How stable are democracies? Complex systems perspectives on modern society

Thursday 11th JanuaryFriday 12th January 2018

The deadline for registration has now been extended until Friday 5th January 2018. 

To what extent can the tools of complex systems research be extended from the natural to the social domain?

As complex systems perspectives on physics, biology, chemistry, and biochemistry reach increasing maturity, more and more of the big open questions for the field relate to the analysis of complex social systems.

One particularly important issue is the robustness of social institutions, in general, and democracy, in particular. What makes a democracy robust? And which processes potentially lead to instability of a democratic system?

This workshop brings together academics from the fields of mathematics, network science, biology, political studies, economics amongst others to each offer a perspective on this question from their own field of research. Ample time will be given to discussion of the different viewpoints, and to a debate of emerging ideas.

Register to attend

Confirmed speakers

Andrea Migliano – University College London

Andrea Migliano is a Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology at the University College London. Her academic interests focus on the evolution of human’s adaptations as well as evolutionary theory applied to the origins of human phenotypic diversity, gene-culture co-evolution, as well as adaptations of hunter-gatherers and small scale societies.



David Garcia – Medical University of Vienna

David Garcia is a computational social scientist. He is a group leader at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. His research focuses on computational social science, designing models and analysing human behaviour through digital traces. His main work revolves around the topics of emotions, cultures, and political polarization, combining statistical analyses of large datasets of online interaction with agent-based modeling of individual behaviour.


Didier Sornette – ETH Zurich

Didier Sornette is Professor on the Chair of Entrepreneurial Risks at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. He is also a professor of the Swiss Finance Institute, and a professor associated with both the department of Physics and the department of Earth Sciences at ETH Zurich. He is the author of numerous books, amongst them Why Stock Markets Crash? and Critical Phenomena in Natural Sciences.


Don Ross – University College Cork

Don Ross is Professor of Philosophy at University College Cork, Ireland; Professor of Economics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa; and Program Director for Methodology at the Center for Economic Analysis of Risk, Georgia State University, USA.  His research focuses on the foundations of economic theory, the experimental economics of addiction, risk, and time preference, philosophy of science, and infrastructure, trade and industry policy in Africa.


Henry Farrell – George Washington University

Henry Farrell is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University. He works on a variety of topics, including trust, the politics of the Internet and international and comparative political economy. He has written articles and book chapters as well as a book, The Political Economy of Trust: Interests, Institutions and Inter-Firm Cooperation, published by Cambridge University Press.


Patricia Palacios – Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich

Patricia Palacios is a doctoral fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at LMU Munich. Her areas of interest are general philosophy of science (especially problems concerning explanation, reduction and emergence) and in philosophy of physics (mainly foundations of statistical mechanics). Her current research focuses on philosophical problems raised by phase transitions.


Stephan Lewandowsky – University of Bristol

Stephan Lewandowsky is Professor of Psychology at the University of Bristol. He is a cognitive scientist with an interest in computational modeling. He examines the persistence of misinformation in society, and how myths and misinformation can spread. I has become particularly interested in the variables that determine whether or not people accept scientific evidence, for example surrounding vaccinations or climate science.


Tina Eliassi-Rad – Northeastern University

Tina Eliassi-Rad is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. She is also on the faculty of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute. Her research is rooted in data mining and machine learning; and spans theory, algorithms, and applications of massive data from networked representations of physical and social phenomena. Tina’s work has been applied to personalized search on the World-Wide Web, statistical indices of large-scale scientific simulation data, fraud detection, mobile ad targeting, and cyber situational awareness.



How to register

Tickets to attend this event can be purchased via the Universities online shop. Please note that the deadline for registrations is Friday 5 January.


Academic fee – £50.00

Postgraduate Student fee – £30.00

Undergraduate Student fee – £10.00


There is the possibility to contribute a short talk (10-15 minutes). To apply, please, send a half-page abstract and links to any relevant publications to by December 5. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 15 December.


Venue, travel and accommodation

The event will be held at M Shed, located on the harbourside, a five to 10 minute walk from the city centre or a 20 minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads train station. Further travel information can be found here.

For information on the range of accommodation options available, please see the Visit Bristol website.



Thursday 11 January

9:00 am – Registration, tea and coffee

9:30 am – Welcome

10:00 am – Talk and discussion sessions (full schedule and timings to be confirmed)

5:00 pm – Buffet reception

6:30 pm – Evening public talk


Friday 12 January

9:00 am – Tea and coffee

9:30 am – Talk and discussion sessions (full schedule and timings to be confirmed)

4:30 pm – Closing comments

5:00 pm – Event close


Organising committee

Karoline Wiesner, School of Mathematics, University of Bristol

Karim Thebault, Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol

Alvin Birdi, Department of Economics, University of Bristol


For practical information, please contact the Maths Conference Administrator.


Comments are closed.