Workshop on the Combined Modeling of Social and Physical Infrastructure Networks

Project: Research project

Project Details


Abstract: Workshop on the Emergence of the Field of Network Science and Its Application to the Study of Infrastructure

In the past five years a number of physicists, Internet theorists, social scientists and specialists in dynamic systems and complexity have made major strides in the development of a general theory of networks. This theory and its empirical foundation, which some have called network science, seeks to explain why networks appear and how they grow and evolve. A recent book by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (2002) marks the coalescence and emergence of network science as a field of scientific inquiry. The agreement of other scholars with Barabasi's assertion that a new science of networks is emerging is documented in the recent comprehensive review of complex networks by M. E. J. Newman (2003).

Some of the most important contributions to network science have been made by social scientists studying human activities expressed as so-called social networks. Many of the same general properties identified for physical networks, such as small worldness and scale freeness, have been discovered within social networks. The review by Newman explicitly recognizes the interdisciplinary nature of network science research and the major contributions to it made by social scientists.

An unanswered question is whether the results of network science will prove useful in engineering applications. A specific version of this question is whether network science can be applied to the study of infrastructure networks. Especially interesting is the potential of fusing social network models which describe human activity patterns in great detail with traditional operations research network models to create a new generation of network models for better understanding the interaction of social and infrastructure networks.

In fact the main theme of the workshop will be the fusion of social and physical networks. Consistent with this general theme, the workshop will explore how best to construct models that combine detailed social networks with network flow models traditionally used to study physical infrastructure. The dominant physical infrastructure to be considered will be transportation, although participants with backgrounds in telecommunication networks, financial networks and water resource networks will also be sought.

The broad impacts of this workshop include 1) engaging diverse communities of researchers (specifically social scientists and physical infrastructure engineers) in areas linked by a common science; 2) published proceedings and complete audio-visual recording of the workshop documenting the exchange; and 3) the potential to understand the link between network topology robustness and exposure to attack as well as network resilience and self organization.

Effective start/end date10/1/039/30/05


  • National Science Foundation: $83,000.00


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