Skip to main content

ASU chosen to host global conference on complex systems

September 18, 2015

The annual Conference on Complex Systems (CCS’15) traditionally organized by the European Complex Systems Society is coming to Tempe.

“Arizona State University has been making a name for itself in complex systems science for the past decade. We were delighted to be offered the opportunity to host this year’s conference, along with our partners at the Santa Fe Institute,” said Sander van der Leeuw, lead organizer of this year’s conference and co-director of the Arizona State University-Santa Fe Institute (ASU-SFI) Center for Biosocial Complex Systems.

This is the first time in its 12-year history that the annual gathering will take place outside of Europe.

“While the science of complex systems has been around for 35 years now, it’s more recently seen a rise of centers and institutes all around the world and is expanding to include more social sciences and sustainability,” van der Leeuw said.

The conference organizers felt it was time to bring these diverse communities together to promote greater interaction and awareness of the different work that is being done. ASU’s reputation for being a highly innovative university made it a top choice.

“It’s turning out to be a global summit,” van der Leeuw said. “For the first time, we’ll have more than 500 researchers and students from 58 countries on five continents, all in the same place looking at this together.”

This new approach, with an emphasis on computational methods and modeling, is revolutionizing scientific disciplines across academia. Where reductionist science seems to drop the ball, complex systems science picks it up and runs with it.

It directly challenges the assumptions that every effect has an observable cause, that the whole can be understood by analyzing it in ever smaller pieces, or that a thorough enough understanding of the past can predict the future.

“The science of complex systems looks at information flows, relationships, emerging patterns and iterations. It views the world in terms of systems that are constantly influencing and adapting to their environment. It understands that sustainable solutions are not about increasing control to maintain a status quo, but learning to adapt and ride the currents of change and work harmoniously with interacting systems,” van der Leeuw said.

“This is a new frontier for science, and the hope is that it will be able to provide actionable answers to complex real-world problems that involve nature, society, technology and culture — all while preserving the success of the scientific method,” said Manfred Laubichler, who co-directs the ASU-SFI center with van der Leeuw.

Students trained in modeling and complex systems theory are in high demand for the jobs of the future in all sectors of the economy, he added.

The five-day conference will take over the entire DoubleTree by Hilton in Tempe, Sept. 28 through Oct. 2. It features an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, satellite sessions, paper presentations, ignites and posters. Registration is open online through the CCS’15 website and will be available onsite once the conference begins.

“This is undoubtedly the event of the year for complex systems scientists,” van der Leeuw said.

Besides workshops and speakers, attendees will have a variety of opportunities to network at conference dinners and receptions at some of the Valley’s iconic venues, as well as adventure excursions around the state.

“We expect a lot of new friendships to be forged in pink jeeps or while riding a mechanical bull,” Van der Leeuw joked.

For more information and registration, visit the conference website at