EU COST Action MP0801: "Physics of Competition, Cooperation and Conflicts"

The COST MP0801 action aims at extending and improving concepts and methods from statistical physics, to reach a better understanding of complex socio-economic problems. This aim is in line with one of the hottest research topics worldwide, namely a fundamental quantitative understanding of social interaction by using multi-agent computer simulations, predictive methods from time series analysis, recent findings from network theory, and statistical and analytical methods. These methods have been partly developed in other scientific areas, such as condensed matter physics or biological physics. In these areas, systems can be seen as comprised of interacting entities (atoms, cells) which produce, as the result of the collective interaction, new systems dynamics and emergent properties. Such methods may be transferable to social or economic systems which are also comprised of interacting entities (humans, firms) and generate a large variety of collective effects (ranging from the emergence of social norms to world-wide trade networks). Because of the inherent complexity of socio-economic interaction, the outcome of such a global dynamics is (i) hard to predict, and (ii) difficult to control or to design. New theoretical approaches are thus needed to achieve this goal – which are at the heart of the new COST action.

The main objective of this action is to apply methods developed in statistical physics to accomplish a new quantitave understanding of competition and conflicts in socioeconomic systems. So, different from various other activities in the field of conflict research, the COST MP0801 action invites the collaboration of physicists. In recent years, statistical physics has already successfully contributed to interdisciplinary fields, such as financial market models or risk assessment. Therefore, a transfer of methods and tools from statistical physics into the area of social interaction should be a promising endaveour. An additional objective is to increase the understanding of the fundamental principles underlying the problems of uncertainty and complexity in the socio-economic realms.

 The COST MP0801 action grew out of a number of European activities, in particular the previous COST P10 action ”Physics of Risk” which ended in June 2008 and was a highly successful one. A major focus of COST P10 was the application of physics concepts in finance, whereas the new actions takes the ’bigger challenge’, namely applications in social systems at large. COST MP0801 has the advantage to build on an already established European network of collaborations, which will be extended by new nodes with particular competence in modeling social systems.

Working Groups

The scientific programme of the COST MP0801 action rests on five mutually related Working Groups (WG):

  • WG 1 “Information and Knowledge”
    – availability of information, e-databases, data collection
    – learning dynamics, memory effects
  • WG 2 “Agents, including Game Theory”
    – human interaction and coordination in space and time, emergence and adaptation of norms, opinion dynamics
    – consumer choice and purchasing behavior, competition between firms
  • WG 3 “Complex Networks”
    – robustness against failures, growing networks
    – evolution of social networks, new viral marketing strategies
  • WG 4 “Evolution and Co-Evolution”
    – coevolution of agents and interactions (network structure)
    – strategy learning, spread of strategies in populations
  • WG 5 “Technology and Risk Management”
    – risk of faults in complex infrastructures
    – intregration of complex systems and artificial intelligence methods, to increase safety and security

The Swiss Chapter of COST MP0801

Quantitative research in the social sciences, using agent-based computer simulations and other techniques developed for complex systems, is still in an infant stage – not just in Switzerland, but also internationally. This also relates to the fact that social science research receives considerably less external funding, compared to the natural or life sciences. Participating in this action, allows the Swiss nodes to quickly improve this situation, by accessing the competence and using collaborations with other European nodes.

The Swiss interest in COST MP0801 can be grouped into three points:

  1. Building up competence
    Mitigating conflicts and undesired effects of competition is an important issue for Switzerland. The current lack of quantitative models and predictive methods is a major challenge. This action allows Switzerland to participate in the European efforts to build up a multidisciplinary approach towards competition and conflicts, and quantitative social sciences in general.
  2. Broadening of research perspectives
    The research issues addressed in COST MP0801 may lead to new research agendas (and research proposals) in institutions dealing with statistical physics and may initiate new interdisciplinary collaborations between physicists and social scientists.
  3. Intensifying European collaborations
    By joining COST MP0801, Switzerland is able to shape the international research agenda in this strategic domain and to contribute to the development of the emerging fields of econophysics and sociophysics. The COST MP0801 action allows Swiss research institutions to initiate and to intensify collaboration with the leading European teams in this field.

National Coordinator:

  • Prof. Dr. Dr. Frank Schweitzer
    Chair of Systems Design, ETH Zurich
    Prof. Schweitzer was the national coordinator and member of the management committee of the previous COST P10 action. He was already supporting the European COST MP0801 action at the stage of writing the proposal. From his previous research projects, he has already research contacts to different participating European groups.

National Vice-Coordinator:

Swiss projects related to this COST action:

SERI Project: Evolving Networks of Agents Competing For Centrality