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A summer full of conferences

by Meike Will

This summer, I got the chance to visit three very different conferences around the world. My conference experience began with the Sunbelt Conference, which took place in the beautiful city of Utrecht in the Netherlands at the end of June. During this event, network scientists from all over the world meet every year to discuss current developments in the broad field of social network research. This resulted in a very diverse program including, for example, studies on online social networks and social media, networks and health, social support in networks or practical issues like network visualization or social network analysis and network statistics. I presented a review I am currently working on dealing with the question how agent-based models benefit from social network analysis. This fitted perfectly with a session specifically on agent-based models and how to link complex social phenomena to social network dynamics. The quality of the contributions to this session was very high and the feedback I received for my talk was very enriching.

Only two weeks later I left Leipzig again. This time I travelled to Canada and visited the ISA World Congress of Sociology in Toronto. Scientists from the very broad field of sociology meet at this conference every four years. Under the theme “Power, Violence and Justice: Reflections, Responses and Responsibilities”, around 6,000 participants discussed current social, economic and political challenges. Although the conference was quite large, the atmosphere was still very familiar, as the sessions were divided into research committees, in which more or less the same people attended most of the sessions. My work was part of the research committee dealing with questions of Rational Choice Theory. The presentations held during the week represented the entire spectrum of problems covered in this panel, which concerned empirical tests, theoretical developments or modelling approaches. In addition to the review on agent-based models and social network analysis, I also presented some preliminary results of my model on the effects of microinsurance on informal safety nets. Both talks were integrated into sessions dealing specifically with new developments of agent-based models in the context of Rational Choice Theory. Here, too, I received very helpful comments on my work.

After an exciting week in Toronto, I took the opportunity to extend my stay in Canada by one week at the University of Waterloo. Here, Prof. Dawn Parker hosted me in her working group and I got the chance to get in touch with different scientists working in the field of land-use change using social networks or agent-based models and other people who were interested in my work.

The last event of this year’s conference series was the Conference on Complex Systems in Thessaloniki, Greece. The aim of this conference is to cover all aspects of complex systems sciences, from theoretical complexity issues in biology, chemistry or physics to highly applied research in e.g. economics, infrastructure or social-ecological systems. I presented once again both topics I am currently working on. This time I summarized the concept of the review in the form of a poster. In the conference program, a lot of time was set aside for the poster sessions, which led to many interesting and fruitful discussions with other participants of the conference. The talk I gave on microinsurance and informal safety nets was successful, too. Here the audience seemed to be very interested in my topic and after the talk I once again got stimulating questions and comments.

Altogether I had three very different experiences, each one enriching in its own way. I got to know many inspiring and very nice people, received helpful feedback on my work and spent a great time in three very beautiful cities, which are definitely worth seeing.

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