Vecchio sito CISSC / Old CISSC website

About the centre

Prehistory of the Centre

The need of creating the CISSC springs also from the positive experiences lived inside inter-disciplinar groups already working at the University of Pisa. Among these we cite the Inter-disciplinar Group of Theoretical Biology “Vito Volterra”,coordinated by Prof. Giovanni Prodi and constituted by researchers studying different disciplines who since 1993 were used to meet regularly to discuss themes relating to theoretical biology.

We recall also the Series of Seminars on Complex Systems held at the Institute of Biophysics of CNR, which got together computer scientists, mathematicians,phisycists and biologists, and the fruitful experiences of collaboration with theDomus Galil├Žana carried out by people which at present are members of CISSC.

An other reason which drove to organise these activities in an official structure was the founding of the ARCO, an association having as fundatorsthe Tuscan Universities (Firenze, Pisa and Siena), the University of Bologna and the INOA (National Institute of Applied Optics). The scientific purposes of the ARCO are analogous to those of the CISSCand the collaboration between the ARCO and the CISSC has already started.

The aims of the Centre

The purposes of the CISSC, fixed at the moment of its institution, are the following:

  • to promote inside the University of Pisa the beginning and the growth of inter-disciplinar researches on Complex Systems;

  • to organise meetings (conferences, workshops, schools, seminars) where people, working on Complex Systems both inside and outside the University of Pisa, can compare their ideas;

  • to realize inter-disciplinar courses, related to themes on Complex Systems, addressed to the Bachelor and Doctorate students;

  • to collaborate with Italian and international centres pursuing analogous aims;

  • to promote the diffusion of acquired and elaborated knowledge.

About complexity

What does complexity mean?

Historically the word complexity has been applied to natural and social phenomena in a generic way with meanings depending on the context. However, in the last decades inside the natural and social sciences this word has begun to assume a technical meaning which has been defined precisely in the course of the years. We will try to describe in short this meaning.

Since Galileo’s work, the reductionism has been the dominant paradigm inside the natural sciences: according to this way of looking at the world,phenomena appear complex because we don’t consider them in the right manner. Nevertheless if we free ourselves from our prejudices and we are able to read the great book of nature, complexity is nothing else than appearance and, at least in theory, few simple laws (mathematical equations) are enough to explain the complexity of the universe. This vision of nature has brought to the reductionist methodwhich has contributed fundamentally to the development of modern science.

The olistic paradigm is in opposition to the reductionist one. According to this way of looking at phenomena, “the whole is more than the sum of parts“: it’s impossible to understand a living being only knowing how every single cell works; and it’s impossible to understand the market functioning only knowing the behaviour of single business agents; etc.

With the beginning of modern science (17th century) the olistic vision of phenomena has been relegated outside the science domain. However just the science growth reintroduced this paradigm, probably on account of the two following reasons:

  • the necessity and the ambition of studying phenomena which in the past were not even accessible;

  • the development and the scientific use of calculators.

Then we can now formulate what complexity means.

The Science of Complexity studies those phenomena which it’s impossible to understand if they are analysed dividing their single parts.

On account of itself nature, the study of the complexity is inter-disciplinar and needs a different organisation of scientific work. Because of that, the preexistent structures are not enough and new way of organizing the work need to be created.

In the world there are already several examples of this new method of working. We cite the most important example: the Santa Fe Institute (New Mexico).This institute gets several researchers together, some of which won the Nobel prize; even if these researchers continue their research in their respective seats, they meet regularly for working together at the study of those complex phenomena which have got a heavy inter-disciplinar nature .



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Largo Bruno Pontecorvo, 2 – 56126 Pisa

Administrative Offices
Largo Bruno Pontecorvo, 2 – 56126 Pisa


Stefano Galatolo

Vice Director