, 2023 at Stanford University.

The Princeton performance of "Mekong: LIFE" was directed by Vân Ánh Võ and co-directed by Alexander Canon, with electronic music by Adam Fong. It was made possible by generous funding from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), as well as support from the Department of Music, Center for BioComplexity in the High Meadows Environmental Institute, the East Asian Studies Program, Tora Taiko, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, California Arts Council, Music Under 25 Bridge, Huynh Vo Charitable Fund, and the VANGO Network.
Critical Transitions Workshop II, Princeton University, Virtual (September 8, 2022)
The main goal of this second workshop was to allow for in-depth discussion and to encourage interest groups to form around each of the topics that emerged from the first workshop, with the goal to work towards a paper in each group. To read more about this workshop, click here.
Critical Transitions Workshop I, Princeton University, Virtual (June 7, 2022)
This workshop focused on critical transitions, phase transitions, and early warning indicators in physical, natural, social, and socio-ecological systems. The overarching goal was to bring together leading researchers in these areas to encourage collaborations, generate new ideas through the interdisciplinary exchange, and idenfity future research directions. There were three sessions: (1) phase transitions: theory and concepts, (2) transitions in socio-ecological systems, and (3) early warning signals, and tipping. The workshop was structured with three seven-minute presentations and a thrity-minute in-depth discussion per session moderated by the expert in each session. A follow-up workshop has been planned for late August or early September 2022. To read more about this workshop, click here.
Earth Resilience and Sustainability Initiative (ERSI) Workshop: "Building Collaborations," Princeton University, Virtual (April 7, 2022)
An ERSI workshop was held on April 7, 2022 to discuss the ongoing works of the ERSI team and build more collaborations between Princeton University, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC). Twelve ERSI members had five minute presentations on three topics: (1) transition and resilience, (2) climate and human dynamics, and (3) food, agriculture, and water. Participants had focused discussions on the presentations, and follow-up talks were given in the Zoom break-out rooms to explore further collaborations. To read more about this workshop, click here.
ASU Dialogues in Complexity Workshop (Series II, Part II - Political Polarization), Princeton University, Virtual (August 11-12, 2020 & January 18, 2021)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Series II, Part II of the Arizona State Universiry and Princeton University partership "Dialogues in Complexity" was organized by Princeton University, but held virtually on August 11-12, 2020. Past participants, as well as new ones, reviewed the work done at the last meeting and outlined a list of topics for papers treating various aspects of polarization. Drafts of these papers were later presented and discussed at a virtual meeting held January 18, 2021. These papers will be published in a special feature in PNAS. UPDATE: The Special Feature was published on December 6, 2021. To read it, click here.
Network Resilience, Sustainable Cities, and the Global Food System Workshop, Virtual (August 14, 2021)
The Center for BioComplexiity hosted a virtual Princeton-SRC-PIK workshop entitled "Network Resilience, Sustainable Cities, and the Global Food System" on August 14-21. More than forty researchers from the three institutions came together to discuss research projects and future funding initiatives related to the four thematic blocks: network resilience and global systemic risk, global food systems resilience, urban sustainability transformations, and human behavior. Multiple discussions occurred within and across all themes collectively. A particularaly compelling outcome of the workshop was the idea to explore how social-ecological network resilience is influenced by multiscalar (local, regional, national, international) movements of food, money, people, and information through urban social-ecological-technological systems -- flows that are expanding in an urbanizing world. As both a cause and a consequene of multiscalar social-ecological interactions, human behavior is central to understanding network structure, function, and resilience and implementing sustainable urban transformations. Workshop participants made plans to explore these questions through the lens of cross-cutting topics such as urban dietary changes and water system transformations, which are fundamentally linked to networks, food systems, urban sustainability, and human bahavior, and thereby unite the workshop's major themes. WIth some of the world's leading scholars on Earth resilience and sustainability working alongside an impressive cadre of rising stars, this group is uniquely positioned to address these integrative topics in ways that lead to meaningful scientific and applied outcomes.
ASU Dialogues in Compexity Workshop (Series II, Part I- Political Polarization), Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona (January 6-8)
Series II, Part I of the Arizona State Universiry and Princeton University partership "Dialogues in Complexity" (pictured above) was held in Arizona on January 6-8, 2020. The topic of this workshop was the dynamics of political polarization. The workshop kicked off on the afternoon of January 6 with two public lectures, one by Sam Wang (Princeton University) on "Bugs in Democracy: Fair Maps, Gerrymandering, and the Road to Majority Rule in America," and Joshua Plotkin (University of Pennsylvania) on "Information Gerrymandering and Undemocratic Decision." The next two days, participants, from the sciences and social sciences, set about defining and exploring political polarization, then outlined goals for Part II of the workshop to be held in Princeton in August 2020.
ASU Dialogues in Compexity Workshop (Series I, Part I), Tempe and Scottsdale, Arizona (January
As a part of the Arizona State University and Princeton University partership "Dialogues in Complexity," the first in a series of planned workshops was held in Arizona on January 16-18, 2019. Organized by Simon A. Levin, Andrea Graham of Princeton, Ann Kinzig (former Levin postdoctoral researcher, 1994-98, now on the ASU faculty), and Stephanie Forrest of ASU, participants explored what is known about how biological systems defend themselves and the many cybersecurity methods that have been devised to protect computational systems. They then moved on to outline commonalities, differences, gaps, and outstanding questions, which will be the focus of a second workshop to be held in Princeton in late summer 2019. Update: The paper from Series I of the ASU-PU coupled workshops can be found on arXiv and will be submitted for publication in 2021.
Princeton-Humboldt Cooperation and Collective Cognition Network Meeting, Princeton University (January 28-February 1)
In 2016 Simon A. Levin and Daniel Rubenstein received funding through the Humboldt-Princeton Strategic Partnership Grants to expand existing collaborations with Humboldt University and thereby to build a Cooperation and Collective Cognition Network that will involve faculty, postdocs, and students from Princeton. For this workshop, researchers from the Humboldt Institute and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) visited Princeton to discuss ongoing research activities, extensions of existing projects, and explore new ideas. A summer meeting to be held in Berlin was planned.
Extending the Cure Conference, Princeton University (May 13-14)
During this preliminary meeting, members from various academic disciplines, along with practicing physicians, reviewed various perspectives on vaccine refusal. During each of the perspective sessions, the organizers and hosts, Simon A. Levin and Ramanan Laxminarayan (High Meadows Environmental InstituteI), asked the experts from a particular discipline to contribute a short presentation covering their understanding of what their disciplie brings to the understanding of the problem at hand. The physician panel provided an opportunity to directly ask physicians how well academic hypotheses and insights resonate for them as healthcare practitioners. A follow-up meeting is planned for 2020.
Princeton-Humboldt Cooperation and Collective Cognition Network Meeting, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany (July 1 and 2)
The workshop opened with a series of talks by the participants from Princeton University, Humboldt University, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), who introduced their work and shared updates on any ongoing projects from the previous CoCCoN meeting in January 2019. These talks were complemented by several working sessions distributed across the two days, in which participants met in small groups to discuss topics of interest (such as contagion processes on adaptive networks, collective intelligence, identity formation, social norms, and the role of learning in cooperation), and developed potential collaborative projects to be continued after the meeting.
Political Polarization Workshop, Princeton University (August 9, 2019)
Simon A. Levin invited Professor Boleslaw Szymanski of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to Princeton for a one-day workshop on political polarization. Szymanski, as well as postdocs and graduate students from the Levin and Leonard Labs (Naomi Leonard, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton), gave presentations on their research as it relates to the topic. After the presentations and discussion, Syzmanski, Levin, Leonard, visiting faculty from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Army Research Office's Program Manager for Biomathematics met to discuss the possibility of future collaborations.
Resilience 2020 Workshop, Princeton University (August 20-21, 2019)
The High Meadows Environmental Institute (formerly the Princeton Environmental Institute), Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have joined forces to tackle global sustainability challenges. A workshop themed "Resilience 2020" launched their activities on August 20 and 21, and was spearheaded by High Meadows' lead scientists Simon A. Levin, Daniel Rubenstein (Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and High Meadow's director Michael Celia, together with new directors Line Gordon at SRC and Johan Rocksrtom at PIK. The workshop provided a forum for postdoctoral researchers and graduates students to converse with some of the world's leading sustainability experts. Workshop participants developed plans for joint research focused on understanding the mechanisms of resilience in coupled social, ecological and technical systems, and how they can be enhanced for sustainably managing the world's food and urban systems. The workshop included presentations from the new postdoctoral research associates at High Meadows, Elisabeth Krueger and Andrew Carlson, along with their postdoctoral colleagues at SRC, Lan Erlandsson and Juan Gordo Rocha, and at PIK, Wolfram Barfuss. PIs from across campus are involved in the new collaboration including Lars Hedin (Chair, EEB), Elke Weber (Department of Psychology), Guy Nordenson (School of Architecture) and Miguel Centeno (Department of Sociology), with counterparts at PIK and SRC, including Jonathan Donges and Maja Schlueter. This exiting new collaboration will help HIgh Meadows and its partners address some of the world's most pressing sustainability challenges.
ASU Dialogues in Compexity Workshop (Series I, Part II), Chauncey Conference Center, Princeton, NJ (August 30-31, 2019)
The second "Dialogues in Complexity" workshop addressing complex systems perspectives on biological and cybersecurity defenses was held in Princeton in August of 2019. Participants responded to the Group Report (a summation of work done at the first workshop), from the perspective of cybersecurity and immunology and identified new ideas for research and discussion. The second day of the workshop was devoted to developing an outline for a multi-authored paper on the topic, which upon completion will be submitted to a high-profile journal. Update: The paper from Series I of the ASU-PU coupled workshops can be found on arXiv and will be submitted for publication in 2021.
Patterns in Biology Workshop, Princeton University (April 18-20)
Organized by Princeton EEB professors Corina Tarnita, Simon A. Levin, and Rob Pringle, this workshop focused on three broad realms of spatial patterning -- terrestrial patterns, aquatic patterns, and patterns in morphogenesis -- with the aim of exploring the extent to which these fields consider similar questions and have uncovered similar or different mechanisms of self-organization and pattern formation.
Food System Transformation to Improve Sustainability and Health: Integrating Social and Biophysical Dynamics Workshop, Stockholm Resilience Centre (August 20-21)
An outgrowth of the Earth in 2050 conference, this workshop among Stockholm Resilience Centre and Princeton University colleagues focused on how we can expand our understanding of interactions between the biophysical and social dynamics that are involved in improving the capacity of the food system to meet broader social goals (like human health and a sustainable planet). Its overarching goal was to outline the key challenges for building an integrated social-ecological system view of food system transitions using, among others, a conceptual and integrative modeling exercise around food system transition that can bring the social and biophysical understanding closer together.
Workshop: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Complex Systems: The Promise and Limitations of Metaphor Core Concepts, Princeton University (November 29-December 2)
Simon A. Levin and Stephen Kotkin (PIIRS) organized a three-day workshop in the fall of 2018 that brought together an international group of experts, across disciplines, together with a broad group of Princeton faculty, to explore commonalities and differences in complex systems perspectives for a wide range of systems. Issues to be addressed included, but were not limited to, emergence, pattern formation, scaling, critical transitions, contagion, systemic risk, cooperation, collective behavior, and problems of the Commons. The workshop will be followed by a meeting report and by a follow-up meeting of selected Princeton participants to explore next steps to creating fora and other mechanisms for interatcion and training at Princeton.

The first goal of this workshop was to stimulate collaboration at Princeton and build partnerships and organizational structures to foster interactions both within Princeton and with other institutions.

A second goal of this workshop was to build partnerships with the leading centers of complexity research in the world. Through grants from the Princeton International Fund, PIIRS, and other sources, Princeton already has strong relationships with the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Vienna Complexity Hub, the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics, and the Oxford Martin School (Levin sits or has sat on governing or advisory boards for the first four.). In the United States, the Santa Fe Institute is the leading center (Levin has served as co-chair of the SFI, is a member of its Scientific Advisory Board, and became a Lifetime Fellow in 2018.), and strong links with Arizona State University are being developed. Levin and Kotkin expect an outcome of this workshop to be the development of a network of institutes concerned with complexity, including all the above plus others with complementary interests, such as the Complexity Institute of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Earth in 2050: Boundaries, Obstacles, and Opportunities, Princeton University (November 12-14)
Co-sponsored by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Princeton International Fund, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and the High Meadows Environmental Institute this conference brought together renowned scholars from the sciences, social sciences, and architecture at Princeton and the SRC, as well as Princeton graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to focus on sustainability and resilience. Presentations and discussion centered on food and sustainability, critical transitions, urban infrastructure, sustainable use of soil and water resources, managing for resilience, biodiversity and conservation biology, and social mechnanisms for sustainability. The goal of this conference was to lay the foundation for future Princeton-SRC research and collaboration on these topics.
Understanding the Dynamics of Social Norms Workshop, Princeton University (November 27)
Organized by Simon A. Levin, Michael Oppenheimer, and Elke Weber, this workshop brought together a distinguished interdisciplinary group of scholars, as well as select graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, to first outline how "social norms" are defined and studied in various academic disciplines. In- depth group discussion on specific topics followed. In Group Discussion 1, participants considered questions like: Is there a taxonomy of different social norms, and if so, what are relevant distinctions?; What are the mechanisms by which social norms work, and do the mechanisms depend on what kind of social norms we are dealing with; and What factors of environment or decision-making play a role in which mechanisms are invoked and thus in the effectiveness of social norms? In Session 2, they looked at this static analysis of social norm dynamic, by examining the processes that lead to changes in social norms, focusing, among other things, on tipping points. In Session 3, participants went on to discuss whether and how the insights gleaned from the discussions could be put to use, for example how social norm change might be engineered. In this context, they reviewed both success and failure stories of attempted social norm change in different domains.

Levin, Oppenheimer, and Weber intend to distill these discussions into a small set of research questions/projects to be pursued by subsets of those who attended the workshop and possibly others.