The ARC Centre for Complex Systems explored both the science and the engineering of complex systems.

In the science stream, the Centre aimed to develop a coherent set of theories, computational techniques and modelling tools for network-based systems. The aim was to capture how natural systems self-organise and adapt, and then apply those insights to other areas.

In the engineering stream, the Centre aimed to provide a modelling framework, theory, toolset, and infrastructure to enable complex-systems researchers to build powerful models and simulations economically and reliably, with the aim of applying them to real-world systems.

As part of this research, we worked with economists to try to understand how markets function (or in some cases, don't function), to efficiently distribute products and services. We worked with human factors experts to understand and predict the implications of proposed changes to air traffic control, giving airlines more say in the decisions that are made. We also undertook fundamental research in the dependability of computer-based systems and in methods and tools for the analysis of complex systems.

The Centre's research was based around a number of application areas - genetic regulatory networks, air traffic control, evolutionary economic systems, electricity networks and energy markets, and dependable computer-based systems. These were supported and complemented by an infrastructure stream of research.
Air Traffic Control
Program leader Peter Lindsay
Research description As more vehicles take to the air, air traffic control is a constraining factor on the number of aircraft that can be accommodated, and on the trajectories that they fly. Europe, the USA and Australia are all considering fundamentally new ways of managing air traffic, to improve efficiency without compromising safety. In this program, we applied complex systems science to the problem by developing and using air traffic simulators to study new concepts and tools for air traffic management, and developing new approaches to assurance of system-level properties including safety and efficiency.
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Evolutionary Economics Systems
Program leader John Foster
Research description We applied complex systems and network theory in economics and business to understand how evolutionary change occurs. There are strong connections with earlier approaches taken in evolutionary economics and in dealing with the economics of innovation. Consistent with other programs in the Centre, multi-agent modelling and associated simulation and calibration techniques are core components of the methodology that we were using. With regard to the economic statistics available to us, we aimed to develop new ways of testing for complex patterns in high frequency data. For example, we studied trade-by trade data in stock markets and in electricity markets and sought ‘pattern matches’ in artificially generated agent-based modelling data. We also aimed to develop new ways of dealing with spatial complexity. Visualisation techniques, rarely used in economics, were applied in a range of data-rich contexts to better understand the architecture and complex dynamics of systems. Although a key goal in this program was to make fundamental theoretical and empirical advances, care was taken to work within several applied areas: induction is viewed as very important in the development of new theories, particularly in emergent research fields. In this regard, we felt it to be essential that theories be ‘historically friendly’ in complex adaptive system settings. This necessitated the development of new methodological perspectives not previously used in economic research.
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Genetic Regulatory Networks
Program leader Janet Wiles
Research description Research in the Genetic Regulatory Networks program tackled fundamental questions about growth and form in cellular biology. In this program, computational modelling was used to study how the control of development results from an interaction between each cell's genetic regulatory network and its inputs from neighbouring cells and its environment, and how the process proceeds reliably, while coping with unreliable components, perturbation, injury, and changing environments.
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Dependable Computer-Based Systems
Program leaders Geoff Dromey, Ian Hayes, Peter Lindsay
Research description The rapid pace of advances in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has led to technological systems of ever increasing complexity and sophistication. Many of these systems – in areas such as transport, health and finance – need to be safe, reliable and generally dependable. There is a constant need for new methods and tools to enable engineers to ensure that such systems meet society’s demands for dependability. This program was concerned with the development of modelling and analysis tools to ensure that dependability is designed into complex computer-based systems.
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Electricity Networks and Energy Markets
Program leaders Zhao Yang Dong, John Foster & Ariel Liebman
Research description With the introduction of deregulation, the national electricity network has emerged as an excellent example of a complex system in need of an inter-disciplinary approach to modelling and design. This program investigated ways of integrating technical and market aspects of power system with price dynamics to provide key insights into planning expansion of the power transmission network. It also aimed to apply modern computational modelling techniques to the interface between the physical properties of the electricity system and its economic considerations. A particular focus was placed on the impacts of the transmission network and power station operation on electricity price behaviour and its influence on infrastructure investment decisions. It also looked into the importance of customer-load impact on system and market operations.
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Complex Systems Theory and Applications
Research description In addition to the other research programs, the ACCS included a number of projects addressing key problems for complex systems. The projects were concerned with the application of theory to solve issues in the design and operation of complex socio-technological systems, and with the development of new analysis techniques for complex systems.  Some of these projects were rolled into the ACCS when Centre operation commenced in 2004.
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World-class basic and applied inter-disciplinary research on questions fundamental to understanding, designing and managing complex systems
© 2009 The ARC Centre for Complex Systems, Australia