2012/ Complex Systems Sciences

We have gathered a database of around 200.000 records linked to the complex systems scientific domain. Each record consists of the authors, keywords, title, journal and references of the article, as gathered from Web of Science. These articles come mainly from four science areas, namely physics, biology, computer and engineering sciences.

All the articles published during a given period defining nodes of a network, we chose to study the relationship between two publications with the notion of bibliographic coupling, ie, to define links between articles sharing some references. These links implicitly define communities of articles sharing some common grounds. These communities are first detected thanks to the clustering algorithm developed by the Louvain team based on a maximization of the modularity function and then visualized thanks to Gephi – a graph visualization software.

Since our data contains records from 1950 to 2009, we are able to detect several scientific communities and to analyze their dynamics, how they appear, grow or shrink and sometimes disappear. On a more microscopic scale, we can also follow how a reference starts to be cited by scientists from different communities (ie to become an essential link between different communities), which provides an essential interdisciplinary ingredient for the growth and stability of the field of complex systems.

The goals of this work are

  • to develop useful quantitative tools for analyzing huge bibliometric database – more specifically here, the relations between different communities
  • more particularly, to develop tools for analyzing and visualizing the evolution of dynamic networks
  • to study how complex systems has emerged as an independent established research topic

⇒ In our 2012 paper in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, we empirically study the complex systems field and its claims to find universal principles applying to systems in general. The study of references shared by the articles allows us to obtain a global point of view on the structure of this highly interdisciplinary field. We show that its overall coherence does not arise from a universal theory, but instead from computational techniques and fruitful adaptations of the idea of self-organization to specific systems. We also find that communication between different disciplines goes through specific “trading zones,” i.e., subcommunities that create an interface around specific tools (a DNA microchip) or concepts (a network).

⇒ A study on the notion of complexity as we apprehend it at the IXXI, and compared to french philosopher Edgar Morin’s view on complexity, also lead in 2011 to an article published in Hermes, a french magazine specialized on information and communication sciences.


  • Pablo Jensen (IXXI, ENS Lyon)
  • Guillaume Beslon (IXXI, LIRIS, INSA-Lyon)
  • Sara Franceschelli (IXXI, ENS LSH)
  • Eric fleury, Qinna Wang (IXXI, INRIA, ENS Lyon)
  • Céline Robardet (INSA Lyon, LIRIS)
  • Jean-Baptiste Rouquier (ISC-PIF)