World-Leading Global Scholars Visiting and Working with the DRMC Team and Fellows


World-Leading Global Scholars Visiting and Working with the DRMC Team and Fellows

The DRMC has had a busy academic year and we are only two-thirds of the way through! Since autumn, through the Research Methods Café and other avenues, we have had research conversations on research interview methods, discussed R software, worked with our new DRMC Student Fellows, set up the new research themes, and developed a Power Automate guide to process separate reviewing of anonymous and identifiable information for grant/job applications. We also had three visiting scholars to Durham. DRMC has tremendous capacity to become a world-leading hub for intellectual engagement around methods. Toward this effort, the following three international scholars visited the DRMC.

Prof Christophe Gernigon, Université de Montpellier, FranceChristophe is Professeur des Universités in Psychology of Sport and Exercise at the Université de Montpellier. Christophe specialises in the application of complexity modelling, in particular, dynamical systems theory, to topics in social psychology and sports psychology. For more on his work, click here. While at Durham, Christophe gave two lectures. The first – The dynamics of approach and avoidance motivation: A key to understanding (non-) sporting lives?was for the Department of Sport and Exercise at Durham. The second – On the reproducibility issue: Will psychological science ever exorcise Laplace’s Demon? – was for the DRMC.

Dr Corey Schimpf, State University of New York, USACorey is in the Department of Engineering Education, University of Buffalo, State University of New York, USA. His expertise is in agent architecture and AI, design research and design thinking, data visualization, critical studies, data mining, educational technology, case-based methods, research methods, and computational social science. Corey is part of the international DRMC team developing the AM-Smart methods platform, COMPLEX-IT – which non-experts can use to run some of the latest developments in computational modelling. We are presently developing a systems mapping tab and a fast-ABM tab. Corey visited Durham in October to present on a paper he and I recently wrote, Approachable modeling and smart methods: a new methods field of study.

Dr Philippe Giabbanelli, Miami University, USAPhilippe is truly a global scholar. Born in France, studied in Canada, did his post-doctoral studies at Cambridge, and is presently working in the States. Philippe’s research group primarily work on simulation models and machine learning for public health. More specifically, they are focused on discrete simulation models (e.g., agent-based modeling, cellular automata), network analysis, and machine learning (e.g., classification, performance analysis). Currently, his main projects are (i) using machine learning to accelerate large-scale simulations and (ii) shifting from ‘big’ to ‘useful’ data by identifying the minimum parts of a dataset needed to quickly make accurate predictions.  Philippe is part of the international DRMC team developing new approaches to agent-based modelling. He was also a great colleague and support during the COVID pandemic, as the world community of modellers, of which our DRMC was a team, came together to quickly develop various models of the pandemic. As a result, we wrote the following paper together, Opportunities and challenges in developing covid-19 simulation models: Lessons from six funded projects. In March, Philippe brought his global experience and methods expertise to Durham to work on a research paper with our team and to do two presentations. The first was Agent-based modelling for public health: New methods and applications to obesity and suicide. This is highly innovative work, engaging in co-creation for developing simulation models. It was an exciting talk! Click here and also click here for two papers on which this presentation was based. The second presentation, which you can click here to watch on YouTube, and which builds on the first, was Participatory modelling and mixed-methods for public health simulations.

Looking forward to 2023-2024.

Building on our initial success, we will invite several more international scholars. So far, we are hoping we will be able to invite the following colleagues, perhaps for a conference on the philosophy of complexity. Stay tuned!

Dr Federica Russo, University of Amsterdam, NetherlandsFederica is a philosopher of science, technology, and information based at the University of Amsterdam. Her current research concerns epistemological, methodological, and normative aspects as they arise in the biomedical and social sciences, and in highly technologized scientific contexts. She is currently working on an edited volume on complexity in causality. For more on her work, Click here.

Prof. dr dr, Lasse Gerrits, Erasmus University, NetherlandsLasse is Academic Director of the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. His current research focuses on social scientific research methods, complexity sciences, systems theories, urban planning and development, governance, railway systems, infrastructure development, qualitative research methods, qualitative comparative analysis, network analysis, system modelling, socio-technological evolution.

Prof. Andrea Hurst, Nelson Mandela University, South AfricaAndrea is Chair in Identities and Social Cohesion in Africa, at Nelson Mandela University. Another global scholar, Andrea was awarded PhD in Philosophy from Villanova University, Philadelphia, 2006. Her research focused on bringing complexity-thinking in continental philosophy into contact with psychoanalytic theory, leading to the publication of a book entitled Derrida vis-á-vis Lacan: Interweaving Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). Presently, her work remains engaged, broadly speaking, in examining the interfaces between philosophy as a way of life in its many dimensions, psychoanalytic thinking, and the development of notions of ethical responsibility within the contemporary paradigmatic shift from “simplicity” to “complexity.” 


Complexity scientists and those interested in complex systems research, please do better literature reviews

Perhaps it is anecdotal on my part. But it seems to happen far too often lately. I am reading an article or book on the application of the complexity sciences to some topic only to have to endure the authors failing to cite some landmark publication or even just failing to cite the literature their peers have published on the same topic!

Worse is when authors confine their citations to scholars in their own country or their own small collegial network. Reading the literature, one would sometimes think that the complexity sciences were independently developed in various countries throughout the world, because far too often scholars ignore those outside their small collegial networks, even when doing the exact same research!

I know the complexity sciences constitute a massive field of study. I know, even when developing our map of the complexity sciences, that studies can be missed. And I know we cannot cite everyone. 

But come on! . . . 

Complexity scientists and those interested in complex systems research, please do better literature reviews. It is misleading and lacking scientific rigour.


The Atlas of Social Complexity: Mapping Complexity’s Adjacent Possible (Workshop at Nelson Mandela University)


I would like to thank Andrea Hurst and Anton Botha and Harsheila Riga for the opportunity to run a workshop on complexity at Nelson Mandela University. The workshop is based on a forthcoming book in 2024 – The Atlas of Social Complexity (Edward Elgar Publishing) -- that Lasse Gerrits and I are in the final stages of writing.


Here is the Workshop Abstract


Although the complexity sciences have done much to advance the social sciences, over the last decade the field has run into some hard situations – thirteen to be exact. Some are self-imposed, others come from how 21st century science is conducted. Examples include ignoring the wider social sciences; privileging computational modelling over qualitative research; and being tone-deaf about the real world.


These situations presently prevent the study of social complexity from becoming the disruptive, transdisciplinary field it originally sought to be in the 1990s when the complexity turn in the social sciences took place.


Fortunately, a small but growing global network of scholars are charting new territory. They are part of a fresh turn in complexity, the social science turn, which fosters a transdisciplinary, social complexity imagination that, in one way or another, addresses the field’s thirteen situations to create new areas of disruptive and highly innovative social inquiry. The Atlas of social complexity charts this new territory, seeking to map its present future.


Organised around five major themes – (1) Cognition, emotion and consciousness, (2) Dynamics of human psychology, (3) Living in social systems, (4) Advancing a new methods agenda, and (5) The unfinished space – the Atlas functions as a tour guide, surveying over thirty leading-edge research areas (some still under construction) that readers can variously combine and develop.


The Atlas is a practical guide for those seeking new ideas and new avenues of study to pursue, all in the hope of fostering the transdisciplinary social complexity imagination needed to address some of the biggest global challenges we, as a world community, presently face.


The purpose of this interactive Workshop is to introduce the Atlas to foster a discussion on the future of the field and for participants to explore what a future map might look like for their work.



·      CLICK HERE is a link to the Main PowerPoint

·      CLICK HERE for the Complexity Sciences Map


·      CLICK HERE for the Methods PowerPoint.

·      CLICK HERE to explore COMPLEX-IT and its software, tutorials, etc.

·      CLICK HERE for a published article on COMPLEX-IT 

·      CLICK HERE for Big Data Mining and Complexity

·      CLICK HERE for the Sage Handbook of Case-Based Methods 






Early Life Brain Development, Air Pollution and the Exposome: A Complexity Perspective (Lecture at Nelson Mandela University)

I would like to thank Andrea Hurst and Anton Botha and Harsheila Riga for the opportunity to present my work on early Life Brain Development, Air Pollution and the Exposome: A Complexity Perspective  at Nelson Mandela University. The purpose of the talk is to outline a new framing of the exposome, allostatic load and brain health grounded in a case-based complexities of place perspective.




Adverse environmental exposures during early life development, in particular air pollution, are crucial to the brain health that children and adolescents (and the communities in which they live) subsequently experience throughout their life-course. Brain health ranges from neurodegenerative disease and developmental disorders to cognitive function and mental health. Given this pathways to disease link to development, a new field of study has emerged called the exposome. The exposome is a complex configuration of all the exposures a community and its individuals experience in a lifetime and how the multifaceted chemistry of the systems in which people live meet with the complexities of the human brain and public health – particularly in terms of health and social inequalities. For example, by 2050, 24% of global deaths will be linked to the environment; 30-55% to social determinants; and over 139 million people will have dementia at a global cost of $2.8 trillion. Mitigating these public health issues by intervening in early life development is key. The theoretical challenge, however, is how best to make sense of such complexity. The purpose of this presentation is to explore how a complex systems view of the intersection between social determinants and the exposome and their impact on brain health development as a function of place is the best approach for advancing such a difficult, interdisciplinary field of study and its policy implications. The case study as evidence will be the latest research on air pollution and brain health in early life and adolescence.

Here is a link to my PowerPoint

Here is the link to InSPIRE


Vermeulen, R., Schymanski, E. L., Barabási, A. L., & Miller, G. W. (2020). The exposome and health: Where chemistry meets biology. Science, 367(6476), 392-396.