Category Archives: GSS Orientation Paper

GSS: Towards a Research Program for Global Systems Science


Carlo Jaeger, Patrik Jansson, Sander van der Leeuw, Michael Resch and J. David Tàbara

Conference Version, prepared for the Second Open Global Systems Science Conference
June 10-12, 2013, Brussels



Written on the basis of:

–       the first open global systems science – GSS – conference (Brussels, November 2012)
–       seven subsequent workshops on GSS
–       insights from the EU – FET consultation process on GSS
–       contributions to the GSS blog:


With thanks for contributions and comments by:

Alex Serret, Amit Kapoor, Andrés Gómez-Lievano, Angela Wilkinson, Anna Mengolini, Anna Mutule, Antoine Mandel, Antonio Fernandez, Antonio Lucio, Armin Haas, Ben Ruddell, Brad Allenby, Brandon Fuller, Carlo C. Jaeger, Catalina Spataru, Catalina Spataru, Cezar Ionescu, Chris B. Davis, Chris Kennedy, Christian Heimgartner, Christian Svansfeldt, Christian Svansfeldt, Christopher L. Barrett, Chuck Redman, Ciro Cattuto, Colin Harrison, David Pearce, David Simmonds, David Tuckett, Deborah Strumsky, Denise Pumain, Devdatt Dubhashi, Diana Mangalagiu, Doyne Farmer, Emile Chappin, Eric Boix, Eric Miller, Ettore Bompard, Filippo Addarii, Folke Snickars, Fonz Dekkers, Franziska Schuetze, Frédéric Sgard, Geoffrey Cape, Geoffrey West, Gerard P.J. Dijkema, Gianluca Fulli, Greg Lindsay, Guido Caldarelli, Henry Wynn, Herman De Meer, Hugh Kelly, Igor Nikolic, Ilan Chabay, Ilona Heldal, J. David Tàbara, Jan Bialek, Jeff Johnson, José Lobo, José Ramasco, José S. Sanchez Torres, Joseph Tainter, Karen Seto, Kevin Stolarick, Leo Camiciotti, Linda Steg, Lisa Amini, Lisa Flatley, Loreto, Luis Bettencourt, Luis Willumsen, Madhav V. Marathe, Manfred Laubichler, Marc Barthélemy, Marcelo Masera, Marco Aiello, Marco Ajmone, Maria Rosa Casals, Mario Rasetti, Martin Elsman, Maxi San Miguel, Melanie Fasche, Merijn Terheggen, Michael Batty, Michael Resch, Michael Smith, Michail Fragkias, Michel Morvan, Mihnea Costantinescu, Mikhail Chester, Nil Gilbert, Oliva García-Cantú, Patricia Reiter, Patrik Jansson, Paul Hearn, Paulien Herder, Pedro Ballesteros, Peter Nijkamp, Ralph Dum, Ricardo Baeza-Yates, Ricardo Herranz, Rudiger Ahrend, Sandeep Goyal, Sander van der Leeuw, Sibylle Schupp, Silvano Cincotti, Stanislav Sobolevsky, Stefano Battiston, Steven Bishop, Sylvain Haon, Temis Taylor, Vittorio Loretto, William J. Nuttall, William Nuttall, Zofia Lukszo

Version v2 of the GSS Orientation Paper

Dear colleagues,

There has been a lot of activity recently regarding the production of the Orientation Paper on Global Systems Science. First of all we would like to thank very much those who have contributed to our GSS discussions so far, either with pieces of text, the EC consultation process and of course via the GSS blog!

So we think it’s now high time to show what we have been doing so far. Please find attached the long version v2 of the GSS Orientation Paper (2013-05-23) [PDF, 2.8 MB]. There are still some gaps and changes that will be carried in the coming days. Out of this long document we will produce a summary which will be presented and discussed in our GSS Brussels conference in June 10-12.

You can post you general comments on the text on the GSS blog, or if you have some specific comments regarding edits, typos or other issues that you do not consider of general interest to

Thanks a lot for your contribution to this process!

J. David Tàbara, on behalf of editors Carlo Jaeger, Patrik Jansson, Sander van der Leeuw, and Michael Resch

Version 02: GSS Research Program

Version 01 of the GSS research program, actually more a skeleton of a draft, has been instrumental to develop a lot of ideas, expressed in part here on the GSS blog, in part in a whole range of workshops and other gatherings both in cyberspace and on good old ground.

Here comes version 02, still very much work in progress, to be influenced and shaped by anybody who is able and willing to contribute to it. In the words of Dave Clarke, famously spoken at the Twenty-Fourth Internet Engineering Task Force:

“We reject: kings, presidents and voting.

We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”

Carlo, Sander and David, in coordination with Ralph, are presently compiling material for version 03, and will be very happy to receive tons of  input on top of what we already got, best here on the blog, but e-mail is also ok.

Starting a GSS Reading List

When some time ago I asked Ralph Dum what he considered a good example of a global system, he said: “The Internet”. That answer made a lot of sense to me and is one of the reasons I engaged with GSS.

There is a rather famous paper by Papadimitriou called “Algorithms, Games and the Internet” claiming that to understand the Internet we need “a fusion of algorithmic ideas with concepts and techniques from Mathematical Economics and Game Theory”. Again, that makes a lot of sense to me. The reason being that “The Internet has arguably surpassed the von Neumann computer as the most complex computational artifact (if you can call it that) of our time”. It “is unique among all computer systems in that it is built, operated, and used by a multitude of diverse economic interests, in varying relationships of collaboration and competition with each other.” And for sure this multitude of interests cuts across nations to span the whole globe. So that paper looks like a good start for a GSS reading list. And for those who like less technical stuff, here is a gentle introduction to “The Price of Anarchy”, a subject presently studied with the tools suggested by Papadimitriou. Remarkably, the Internet community engages in this analysis because it wants to pay that price, while understandably preferring to keep it low.

I’ll start a very preliminary GSS reading list by adding some references based on conversations with Sander van der Leeuw about readings for the worksop: “GSS – territorial versus functional patterns” (Arizona State, February 25/26).

Consider the beautyful Internet meme: “We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code” (it started at, p. 543). That pretty much captures the spirit of the professional networks that are increasingly shaping the technologies humankind lives with. These networks are an important example of what sociologists call the functional differentiation of society – as distinct from the segmentation practiced by our ancestors in the couple of hundred thousand years before they settled down, but also from the hierarchical differentiation that became paramount in the territorially based ways of life that shaped the past couple of millennia. Some background on this is provided in a pretty influential paper on Social Differentiation.

One reason functional networks are important in today’s world is that they provide people with identities that generate bonds crossing the boundaries set by national identities. Amartya Sen has argued that this kind of multiple identities is what we need to reduce the risks of violence in a globalized world. We better think hard about these risks as they may well become, in Churchill’s words, “A Gathering Storm“.

A key topic to consider when looking at the relation between global functional networks like the world of computer scientists, programmers, etc. and the territorial structures of nation states is the dynamics of global urbanization. Cities are places where a multitude of functional networks intersect. Sander has already begun to spell out how the GSS research program might look at worldwide urbanization (see his post “Towards a Global Systems Science of Urbanization”). To get a sense of how this fits with the broader scope of GSS as a whole, see his “Lessons from the Distant Past”. And when thinking about a GSS research program, we can build on the agenda for scientific research that Young et al. have designed with regards to “The Globalization of Socio-Ecological Systems”.

A key practical challenge with regards to that globalization is how to develop a reasonable “Governance of Finance”. How daunting this challenge might be becomes clear when looking at the “Global Network of Corporate Control”. As the global financial crisis of 2007 has shown, the state of the art in economics is hardly sufficient to deal with these networks. The fusion of algorithmic ideas and game theory advocated in the first paper on our list, therefore, is best seen not as refining existing ideas here and there, but as the kind of intellectual adventure that opens truly new horizons. “Shaking an Invisible Hand” offers an entry to that journey.

A Research Program for Global Systems Science

The first open global systems science conference last November in Brussels made it quite clear that we have key elements for a research program for global systems science in our hands.

Since then, a whole range of conversations around this topic has developed, in workshops, informal exchanges and on-going research. Some of us have been busy developing proposals for research projects in a GSS perspective, and more will do so in the years to come. Now it’s time to develop an orientation paper that begins to delineate our research program, a paper that shall help orienting both the activities of researchers and those of funding agencies. Here you find a seed, aka version 01, for this orientation paper, as pdf and rtf.

Input for version 02 is warmly welcome!