In science, concepts such as organism, evolution and life, are used almost every day. Every scientist knows the general meaning of such concepts. At the same time, nature is complex, and for this reason, it is difficult to draw stringent lines around classes of things. Scientists therefore accept the use of so called ‘working definitions’ for many concepts. It is frequently advocated that working on definitions has little use for practical research.

This book explores a different viewpoint, in which definitions are compared with tools. If your toolbox contains too few tools, tools that are worn down, or tools that don’t fit, it becomes difficult to carry out even the most easy maintenance or repair job. Experts know: suitable tools make the work easier.

The aim of this book is to examine much-used concepts in science as if these are tools in a scientific toolbox. Do the current definitions represent quality tools? To explore this question, this book uses a recently developed hierarchy theory, the operator theory, as a reference. This theory is explained in the first chapter. Whenever the analyses suggest to do so, the ScienceBites offer directions for improvement of current definitions.


A fresh take on commonly used terms in science

Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis
Published: 2019 Pages: 142

eISBN: 978-90-8686-887-2 | ISBN: 978-90-8686-336-5


Towards a quantitative model of epidemics during conflicts 

Epidemics may both contribute to and arise as a result of conflict. The effects of conflict on infectious diseases are complex and there have been confounding observations of both increase and decrease in disease outbreaks during and after conflicts. However there is no unified mathematical model that explains all these counter-intuitive observations. There is an urgent need for a quantitative framework for modelling conflicts and epidemics. We introduce a set of mathematical models to understand the role of conflicts in epidemics. Our mathematical framework has the potential to explain the counterintuitive observations and the complex role of human conflicts in epidemics. Our work suggests that aid and peacekeeping organizations should take an integrated approach that combines public health measures, socio-economic development, and peacekeeping in the conflict zone. Our approach exemplifies the role of non-linear thinking in complex systems like human societies. We view our work as a step towards a quantitative model of disease spread in conflicts.


Banerjee S. 2019. Towards a quantitative model of epidemics during conflicts. PeerJ Preprints 7:e27651v1


NetSci-X 2020

NetSci-X, the Network Science Society‘s signature winter conference, will visit Tokyo, Japan in 2020. Bringing together leading researchers and innovators, NetSci-X 2020 will connect Japanese culture of innovation and hospitality with the novel perspectives of Network Science.

NetSci-X 2020 will include

  • Main conference (plenary and parallel sessions, poster sessions) on January 20th — 22nd
  • One-day network science school on January 23rd


How Efficiency Shapes Human Language

We review recent research on the burgeoning topic of how language structure is shaped by principles of efficiency for communication and learning.
Work in this area has infused long-standing ideas in linguistics and psychology with new precision and methodological rigor by bringing together information theory, newly available datasets, controlled experimentation, and computational modeling.
We review a number of studies that focus on phenomena ranging from the lexicon through syntactic processes, and which deploy formal tools from information theory and probability theory to understand how and why language works the way that it does.
These studies show how a pervasive pressure for efficient usage guides the form of natural language and suggest a rich future for language research in connecting linguistics to cognitive psychology and mathematical theories of communication.


How Efficiency Shapes Human Language

Edward Gibson, et al.

Trends in Cognitive Science


Topical Alignment in Online Social Systems

Understanding the dynamics of social interactions is crucial to comprehend human behavior. The emergence of online social media has enabled access to data regarding people relationships at a large scale. Twitter, specifically, is an information oriented network, with users sharing and consuming information. In this work, we study whether users tend to be in contact with people interested in similar topics, i.e., if they are topically aligned. To do so, we propose an approach based on the use of hashtags to extract information topics from Twitter messages and model users’ interests. Our results show that, on average, users are connected with other users similar to them. Furthermore, we show that topical alignment provides interesting information that can eventually allow inferring users’ connectivity. Our work, besides providing a way to assess the topical similarity of users, quantifies topical alignment among individuals, contributing to a better understanding of how complex social systems are structured.


Topical Alignment in Online Social Systems

Felipe Maciel Cardoso, Sandro Meloni, André Santanchè, and Yamir Moreno

Front. Phys., 17 April 2019 |