Non-Equilibrium Social Science and Policy


This great book edited by Jeffrey Johnson, Paul Ormerod, Bridget Rosewell, Andrzej Nowak, and Yi-Cheng Zhang brings together many contributions from an EU project which lead to several workshops and conferences about a new form of social science – out of equilibrium, far from equilibrium, in disequilibrium as the world always is. The book is open access and you can download it here.

Here is an explanation of what is contained within. Between 2011 and 2014 the European Non-Equilibrium Social Science Project (NESS) investigated the place of equilibrium in the social sciences and policy. Orthodox economics is based on an equilibrium view of how the economy functions and does not offer a complete description of how the world operates. However, mainstream economics is not an empty box. Its fundamental insight, that people respond to incentives, may be the only universal law of behaviour in the social sciences. Only economics has used equilibrium as a primary driver of system behaviour, but economics has become much more empirical at the microlevel over the past two decades. This is due to two factors: advances in statistical theory enabling better estimates of policy consequences at the microlevel, and the rise of behavioural economics which looks at how people, firms and governments really do behave in practice. In this context, this chapter briefly reviews the contributions of this book across the social sciences and ends with a discussion of the research themes that act as a roadmap for further research. These include: realistic models of agent behaviour; multilevel systems; policy informatics; narratives and decision making under uncertainty; and validation of agent-based complex systems models.

Here is my own chapter for your interest which is entitled Cities in Disequilibrium


City Analytics


City Analytics: An invited special collection of articles for Royal Society Open Science entitled ‘City Analytics’ compiled and edited by Desmond J. Higham, Michael Batty, Luís M. A. Bettencourt, Danica Vukadinovic Greetham and Peter Grindrod. Click here or on the image above for the papers.

The growing human urban population presents unique opportunities and challenges for a range of stakeholders. As is presented in this special collection, using a range of mathematical, computational and statistical tools, it is possible to extract and analyse data on urban environments from myriad sources of information.

In the City Analytics special collection, interdisciplinary work exploring, for instance, social media usage patterns, transport networks and urban resilience to natural disasters, such as flooding, provide researchers and policymakers with detailed insights. Click here for the editorial and the papers and for the contents which are open access.

20 years of quantitative geographical thinking


In 1996, Denise Pumain set up the online journal Cybergeo . When she first proposed this the web was in its infancy and I remember thinking that this was a very high-risk proposal in a world where the notion that we might communicate our ideas across wide-area networks was still a novelty. In 1986, email was virtually unheard of apart from a few geeks like ourselves who used computers in universities that were beginning to be networked to each other as well as connecting to the rest of the world through arcane but perfectly workable yet slow email systems such as BitNet ……. Fast forward 20 years and on 26 May 2016 (see, I found myself in Paris with Helen Couclelis at the 20th anniversary of Cybergeo with both of us delivering celebratory speeches on the fact that not only had the journal survived for two decades but it had flourished as well. Only in hindsight can we say that it was a model for many other journals and in one very positive sense, it was in the vanguard of traditional hard copy journals which have fast moved during this time to the Cybergeo model …..

The world of publishing is changing dramatically – read my editorial in Environment and Planning B which covers the full impact of the online world and how we might communicate our ideas in the future.