What is Network Science?
At some point, somewhere, self-replicating biological life was born. Biological systems continued to evolve, giving rise to complex organs such as the human brain. Overtime, biological agents evolved into societies, bringing about artificial and collective forms of cognition. Many important open questions remain. How did self-replicating biological life begin and evolve? How did biological systems give rise to organs? How did biologically-based cognition emerge, and what is it, really? In turn, how did collective and artificial forms of cognition arise and how did they impact the structure and function of human societies?
As resources become scarce and the vast majority of the global population moves to cities, societies need to become more collaborative. How do we develop better innovations, that more effectively utilize our limited resources? How do we learn to avoid and resolve conflicts? How do we create efficient, universally accessible educational solutions? Ultimately, we need to become better at answering questions like the ones we are asking here in order to live harmonious, productive, and happy lives.
Understanding the evolution, function, and interdependencies of biological, cognitive, and social systems is fundamental to understanding who we are and how to address the challenges we face.
Formulating these questions precisely and in a manner amenable to quantitative study is an important step in understanding our place in the universe, who we are, and how to face the challenges of today and tomorrow. Such an endeavour requires mathematical and computational frameworks general enough to encompass this broad range of fields, yet detailed enough to be able to capture and describe the subtle features of specific problems.
Network science provides one such approach, where large systems and their behaviors are studied as networks of interacting parts, components, or subsystems. Applied work consists of trying to understand how specific systems can be described in terms amenable to mathematical and computational treatment without abandoning salient features of their behavior. Fundamental research work focuses on developing novel descriptive frameworks and studying their various structural properties. At its most ambitious, network science attempts to provide a platform for investigating the foundations of theories of nature and of mathematics. Fundamentally, network research is interdisciplinary and collaborative.