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Session on Epistemology and modelling



“The diversity of model functions and data/models relationships in history and today” Franck Varenne (Université de Rouen, GEMASS, Paris Sorbonne):


“How complex systems thinking can tame big data: the limits of data-centric inference and the usefulness of agent-based modelling” René Doursat (Complex Systems Institute, Paris Ile-de-France (ISC-PIF), CNRS)


“From interdisciplinary work to the foundation of a trans-discipline: expectations, interaction, operation, results, and limitations” Nadine Peyriéras ( BioEmergences Lab., Institut de Neurobiologie Alfred Fessard, CNRS, Gif-sur-Yvette)


“Modelling complex systems in overtime changing data structure” Antoine Spicher (Algorithmic, Complexity and Logic Lab.(LACL), Université Paris-Est Créteil)



Franck Varenne-The diversity of model functions and data/models relationships in history and today

Franck Varenne

Franck Varenne graduated as an engineer in electrical engineering and computer science at the Ecole Supérieure d'Electricité (Supélec - Paris) in 1993. He received his MA in philosophy at the University of Paris 1 (Sorbonne) and he obtained a MA in contemporary history of science at the University of Lyon 2 (2000). After his Ph.D. thesis in epistemology (University of Lyon 2, 2004), he became Associate Professor of epistemology at the University of Rouen (2005). In 2006, he became a member of the CNRS-Lab GEMASS (UMR 8598 - Paris Sorbonne - GEMASS) too. Franck Varenne’s research focuses on the history and epistemology of formal models and computer simulation in contemporary science. His method in applied epistemology is threefold: 1. historical, 2. comparative, 3. immersive, i.e. observational (empirical) and interactional (coactive). Through case studies and by comparing different epistemic roles (be it theoretical, explanative, predictive, …) of current models both in life sciences and social sciences, his work aims at coining and testing operational epistemological concepts that permit a more discriminating comprehension of such roles. In his recent research (Chains of Reference in Computer Simulations), for instance, he suggests interpreting the epistemic value of integrative computer simulations (simulations of multi-scale and/or multi-aspectual heterogeneous or composite systems) in terms of a complex but controllable construct based on the step-by-step intertwining of many different ways of referring to distinct scales, aspects or properties of the target system. 


René Doursat-How complex systems thinking can tame big data: the limits of data-centric inference and the usefulness of agent-based modelling


René Doursat is a researcher and lecturer at the interface between computer science and biology. An alumnus of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, he has nearly 20 years of research and teaching experience at various academic institutions in Europe and the United States. After a 9-year detour through the software industry following his PhD and postdoc period, he returned to academia in 2004, first as a Visiting Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, then as a Research Scientist at the Complex Systems Institute, Paris (under the CNRS) and a Guest Lecturer at Ecole Polytechnique. He was also Director of the institute for two years, but handed over this management responsibility to dedicate himself again to research. Later, he lived in the Washington DC area, where he was formally affiliated with the School of Biomedical Engineering, Drexel University and taught at The Catholic University of America. In August 2014, he moved back to France to take up a new research position at the CNRS, BioEmergences Lab. In the vast land of complex systems, René Doursat’s research commutes back and forth between computational biology and bio-inspired computing. On the way, he founded the field ofmorphogenetic engineering(ME), which explores new methodologies to model and create complex architectures that self-organize from a swarm of heterogeneous agents, in particular by development. Such emergent structures can be modular robots, synthetic organisms, or large autonomic networks of computing devices. Additionally, he is interested in the evolutionary mechanisms leading to diversity, and how they can help us understand and automate the design of ME systems. His main original course,Complex Systems Made Simple, explores canonical examples of complex systems through agent-based modelling and numerical simulation. He currently teaches it at the European Erasmus Mundus Master's in Complex Systems Science, which he co-founded and coordinated in its beginnings at Ecole Polytechnique, Paris. In addition, he taught several course semesters in American universities and (co)supervised the thesis and research of 22 postdocs, PhD and MSc students. He has published nearly 50 journal articles and book chapters, co-edited over 10 books and conference proceedings, and created, chaired, or co-organized 20 workshops, conferences and summer schools.


Nadine Peyriéras-From interdisciplinary work to the foundation of a trans-discipline: expectations, interaction, operation, results, and limitations


Nadine Peyriéras is a CNRS director of research. She is the Director of BioEmergences Lab, and head of the Team "Multiscale Dynamics in Animal Morphogenesis” at the Institute of Neurobiology Alfred Fessard in Gif sur Yvette, BioEmergences develops original methodologies and tools for thein vivomultiscale and multimodal observation, quantification and multilevel theoretical modelling of biological processes. The labs’ strategies are the basis for the predictive understanding of the morphogenesis of living organisms in normal and pathological conditions and open the way to new kind of pharmacology and toxicology screening schemes. In this context the lab  foresees the following missions: -anticipating the needs of integrative cell biology and developmental biology in terms of methods and tools; -tackling challenging biological issues as proof of concept; -proposing through an innovative platform, imaging, image processing and biological modelling collaborative services; -launching an e-laboratory in the Complex Systems UNITWIN Unesco: Embryome-DCCNRS, France.


Antoine Spicher-Modelling complex systems in overtime changing data structure


Since 2008, Antoine Spicher is Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University Paris-Est Créteil (Paris XII) and member of the Algorithmic, Complexity and Logic Lab. (LACL). He graduated with an engineering diploma in Computer Science from the Institut d’Informatique d’Entreprise (IIE) of the Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers (CNAM) in 2003. The same year, he graduated with a first-class honours master degree in Bio-informatics from the University of Evry. He obtained his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Evry in 2006 before joining the LORIA at INRIA as a one-year post-doctoral fellow. Antoine Spicher is interested in understanding morphogenetic phenomena from a computing point of view: what are the most relevant tools to model, simulate and understand dynamical systems with a dynamical structure? His research focuses on the introduction of notions from (combinatorial and algebraic) topology and (discrete) differential calculus into programming languages to make space and time explicit in the programming. He is one of the main designers and developers of MGS, an experimental language implementing these original programming mechanisms and allowing an interaction-based specification of models of complex systems. The language has been used in a wide variety of projects particularly in the domains of integrative biology (e.g., modelling of the growth of the meristem) and of synthetic biology (e.g., participation to the 2007 iGEM competition, awarded with a first price in the fundamental research category). Finally, Antoine Spicher is one of the promoters of the Spatial Computing community that recognizes the importance of space in computations, being part of the chair of several Spatial Computing Workshops.


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