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What’s New?

Mark Coletti, BSc, MSc, PhD, a Mason alumnus, has recently assumed the position of Geospatial Image Analysis R&D Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, TN. His principal research focus is on using machine learning to identify areas of human habitation in satellite imagery, and he is also involved in research related to Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) and agent-based modeling. Dr. Coletti, who received his Master of Science degree in Computer Science in 2007 from George Mason University and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computer Science from Mason in 2014, has been with ORNL since 2015.

While at Mason, Mark was actively involved in a number of projects and developmental initiatives. He was a member of the Center for Social Complexity’s Mason-Yale Joint Project on Climate and Society funded by ONR, and the lead developer of GeoMASON, a geospatial extension to MASON, the widely used Java-based simulation toolkits developed at George Mason University, under the direction of CSC Associate Director Sean Luke. He also developed an evolutionary computation C++ toolkit; a biologically inspired cognitive model for a DARPA Grand Challenge; a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization related multiagent simulation; and an Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative Office sponsored massive multiagent simulation of pastoral and farming behavior in eastern Africa.

He is author of The GeoMason Cookbook, 2013, and of numerous other publications.


Dr. Claudio Cioffi’s Second Edition of Introduction to Computational Social Science debuted in July and is now available from Springer.

(from Springer) This textbook provides a comprehensive and reader-friendly introduction to the field of computational social science (CSS). Presenting a unified treatment, the text examines in detail the four key methodological approaches of automated social information extraction, social network analysis, social complexity theory, and social simulation modeling. This updated new edition has been enhanced with numerous review questions and exercises to test what has been learned, deepen understanding through problem-solving, and to practice writing code to implement ideas. Topics and features: contains more than a thousand questions and exercises, together with a list of acronyms and a glossary; examines the similarities and differences between computers and social systems; presents a focus on automated information extraction; discusses the measurement, scientific laws, and generative theories of social complexity in CSS; reviews the methodology of social simulations, covering both variable- and object-oriented models.


Dr. Qing Tian’s textbook, Rural Sustainability: A Complex Systems Approach to Policy Analysis, is available now from Springer.

(from Springer)This volume applies the science of complexity to study coupled human-environment systems (CHES) and integrates ideas from the social sciences of climate change into a study of rural development amid flooding and urbanization in the Poyang Lake Region (PLR) of China. Author Qing Tian operationalizes the concept of sustainability and provides useful scientific analyses for sustainable development in less developed rural areas that are vulnerable to climatic hazards. The book uses a new sustainability framework that is centered on the concept of well-being to study rural development in PLR.


Visit the website for the DTRA WMD project now underway.


IEEE Pervasive Computing has a special issue on “Smart Cities.” According to Dr. Andrew Crooks, “The articles and departments in the special issue highlight the coming revolution in urban data via some of the different approaches researchers are taking to build tools and applications to better inform decision-making (to reduce energy consumption or improve visitor flows, for example).” Be sure to check out this issue (links to many articles) and then take time to explore the entire GIS and Agent-Based Model site designed by Andrew Crooks.

Dr. Claudio Cioffi, director of the Center for Social Complexity, has been invited to the Summit on Social and Behavioral Sciences for National Security, held at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, under the sponsorship of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and to review its public report forthcoming in February.

Dr. Cioffi has also been elected to the newly established University Research Advisory Committee (URAC), which will advise the Mason administration on research issues and policies at the university level.

Dr. William Kennedy spearheads grant from DTRA enabling modeling of possible response to nuclear event.

Mason’s Center for Social Complexity has been awarded a $462,094 grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) for a project entitled “A Framework for Modeling the Population’s Response to a Nuclear WMD Event.” This project, which explores a population’s response in the first hours, days, and weeks following a nuclear WMD event, is under the direction of William G. Kennedy (Principal Investigator/PI, Mason Center for Social Complexity; computational social scientist) and Andrew T. Crooks (Mason Center for Social Complexity and Mason’s Department of Computational and Data Sciences, College of Science; computational social scientist). The Center for Social Complexity, a unit in Mason’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, will provide core facilities and administrative support in coordination with the Office of Sponsored Programs and College of Science.

The objective of this research is to advance our understanding of the behavioral and social effects of a nuclear weapon of mass destruction (WMD) event on population dynamics. While the physical effects of such an event have been studied, the social effects are not well understood. Such effects may include complex cascading behaviors between and among the myriad of social systems and networks that have been too complex to easily describe using traditional methods. The model will show how an affected population might react to a WMD event in the first 30 days, including both in the short term (e.g., evacuation) and longer term (e.g., finding water, food, and shelters, and migrating), but will not address recovery.

The DTRA Program Officer for this project will be Paul S. Tandy, PhD.

Contact for Additional Information:
William G. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Center for Social Complexity, Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study
George Mason University, Research Hall, Room 380, MSN 6B2
4400 University Drive, Fairfax VA 22030 USA
Tel. (703) 993–1402; (703) 993-9291
E-mail: Bill Kennedy


Center for Social Complexity awarded a two-year contract for $264,678 from the Logistics Management Institute (LMI) for NASA project.

Technological advances in autonomous systems, such as smaller sensors, faster processors, and greater networking capability, have created an explosion of new consumer and commercial products and services. Unfortunately, our ability to clearly specify, effectively design, and then manage these advanced autonomous systems has not always kept pace with the development of the systems themselves.

The goal of the research is to create new language and visualization methods that will create a coherent and shared framework for the specification, design, development, management, and use of what are to a large degree unregulated systems. We will augment existing tools that can test and evaluate mechanical and basic software systems, and will propose a post-research, pre-development environment where we suggest that new approaches are in order, new terminology may be necessary, and new ways to communicate about and on behalf of the new autonomous technology is vital.

William G. Kennedy, Mason Center for Social Complexity, is the Principal Investigator (PI). The LMI program manager for this project is Brant Horio and the NASA Program Officer is Yuri Gawdiak, who is the Associate Director of the Airspace Operations and Safety Program at NASA headquarters.

The project will last one year with one additional year optional.


Dr. Crooks Contributes to Encyclopedia of Geography.

Dr. Andrew Crooks was invited to write an entry on “Cellular Automata” for the recently released “The International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology.” Below is the abstract to my chapter, along some of the images I used in my discussion, the full reference to the chapter.

Cellular Automata (CA) are a class of models where one can explore how local actions generate global patterns through well specified rules. In such models, decisions are made locally by each cell which are often arranged on a regular lattice and the patterns that emerge, be it urban growth or deforestation are not coordinated centrally but arise from the bottom up. Such patterns emerge through the cell changing its state based on specific transition rules and the states of their surrounding cells. This entry reviews the principles of CA models, provides a background on how CA models have developed, explores a range of applications of where they have been used within the geographical sciences, prior to concluding with future directions for CA modeling.

Click here for access to encyclopedia entry.