CSDC research

Since its founding, CSDC faculty have submitted over $75 million in proposals and have received over $12 million in externally funded grants. CSDC faculty have also led two NSF Science and Technology Center proposals totaling an additional $100 million in requested funds. The center has been the home to the international Network for Computational Modeling in Social and Ecological Sciences for over a decade, an international network supporting social and cyberinfrastructure for reproducibility and transparency in scientific computation for social and ecological dynamics. It also hosts the leadership of the Open Modeling Foundation, an international consortium of modeling science organizations developing common standards for best practices across the social and natural sciences.

A suite of closely related themes has emerged out of the research activities of the center’s faculty, visitors, and postdocs.

  • Innovation and evolution in life, society and technology
  • Cooperation, conflict and collective action
  • Socioecological
  • Social scaling
  • Computation and modeling
  • Evolution of social complexity

To encourage continuing innovative, transdisciplinary science across these research themes, the CSDC, Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment and the ASU/SFI Biocomplexity Center have cooperated to provide seed money for faculty-generated working groups to initiate new scholarship.

Innovation and evolution in life, society and technology

How do novel and innovative features emerge or evolve within groups? What processes drive innovation? How do biological, social and technological systems coevolve in humans and other organisms?

Cooperation, conflict and collective action

How do cooperative interactions individuals within groups create higher-level entities—including new individuals? What is the role of conflict between individuals and groups in maintaining or limiting cooperation? How does collective action among cooperating individuals enable groups to engage in new kinds of actions and generate new levels of cooperation?


How do societies interact with and influence their social and physical environments? How do multi-level feedbacks between coupled social and biophysical systems transform both systems over different time scales? How can we manage these complex interactions to sustain an Anthropocene world?

Social scaling

How do social groups change in their dynamics and structure as they grow, develop and evolve? Are there scaling laws that apply across human and non-human systems? Can studies of scaling in non-human societies (like social insects) provide new insights into the evolution and growth of urban systems?

Computation and modeling

How can we develop next generation computational modeling that is sufficiently flexible and scalable to represent feedbacks between social and environmental systems in an integrative way at local to global scales? How can new, large scale datasets be applied to computational representations of complex systems? How can computational science be made more open and reproducible?

Evolution of social complexity

What are the evolutionary bases for human cooperation and its unique characteristics? How do biological and social evolution interact to create human sociality? How can research on non-human primates inform our understanding of the evolution of social complexity in the human lineage?