The 1st European conference on Complex systems was organized in Torino, Italy, by the FET funded network EXYSTENCE. It brought together researchers in complex systems and in particular researchers form projects funded in the FET unit in the area of complex systems. Within the past two decades, researchers in physics, computer science, biology and the social sciences have recognized that the difficulty of many of their most important problems stems from system complexity – from the dependence of key structural and functional properties on coherent relationships among many system components. Phenomena within an ecosystem or an economy cannot be understood by a study of parts in isolation; rather, in such systems, emergent and collective effects arising from interactions between parts play a crucial role, as they do also in the living cell or in modern communications networks. The European Conference on Complex Systems, 5-8 December in Torino, Italy, brought together researchers from a range of disciplines facing problems of this kind, and where current efforts focus on understanding the structures and processes that naturally arise, how they affect system behaviour and how that behaviour might potentially be altered in an intelligent and constructive way. Complexity science is by nature interdisciplinary, and has emerged as a consequence of the simultaneous development of similar problems in many distinct settings. A number of areas have been particularly important: 1) physics, through the study of critical phenomena and phase transitions, disordered systems such as spin glasses, and the recognition of widespread scaling phenomena in the natural world; 2) artificial intelligence and other related sciences through their attempt to understand the function of the human mind as an evolved dynamical system; 3) computer science, stimulated by the massive increase in the complexity of computational systems, both in hardware and software, and more recently through the Internet and WWW; 4) efforts centered around “artificial life”, following the recognition that computation offers a powerful tool for exploring evolutionary processes; 5) modern biology, forced to move to a “systems” approach in confronting the coherent function of the living cell; and 6) the social sciences, now becoming far more powerful and flexible in their exploration of social phenomena through the use of agent-based computational models. Researchers from all these areas were principal participants in the conference The conference also aimed to provide a forum for exchange among the members of four new European Integrated Projects – PACE, ECAGENTS, DELIS and EVERGROW. These four projects – each a concerted effort within some specific area of complex systems research – stand to gain from ideas, insights and methods developed in other projects, and from sharing the broad interdisciplinary perspective of complex systems research. Following an opening day of tutorial sessions – Francois Kepes, Complex Networks of Bio- molecular Interactions, Scott Kirkpatrick, Complexity in Physics and Computer Science, and Alessandro Vespigani, Structure and Function of Complex Networks – the conference proceeded through four sessions organized around particular themes: Complex Biosystems, Emergence of Coordinated Behaviour, Complex System Ideas in Networks, and Interdisciplinary Complex Systems. The timeliness of this conference, and the broad scientific consensus on the need for general insight into the nature of complex systems was illustrated at the end of the conference, at the founding of the European Complex Systems Society.
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