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Current projects

The Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN) has been transforming the practice of policy evaluation across the food, energy, water and environmental domains, to make it fit for a complex world. We have achieved this through pioneering, testing and promoting innovative policy evaluation approaches with UK Government departments.

We are also delivering a technical training programme, CPD courses, specialist workshops, publications, webinars and seminars to demonstrate the challenges of evaluation in real world situations. Our Fellowship Programme has provided opportunities for those from Government and industry to forge useful and lasting connections with researchers and for CECAN’s work to be informed by and linked closely to practical evaluation.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, 2016 – 2028

CECAN Limited is a spin out from the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus which offers access to innovative policy evaluation approaches and methods to support decision makers. Our team have tried and tested experience of complexity modelling, working mainly across Nexus domains such as food, energy, water and the environment. With the CECAN Limited team you can use our experience of delivering pioneering work on the testing of ‘real-life’ case study projects with UK Government Departments and leading organisations.

AI FORA: Artificial Intelligence for Assessment is addressing the following research questions:

  • How were social assessment routines for distributing social services organised and institutionalised in different international societies prior to any AI use? 
  • How and to what degree have conventional social assessment processes in different international societies been replaced or changed by AI?
  • How will AI change public service provision and its underlying societal value systems in future, how context- and path-dependent are these changes, and what will be likely effects and impacts for living conditions and well-being in international societies?
  • How can one create better, i.e. more responsible AI technology that engages with societal norms and values of stakeholders, and that is responsive to sociocultural settings and societal needs?

Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, 2021 – 2024

ACCESS, Advancing Capacity for Climate and Environment Social Science, is providing leadership on the social science contribution to tackling and solving a range of climate and environmental problems.

We recognise that technology alone is not enough and we are working to share our understanding of how people, our societies and our systems need to change and adapt to create a healthier environment and meet our net zero goals.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, 2022 – 27

The TRANSITION Clean Air Network is an Interdisciplinary network undertaking innovative research to address emerging indoor/outdoor air quality challenges across UK surface transport

It seeks to deliver air quality and health benefits associated with the UK transition to a low-emission transport economy. The academic investigators and policy, public, commercial and not-for-profit sector partners are undertaking joint research, to co-define indoor and outdoor air quality challenges and co-deliver innovative, evidence-based solutions.

Funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council, 2020 – 2024

Past projects

EMPOWER: Empowering citizen and community adaptation to systemic risks from climate change.

Climate change is increasingly having impacts on individual livelihoods and prosperity yet plans for adaptation strategies have mostly been limited to government and the private sector. The EMPOWER project undertook three case studies (in the UK, India, and Ghana) to explore the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on a local level from the citizen perspective. 

Funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council, 2021 – 2022

SYSRISK: Systemic environmental risk analysis for threats to UK recovery from COVID-19

UK Recovery from COVID-19 needs to balance the needs of the economy, societal cohesion and health. The environment is not currently explicit in some framings of national recovery, yet there are a number of major risks involving it that can impact these areas over a relatively short timeframe. The SYSRISK team carried out three case studies: Biosecurity- improving resilience to COVID-19 and a second zoonotic emergence; Improving respiratory health of the UK population; Food security- ensuring resilience of home and international supply chains.

Funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council, 2021

LIPSIT: Local Institutions, Productivity, Sustainability and Inclusivity Trade-offs aimed to identify institutional and organisational arrangements at the regional level that tend to lead to the ‘good’ management of policy trade-offs associated with increasing productivity, and to make recommendations based on this.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, 2019 – 2021

ANTICIPATE: Actively anticipating the unintended consequences on air quality of future public policies was a NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) funded project forming part of its Clean Air Programme. It brought together policy analysts and policy makers from UK central government, devolved administrations and local and regional authorities, stakeholders from business and civil society organisations, and academics and researchers to explore policy initiatives for their consequences (intended or unintended, positive or negative) on air quality.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, 2019-2022

FutureDAMS: Design and assessment of resilient and sustainable interventions in water-energy-food-environment Mega-Systems was an interdisciplinary research consortium working to improve the planning and governance of integrated water-energy-food- environment systems. The project developed the knowledge base, tools and approach to enable system interventions to better support resilient and sustainable development in a warming world. 

Funded by the RCUK Global Challenges Research Fund, 2017-2021

HomeSense: digital sensors for social research demonstrated how digital sensors can be used to advantage in social research. 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 trialed the use of such sensors in a sample of UK households. The project showed 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 considered 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.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, 2016-2018

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

Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a new and increasingly significant model of social innovation based on collaborative production by citizens through the Internet. Through a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative methods, the project elaborated guidelines for the institutional and technical features that favour value creation in CBPP.

Funded by the 7th Framework, European Commission, 2013 – 16

WHOLESEM: the Whole Systems Energy Modelling Consortium

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.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, 2013 – 2017

The GLODERS project developed an agent-based model for understanding a specific aspect of the dynamics of the global financial system: Extortion Racket Systems (ERSs). ERSs, of which the Mafia is one example, are spreading globally from a small number of seed locations, causing massive disruption to economies. Yet there is no good understanding of their dynamics and thus how they may be countered. GLODERS provided a theory-driven set of computational tools, developed through a process of participatory modelling with stakeholders, to study, monitor, and possibly predict the dynamics of ERSs, as they spread from local through regional into global influence.

The GLODERS project was supported by the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7, 2012 – 2015.

TELL ME: Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence

TELL ME was a project about effective communication before, during and after infectious disease crises (particularly influenza epidemics). It collected evidence about attitudes toward vaccination, hand hygiene and other protective behaviour and communication during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic. This evidence was used to develop advice about effective communication and other communication tools. Project outputs included a framework for communication, a series of documents about aspects such as stigma, and an online course for medical professionals.

Funded by the 7th Framework, European Commission, 2011 – 14

The ePOLICY: Engineering the Policy Lifecycle project developed a decision support system for aiding policy makers in their decision process across the engineering of a policy making life-cycle. The life-cycle aimed to integrate global and individual perspectives on the decision process, bringing to the policy maker’s attention both global concerns (e.g., impacts, budget constraints and objectives), and individual concerns (i.e. opinions, reactions), giving guidance towards better policy implementation strategies. Global and individual perspectives relies on extensive use of optimization and decision support techniques and social simulation. The proof of concept of ePOLICY was an open source decision support system specifically designed for the energy plan of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, taking into account strategic directions in the energy production from renewable energy sources.

Funded by the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7 2011 – 2014.

ERIE: Evolution and Resilience of Industrial Ecosystems

The project aimed to embed cutting-edge complexity science methods and techniques within prototype computational tools that will provide policymakers with realistic and reliable platforms for strategy-testing in real-world socio-economic systems.

Using mathematical and computational approaches we modelled the layered, nested, multiscale systems of two case studies: “The Development of an Industrial Ecosystem on the South Humber Bank, North Lincolnshire” and “Resilient Food Supply Chains to Support Food Security and Global Sustainable Development”.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, 2010 – 2016

QLectives: Quality Collectives was a project that aimed to design and deploy next generation self-organising socially intelligent information systems, combining three recent trends within information systems: Social networks – in which people link to others over the Internet to gain value and facilitate collaboration; Peer production – in which people collectively produce informational products and experiences without traditional hierarchies or market incentives; Peer-to-Peer systems – in which software clients running on user machines distribute media and other information without a central server or administrative control. QLectives aimed to bring these together to form Quality Collectives, i.e. functional decentralised communities that self-organise and self-maintain for the benefit of the people who comprise them.

Funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies unit of the 7th Framework, European Commission, 2009 – 2013

The SIMIAN (Simulation: a Node) project aimed to promote and develop social simulation in the UK. The project involved three “demonstrator” simulations chosen to address social science challenges:

  1. Interaction: Where many theories exist across the social sciences, how can simulation be used to integrate and compare them so that social science as a whole can progress?
  2. Novelty: How can simulation develop theories in which meanings and capabilities of objects are not “given” but change and develop in use and social interaction?
  3. Norms: Different social sciences understand and measure norms in different ways. How can they be integrated to produce effective theories?

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, 2008 – 2011

PATRES: Pattern Resilience was a project to develop new methods and tools for defining synthetic (i.e. in low dimensions) descriptions of complex dynamics, based on robust pattern dynamics; new methods and tools for defining action policies in order to maintain or restore desired pattern dynamics in a complex system; and to test and illustrate these innovations on a set of case studies. The project developed methods and prototype software tools for modelling and managing pattern resilience in complex systems. Pattern resilience is understood as the capacity of the system to maintain or to recover some desired pattern dynamics (which are related to useful functions) in a changing environment. Viability theory provided a framework for an inclusive, rigorous and practical definition of resilience, which give possibilities to find sets of actions to maintain or restore the satisfactory pattern dynamics in a system.

Funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies unit of the 6th Framework, European Commission, 2007–10

NEMO: Network Models, Governance and R&D collaboration networks investigated the interplay between political governance, structure and function of politically induced R&D collaboration networks, in particular the networks that have emerged in the European Framework Programmes.

Funded by the New and Emerging Science and Technology programme of the European Commission, 2006–9

EMIL: Emergence in the loop: simulating the two way dynamics of norm innovation aimed to understand and develop design strategies able to cope with the complex two-way dynamics of emergent and immergent processes: the emergence from interaction among individual agents to the aggregate level, and the immergence of entities (norms) at the aggregate level onto agents.

Funded by the New and Emerging Science and Technology programme of the European Commission, 2006–9

New and Emergent World Models Through Individual, Evolutionary and Social Learning (FP6-IST-3752-FET) was a three year, collaborative project to grow a virtual society developed by agent-based simulation. The project tried to evolve an artificial society capable of exploring the environment and developing its own image of this environment and the society through cooperation and interaction. Working with virtual grid worlds and environments that are sufficiently complex and demanding that communication and cooperation are necessary to adapt to the given tasks, it was hoped the virtual society will exhibit individual learning, evolutionary learning, and social learning.

Funded by the Future and Emerging Technologies programme of the European Commission, 2004–7

SimWeb: exploring innovative eBusiness models using agent simulation (IST-2001-34651) was a three-year project to provide European businesses in the digital contents sector with insights and tools to enable them to take informed business strategy decisions and become more competitive by adapting their traditional business models to the new, demanding reality. To achieve this objective, SimWeb designed and implemented sector models based on reusable multi-agent simulation technology.

Funded by the Framework programme of the European Commission, 2002 – 2005

FIRMA: Freshwater Integrated Resource Management with Agents

FIRMA was concerned with improving water resource planning by developing and applying agent-based modelling to integrate physical, hydrological, social and economic aspects of water resource management.

Funded by the Framework Programme of the European Commission, 2000–2003

Simulation of self-organising Innovation Networks was an EU project that developed a theory of innovation networks, expressed as a computational model.

The project also carried out case studies of biotechnology, web designers, combined heat and power, and mobile communications research to examine the role of innovation networks.

Funded by the Targeted Socio–Economic Research Programme of the Commission of the European Communities, 1999–2001