April 2014

ENFOLDing take part in the CSRW 2014 Policy Conference
ENFOLDing Co-Investigators, Researchers and PhD Students attended the 2014 CSRW Policy Conference held at the Royal Society on 25th April 2014. The conference catered for policy professionals to consider how the policy making processes can benefit from new tools and thinking emerging from study of complex social systems involved in real world global challenges. The event was convened by the four Complexity Science in the Real World projects.

As the projects enter their final phase, this was an opportunity for interaction between academia and policy, building on local, national and international stakeholder engagement that has taken place since the projects started in 2010, to steer the outputs towards real world influence. The research combines social science with cutting edge science in Maths, Computing, Engineering and Physics to develop models and simulations using an advanced set of techniques, with real world policy relevant applications.

Speakers included Prof Bernard Silverman, Chief Scientific Advisor, Home Office, together with all four project leads, Prof Nigel Gilbert, Professor Sir Alan Wilson, Prof Jane Falkingham and Prof Ed Fieldhouse.

Click here to watch the conference introduction by Professor Nigel Gilbert and ENFOLDing project presentation by Professor Sir Alan Wilson.

Click here to watch the project presentations by Professor Nigel Gilbert (ERIE project), Professor Ed Fieldhouse (SCID project) and Professor Jane Flakingham (CLC project).

September 2013

ENFOLDing workshops and presentation at the CASA Conference – 26th and 27th September 2013
On 26th September ENFOLDing held the following two workshops as part of the CASA Conference 2013;

Trade WorkshopModelling Approaches to the Future of International Trade (Alan Wilson, Simone Caschili, Rob Levy and Thomas Oleron Evans)
The patterns of international trade have changed dramatically in recent years, partly through the increasing dominance of China in manufacturing, the power of emerging markets, and changes in shipping and ports’ technologies. Data sources that describe these changes are rich but incomplete and, in the case of shipping and trade data, not connected. Here we present models of the evolution of the shipping system, and biproportional fitting models that provide the basis for linking shipping and trade data.


piracyModelling Threats: Wars, Piracy and Riots (Alan Wilson, Toby Davies, Elio Marchione and Rob Levy)
Many scenarios in the field of security involve the flow of some quantity over space; for example, people or military units; but more generally, we can considerer more abstract notions such as ‘threat’. Framed in these terms, security problems are amenable to modelling techniques, such as entropy-maximisation, previously employed in other domains, which provide a versatile framework for the analysis of flow-based systems. This workshop will first describe how a variety of security phenomena can be conceptualised in this way, using examples including military arms races, maritime piracy and the London riots of 2011, and introduce the kind of policy questions which models might seek to address. The relevant modelling techniques will then be introduced, and the use of such models for prediction and scenario testing will then be demonstrated.

On 27th September Professor Sir Alan Wilson, Rob Levy and Thomas Oleron Evans presented on ‘World Futures and Global Dynamics: Towards an Integrated Demonstration Model’ as part of the CASA Conference 2013: Future Cities and Digital Technologies.
You can view individual talks from the conference here. (Please select ‘Schedule’ from the homepage)

ConferenceWorld Futures and Global Dynamics: Towards an Integrated Demonstration Model
The global economy is a large and highly complex system, but Economics has been slow to learn the lessons of complexity science, already widely applied in the social sciences. Combinig data from a recently published database of national input-output models with international trade data from the UN, Alan Wilson, Rob Levy and Thomas Oleron Evans outline a model of worldwide trade and discuss the analytical possibilities and mathematical challenges presented by such an ambitious project.

February 2013

‘A mathematical model of the London riots and their policing’, Published by Nature Scientific Reports

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 11.57.16‘A mathematical model of the London riots and their policing’ by Toby Davies, Hannah Fry, Alan Wilson and Steven Bishop was published by Nature Scientific Reports on 21st February.

In August 2011, several areas of London experienced episodes of large-scale disorder, comprising looting, rioting and violence. Much subsequent discourse has questioned the adequacy of the police response, in terms of the resources available and strategies used. In this article, we present a mathematical model of the spatial development of the disorder, which can be used to examine the effect of varying policing arrangements. The model is capable of simulating the general emergent patterns of the events and focusses on three fundamental aspects: the apparently-contagious nature of participation; the distances travelled to riot locations; and the deterrent effect of policing. We demonstrate that the spatial configuration of London places some areas at naturally higher risk than others, highlighting the importance of spatial considerations when planning for such events. We also investigate the consequences of varying police numbers and reaction time, which has the potential to guide policy in this area.

Click here to read the full paper.

January 2013

ENFOLDing’s Dr Hannah Fry wins Provost’s Public Engager of the Year award

hannah_awardCASA’S Dr Hannah Fry (Lecturer in the Mathematics of Cities) was named the winner of this year’s Provost’s Public Engager of the Year award on Wednesday 30th January.

The awards are now in their fourth year, and are designed to recognise the work that UCL’s staff and students are doing to open up at the university – creating two way conversations with the public. This is especially pleasing as it’s the second year CASA has won (Steven Gray received the award last year).

The competition was notably strong as its a cross UCL award – Hannah was nominated for her broad portfolio of public engagement activities – including schools outreach, public lecturing, cafe scientifique, stand up, broadcasting, podcasting and charity work – which sit at the core of her practice as an academic.

The board recognised Hannah’s commitment to engaging people in the abstract beauty of mathematics and its utility in our complex world, making communicating research and the ideas of her field central to her academic career. They also noted her eye for evaluation and efforts in continually developing and improving her approach, based on ongoing learning.
The event was hosted by Vice-Provost Michael Worton at the Royal College of General Practitioners, with Provost Malcom Grant awarding the prizes.

November 2012

ENFOLDing away-day – 13th November, Regent’s College, London

The CASA ENFOLDing project held its second away-day held at Regent’s College on Tuesday 13th November.

The aim of the day was to explore possibilities for designing a global demonstration model. The group began by splitting into their respective workstreams (aid, trade, security and development) to identify possible inputs and outputs for their own sector. These variables were then looked at in relation to both the global and regional levels.

After lunch the team worked to refine the variables they had identified and create a feasible systems dynamics style map of interactions and flows between each sector.

Important research questions were also identified, such as ‘how do we capture nonlinearities?’ And ‘how many sectors are needed for the model?’, which require further investigation.

The ENFOLDing (Explaining, modelliNg, and FOrecasting gLobal Dynamics) project is part of the Complexity Science in the Real World network (CSRW).

Professor Sir Alan Wilson is the Principal Investigator on the ENFOLDing project. Read his blog here.

Read the latest working papers written by the ENFOLDing team.


June 2012 

Hannah Fry will be giving a TED talk in London on 3rd June –

Mathematicians and scientists have been modeling the behaviour of physical systems for centuries, but it is only in the past few years that they have begun to realise that these models can also be applied to the behaviour of humans in society.

Techniques to understand the flow of a fluid can be applied to the movement of a crowd; the spread of a disease has identical mechanisms to the uptake of a new technology or the spread of a rumour; and the way that humans form social connections has links to the network of international flight routes.

In the last decade or so, people have begun to exploit these analogies and we are seeing a new field emerging at the interface between social sciences and mathematics. These new applications of mathematical modelling techniques allow us to answer ‘what if’ questions in a way that data and statistical analysis cannot, and offer insights into the mechanisms of emergent properties in a way that computer simulations cannot.

I will illustrate the potential of this new field using an example from my own work: a mathematical model of the London Riots. The model can demonstrate why certain areas of the city were at a higher risk than others, give quantitative insights into the importance of police numbers and help to determine what policing strategies may have resulted in a swifter resolution to the unrest. all adding to an overall picture which will help prevent similar events in the future.

Finally, we will discuss how this new era of social modeling can provide a greater understanding of our society, and help us design better systems for all: from healthcare services to policing and policy.


April 2012

ENFOLDing Researcher wins £1000 funding prize

Dr Hannah Fry, Research Associate in the department of Mathematics and member of the ENFOLDing project at CASA has won the £1000 prize at the ‘Focus on the Positive’ event.

On Monday 23rd April Hannah presented alongside six other UCL researchers at Camden People’s Theatre at the ‘Focus on the Positive’ event to an audience who chose Hannah’s idea to raise awareness about the issues faced by young people from deprived backgrounds in London as worthy of the £1000 funding. The money will be used to make a short film about the issues facing young people from deprived backgrounds in London and the importance of youth services. Hannah said “We have already managed to enlist the help of an award winning film maker who specialises in social and cultural documentaries, and a PR expert who will help us to generate media interest around the film, and are supported by a south London charity which provides services to young people across the city, including those who are deemed most at risk of offending.”

Hannah’s idea developed against the backdrop of evidence found in the research done on the London riots through the ENFOLDing project. Hannah stated ‘The kids who were involved in the riots came from some of the poorest areas of the city – areas with the worst crime records, highest unemployment rates and worst state schools, but also from boroughs worst hit by government cuts to youth services’.

Read more about ENFOLDing’s work on the London riots in Wired magazine.

March 2012

ENFOLDing away-day – 6th March, Chicheley Hall, Newport Pagnell

The CASA ENFOLDing project held its’ first away-day at Chicheley Hall, Newport Pagnell on Tuesday 6th March. The aim of the day was for each workstream to present on their work to date since the project began 18 months ago, and their plans for the next 12 months. The five workstreams that make up ENFOLDing are Complexity, Trade, Migration, Security, Development and Synthesis.

During the afternoon, groups discussed how best to make connections between workstreams and what collaborations could be formed, as well what new projects could be studied and potential future publications.

The ENFOLDing (Explaining, modelliNg, and FOrecasting gLobal Dynamics) project is part of the Complexity Science in the Real World network (CSRW) whose aim is to enhance the potential of the cross disciplinary research across four projects, including ENFOLDing, generating new projects and extending impact by informing and influencing policy, encouraging a better understanding of the value of Complexity Science for the Real World for Social and Economic policy issues.

Professor Sir Alan Wilson is the Principal Investigator on the ENFOLDing project. Read more about him on his blog.

Read the latest working papers written by the ENFOLDing team.


January 2012

CSRW PhD Launch Event – 27th January, UCL

The Complexity Science in the Real World (CSRW) network held its PhD Programme launch at UCL on Friday 27th January. The aim of the network is to enhance the potential of the cross disciplinary research across four projects (ENFOLDing, CLC, ERIE and SCID), generating new projects and extending impact by informing and influencing policy.CSRW is funded to bring together the knowledge and lessons learned across the four projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council programme.

Sir Alan Wilson, Professor of Urban and Regional Systems at CASA, and lead investigator on the ENFOLDing project (Explaining, modelliNg, and FOrecasting gLobal Dynamics), gave two talks during the event. The first,  based on his book ‘Knowledge Power’, gave guidance on how to generate good ideas as a researcher by setting research in a broader context and tackling the challenge of interdisciplinarity.

During the afternoon Sir Alan Wilson ran a workshop based on his latest book ‘The Science of Cities and Regions: Lectures on Mathematical Model Design’. He covered topics including what constitutes a model, common features of systems and the Lowry model of a city as an example.


Dr Hannah Fry will be speaking at the British Applied Mathematics Colloquium 2012 (27-29th March) at UCL. She will be giving a talk on the ‘Rate effects on the growth of centres’.

Much of the mathematical modelling within the ENFOLD project (Explaining, modelling and forecasting global dynamics) revolves around the use of spatial interaction models, derived from information theory and entropy-maximisation techniques and embedded in dynamic difference equations. This class of models have wide reaching applications: from trade and migration flows to the spread of riots and understanding the spatio-temporal patterns of burglaries. When framed in the context of a retail system, the dynamics of centre growth poses an interesting mathematical problem, with bifurcations and phase changes which may be treated analytically. In this contribution we present some analysis of both the continuous retail model and the corresponding discrete version, which yields insights into the effect of space on the system and an understanding of why certain retail centres are more successful than others.

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