The sci­ence of com­plex sys­tems was born in the mid-​​20th cen­tury, but it has only recently begun to mature into a research field with real-​​world rel­e­vance. The devel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies that stamp data points on nearly all of our activ­i­ties is allowing us to quan­tifi­ably study society — the ulti­mate com­plex system.

“Com­plex sys­tems is really now get­ting into a dif­ferent stage of its life in which it can start to have an impact through prac­tical appli­ca­tions,” said Alessandro Vespig­nani, the Stern­berg Family Dis­tin­guished Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor of physics, com­puter sci­ence and health sci­ences.

It is for this reason that the Euro­pean Union sought in 2006 to sup­port the first-​​ever aca­d­emic society devoted to com­plex sys­tems sci­ence, which com­prises 600 mem­bers world­wide. This year, in the first renewal of the society’s lead­er­ship, Vespig­nani was elected as its president.

“This is a young field and it needs young researchers to pro­mote it, advo­cate for it and pro­vide momentum,” said Vespig­nani, whose research uses human mobility pat­terns to track the spread of dis­eases across the globe.

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