Complexity Studies

Research Group Leader: Rika Preiser 

In the face of increasingly complex, fast-paced, local and global issues, increasing social-ecological crisis, and rapid technological advancement, new ways of thinking and responding to engage with the nature of these challenges are required.

Studying and understanding the multi-scale, interconnected and continuously evolving complex systems that characterise contemporary societies—such as the economy, our food supply, cities, the power grid, technological innovation, to name a few—demands in-depth understanding of the mechanisms and processes of how change and transformation occur and can be navigated within these systems.

Typically the study of complex adaptive systems departs from the analytic methods that have characterized mainstream science since the time of Isaac Newton. Instead of ‘zooming in’ on the properties and characteristics of individual planets, rocks, and atoms, complexity science seeks to uncover emergent, system-wide behaviours that can’t be predicted simply by knowing more details about the individual components. For this reason, collaborative research that aims to integrate thinking and research approaches to study and understand the social, technological but also ideological transitions are needed to navigate the challenges of governing new institutions and social interactions towards more sustainable and just futures.

Complex adaptive systems thinking offers scholars and practitioners the conceptual principles and a mode of inquiry that offers practical heuristics to engage with uncertainty and change by considering the dynamic nature of the interlinked social and natural systems in which science-policy-practice interventions are to be implemented.

In this research theme we will:

  • explore how complex adaptive systems thinking can be used to inform and provide a conceptual framework for all the other research themes
  • develop principles and heuristics that can guide knowledge co-creation, collaborative action and implementing strategic interventions to bring about change that reflect complex adaptive systems thinking approaches
  • assess what methods and approaches can be advanced and employed to better study and understand the systemic nature of human-nature interaction and transformative processes.


Student-led Projects