Ongoing Research

Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN)

The Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus, a £3m research centre hosted by the University of Surrey, has brought together a unique coalition of experts to address some of the greatest issues in policy making and evaluation. Nexus issues are complex, with many diverse, interconnected factors involved. This presents a major challenge to policy making because changing one factor can often have unexpected knock-on effects in seemingly unrelated areas. We need new ways to evaluate policy in these situations.

CECAN will pioneer, test and promote innovative evaluation approaches and methods across nexus problem domains, such as biofuel production or climate change, where food, energy, water and environmental issues intersect. The Centre will promote ‘evidence based policymaking’ by finding ways for the results of evaluation to both inform policy, and reflect back onto future policy design. Embracing an 'open research' culture of knowledge exchange, CECAN benefits from a growing network of policymakers, practitioners and researchers and a core group of academic and non-academic experts, sharing years of experience in evaluation.


Nigel Gilbert, Klaus Moessner, Kristrún Gunnarsdóttir, Jie Jiang
HomeSense will develop and demonstrate how digital sensors can be used to advantage in social research. The project is a collaboration between the Centre for Research in Social Simulation (CRESS) and the 5G Innovation Centre. Drawing on recent developments in the use of fixed and mobile sensors to measure location, movement, noise levels, air quality, temperature, energy use and a range of physical states, the project team will trial the use of such sensors in a sample of UK households.
Households come in all sorts of configurations and they vary in their ways of organising the use of rooms, household devices and energy sources, as well as in the extent of communications amongst household members and the purposes for which members spend their time at home. Observations of households to-date have relied on self-reporting and on-site observations. With HomeSense we will demonstrate how to collect data from fixed and mobile sensors, and how to manage, technologically and responsibly, the intensive measuring of state, location, activity and interaction. We will show how this method affects respondent burden, consent, privacy and data security, and how the data can be converted into meaningful descriptions of socially relevant activities in conjunction with time-use diaries, questionnaires and walking interviews/observations.

Collective Reasoning as a Moral Point of View

Corinna Elsenbroich, Nigel Gilbert, Rainer Hegselmann

Everybody knows a free rider: the flatmate that does not do the dishes, the friend who never invites back for dinner, the work colleague who pushes work your way. If honest, everyone can probably point to a situation where they did something like this. The same person might be a free-rider in one situation and a collective contributor in the next. What are the triggers of making one choice or the other?

How do these triggers depend on social factors such as observations of behaviours in ones network or the overall population? What are the population outcomes of different social and personal dynamics? And what kinds of social structures strengthen or weaken cooperative behaviour? This project investigates the triggers and social settings of collective or individual choices and the resulting dynamics of cooperation using agent-based modelling.


Funding: AHRC

Duration: July 2014 to July 2016


Techno-social platform for sustainable models and value generation in commons-based peer production in the Future Internet (P2PValue):

Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a new and increasingly significant model of social innovation based on collaborative production by citizens through the Internet. This project will foster the CBPP phenomenon by providing a techno-social software platform specifically designed to facilitate the creation of resilient and sustainable CBPP communities. The design of the P2Pvalue platform will be empirically and experimentally grounded. Through a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods, we will elaborate guidelines for the institutional and technical features that favour value creation in CBPP.

Agent-based and DSGE macroeconomic models: A comparative study

Paul Levine, Nigel Gilbert, Tom Holden, Ozge Dilaver
While the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) approach to macroeconomics is widely used in the economic professions, some dissenting voices have noted fundamental flaws in the method – even suggesting that we should reject mainstream macro models and instead adopting an ‘agent-based’ modelling approach.
This is a collaboration between the Centre for Research in Social Simulation and the Economics department here at Surrey. The investigators have secured £600k of funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to investigate the merits of this agent-based approach. The research will apply agent-based methods to macro-economic modelling and will investigate the applicability of newly developed methods from computational biology and techniques of optimal heuristics
Funding: ESRC
Duration: September 2013 to August 2016


Whole Systems Energy Modelling Consortium (WholeSEM):

Energy models provide essential quantitative insights into the 21st Century challenges of decarbonisation, energy security and cost-effectiveness. Models provide the integrating language that assists energy policy makers to make improved decisions under conditions of pervasive uncertainty. Whole systems energy modelling also has a central role in helping industrial and wider stakeholders assess future energy technologies and infrastructures, and the potential role of societal and behavioural change.

The CRESS contribution is to the understanding and modelling of household energy demand.  There is an explanatory animation.